Air travel with young children can be very stressful but a bit of forward planning makes things easier.
New family-friendly security arrangements at some airports have certainly improved things and, along with these Top 20 Tips for Flying With Kids, your journey could be a breeze.
1. Before you go, spend some time explaining to older kids where you’re travelling to. Playing with maps, globes, toy airplanes and rockets set the imagination alight and help children understand the concept of a journey.
2. Older children may also appreciate learning how to say a few colours or numbers in a foreign language if you are going somewhere where a different one is spoken. Children love exercising their new-found language skills as they spot words they recognise along the way.
3. Keep some toys aside as special ‘journey only’ toys. This keeps things interesting and your kids will look forward to playing with them. You could even wrap them like presents!
4. If travelling with a baby, request bulkhead seats with bassinets, small fold away cots in front of your seat. Avoid aisle seats for young children to prevent injuries from passing trollies and other passengers.
5. Remember you will have to check-in your pram. Having a sling or baby carrier in your hand luggage is great if you end up having to walk long distances to baggage claim at your destination or are delayed for a flight.
6. Use airport trollies wherever possible. The kids love riding on them. My youngest adores her Trunki suitcase and it’s useful to be able to pull her along when the departure gate is miles away.
7. Remember that babies have to stay on your lap during flights. Be prepared to share the load between parents and older siblings. Don’t just leave your partner covered in goo unable to go to the loo for the entire flight!
9. Dress babies in separates rather than baby-grows. This makes on-the-go nappy changes easier and quicker.
10. After airport security, take every opportunity to stock up on healthy snacks and water in case you get caught without or the onboard meals are not to your children’s taste. You can’t really go too far wrong with a pasta salad!
11. Make sure you have your essentials in your hand luggage; nappies, milk, baby-wipes, toothbrushes and paste etc. Take enough for the flight and extra in case of delays. Include a change of clothes for the children for those possible spills and accidents. Leggings and t-shirts can be rolled up quite tightly and won’t take up too much room.
Child-friendly airport facilities
12. Make use of any child-friendly airport facilities and let the children run around before boarding as they are then more likely to sleep during the flight. Take every opportunity to use the facilities, stretch the children’s legs and change your baby’s nappy.
13. Delay boarding the craft as long as possible. Although airlines often invite families to board first, bear in mind this means you’ll be sitting on the runway the longest. The upside of boarding early is that you have an opportunity to get settled and organise bags before other passengers. It’s up to you!
14. Once on board, buy everyone around you a drink. Goodwill goes a long way on a non-stop long haul flight!
15. Children often find that the cabin pressure during take-off and landing plays havoc with their small ear canals. Make sure you have some sugar-free gum or lollipops handy as a chewing motion can help relieve the build up of pressure. Teach your children to hold their nose and blow as if they are underwater or get them to yawn.This helps reset the ear pressure as does breast-feeding for babies.
16. Children often don’t want to keep their seat-belts on, so bring a favourite cuddly toy that they can strap in with them. Imaginative play really helps.
17. Remember that electronic items have to be switched off at various points of your journey. Furthermore, they run out of charge, so have alternative entertainment with you. Packs of cards for older children and travel size magnetic games go down a treat in our family.
18. Eye masks and blow-up travel pillows rubbed with a little lavender oil are fantastic for helping kids sleep.
19. Remember how useful nappy sacks are (biodegradable if possible), not just for diapers but for dirty clothes, used baby wipes and any sticky mess that needs to be dealt with on board. Plastic zipper bags are handy for the same reason!
20. Don’t forget motion sickness bands for family members prone to travel nausea. These work on acupressure points around the wrist and may help prevent sickness. Other techniques include keeping the head and body as still as possible and focussing the eyes on a stable object such as the horizon.
Most of all, be zen. And have a wonderful holiday too!