We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more working for a week or two, fun and laughter on our summer holiday and no more worries… until we get to the airport and the eldest wants a new lilo, and the middle child’s wandered off and the baby starts crying…
Not to be a Debbie Downer; summer holidays are a lot of fun with kids, it’s just that getting there isn’t always the most fun part. That’s why, with the summer holidays dawning, we thought we’d put together this handy guide to surviving a flight with your little ones in tow.
Have you ever noticed how many of our guides start with be prepared? That’s because it’s the most important thing for a parent to remember when it comes to making difficult situations easier. In this case, you want to be prepared for keeping your little one safe, comfortable and entertained (think comfy clothes, snacks and activities) as well as prepping for any unexpected accidents (think changes of clothes and sick bags)…
Just as important as being prepared, being organised will make a journey ten times easier. Make sure everything is packed and checked long before you need to leave and arrive at the airport with plenty of time to check in and find your gate. That way you’re not the mad family dashing through Departures leaving a trail of sweets, toys and puzzle books in your wake.
Remember that flying is fun.
To you, flying might mean delays, long queues, heavy suitcases and existential struggles with that expensive perfume you’ve been longing for in duty-free but to kids it’s actually pretty exciting. You are soaring through the air in a big metal bird, after all. To stop little ones acting up or getting bored, build up the excitement before you’ve even left for the airport. Try telling them about all the things they’re going to see so they can be easily distracted looking out for them later. Our mums even used to ask to count how many Care Bears we could spot in the clouds (although this can be quite cruel, depending on how much you believe in Care Bears).
Rely on technology
While playing cards and other games can be distracting for kids, they can also get out of hand and noisy very quickly. That’s why tech is great on flights; if your plane has an in-flight entertainment system, perfect. If not, make sure to bring a tablet or smartphone pre-loaded with games, TV shows, cartoons and films to keep little ones occupied. Just remember to bring headphones so the rest of the flight doesn’t end up with Let It Go stuck in their heads for the rest of their holiday.
Ask for aisle seats.
If you think your little one might get sick or need to be up and down to the loo a lot during a flight, it’s a good idea to request aisle seats so you’re not disturbing anyone each time you get up. This can also be handy for stretching little legs when they get restless (although don’t be that parent who lets their kids run riot!).
Book night flights.
The best way to keep your child quiet for several hours is if they’re asleep so night flights can be great for encouraging little ones to nod off for most of the journey. However avoid night flights like the plague if your child tends to get overexcited when flying; noisy children can be even more embarrassing when everyone else is trying to sleep.
Make cabin crew aware of nervous flyers.
If any of your little ones are afraid of flying, it can be worthwhile letting the cabin crew know. You’ll be surprised how helpful and kind they can be when it comes to explaining scary things like turbulence and slipping a nervous flyer the odd little treat to cheer them up.
Flying with baby.
Of course if your little one is a very little one, flying can be even more distressing when you can’t explain what’s happening. If your baby suffers with ear pain or distress when flying, try saving feeding time for takeoff and descent. Just like how sucking hard-boiled sweets works to prevent ear pain in adults, this same sucking motion should help your baby with any changes in ear pressure. If they find engine noise upsetting, you can also invest in some small earplugs to keep things quieter although it’s important to consult with your pediatrician to make sure this is safe for your baby.
When in doubt… bribe.
Airports are a wealth of toys, sweets and holiday gear. Before you fly, make that very clear to any potential misbehavours…
And if that doesn’t work, bribe the other passengers instead.
At the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do as a parent, especially if you’re flying with a baby. Remember that a flight is a finite thing and that most people will be understanding of your struggle. If you want to guarantee their understanding however, make like this adorable couple and hand out goody bags to your fellow flyers. Worried that their baby might cry on her first flight, little Madeline’s parents supplied other passengers with an explanatory note, sweets and earplugs. Too cute!