The thought of flying with kids is enough to make any parent stay at home and play endless games of hide and seek in the house instead of venturing to a new city or country for a family holiday. Let’s face it, flying with kids can be one of those ‘make or break’ moments in our lives as parents.
A bored and tired child with tantrums completed with crying or screaming or even both as you feel the glares of fellow passengers. Chances are you’re worried about going there or you’ve been there and do not wish to go back.
Is there anything you can do to prevent or at least reduce the stress of flying with kids?
The answer is YES. The key is to plan ahead. Here is a great checklist of things to do beforehand to make your next plane journey relaxing and even fun for the whole family.
1. Communicate throughout the journey
Talk to your child before, during and after the flight, so they know exactly what to expect.
Describe the experience of flying from checking in, security, to boarding, meals, entertainment, sleeping arrangements and playing. I read Going on a Plane book to Kaiden weeks before we were due to fly to familiarise him of things that he should expect.
2. Get the kids involved
To help the kids feel involved, get them to join in and help with the packing. They can pack their favourite toys or blanket to ensure that they will be completely comfortable and settled throughout the journey.
3. Be organised for the flight
As soon as you board the plane, get organised and settled with everything that you will need. Have travel essentials such as snacks, a drink and a few toys stored in the pockets and under the chair to get you through take off.
Try to plan the time of the flight around the routine of your child to avoid any additional disturbance. Long haul flights I prefer to book night time flights so Kaiden can sleep most of the flight whereas short haul flights I prefer morning flights so we can make the most of the first day and get a good nights sleep. I find working around the child’s routine is one of the best things to help with a smooth running and less stressful flight. Stick to what they are used too.
5. Have a surprise bag
Buy a bunch of toys, wrap them up and every couple of hours allow your child to unwrap one and play with it on the plane. As well as the toys that they already love, new toys turn a boring flight into an exciting adventure of fun.
6. Ask for help
Don’t feel like you have to take the world on while trying to keep your party calm but entertained. Speak with the passengers around you, I’m sure the kids will love a little bit of attention of someone else. I boarded a connecting flight from New Zealand when Kaiden was just 18 months old and the air hostess asked if I wanted five minutes to go to the toilet while she sat with Kaiden. It was such a simple of offer which I accepted and went and sat in the toilet (so glamorous), I just sat there in peace for five whole minutes while I regained my sanity. I couldn’t of thanked the lady enough.
7. Chewy sweets
The weird sensation of your ‘ears popping’ due to air pressure changes during takeoff and landing can be uncomfortable enough for adults – just think how it may feel for a child. It can also be painful. To minimize the discomfort, be sure to include lollipops or chewy sweets for your kids to chew during takeoff and landing.
Trying to keep kids entertained for a long period of time in a small space can be difficult but ensure to pack different activities to keep them going; colouring books and pencils, small toys like cars, farm animals or little figures, books as well as sticker or activity books. The iPad can be a godsend in moments like these, download some movies and games and dont forget a pair of headphones too. Take regular walks up and down the aisles, this is essential for your health and sanity to stretch your legs but to help little curious minds too.
9. Settling down for sleep
Let them lie on your lap, put a pillow down for them and snuggle into a blanket. I always like to take an over sized scarf so it can double up as a blanket. Keep to regular bedtime routine as much as you can; dress them in their pyjamas and have their favourite bear to snuggle. Do whatever you can to help your kids sleep on the plane; trust me you will appreciate those couple hours of rest time yourself.
10. Just do it & take it slow
While the idea of travelling with children might be overwhelming and daunting the most important thing to remember is; it will end. You will get there. You will survive. You might be used to rushing off the airplane and through the airport, making use of all those secret shortcuts, but those days are over. Sit back, let everyone rush around you, and just go with the flow.