The phrase “flying with kids” might well elicit a nervous giggle or possibly even a shiver of dread but really, it can be done! At the very least it can be tolerable. The secret lies in channelling your inner A-type personality which means P.L.A.N. Do this right from the start. Travelling with a family can be pricey so begin with securing reasonable flights.
Booking your flights with a specialist like Travelstart means all you need do is tap in your dates and destination in one central place and they curate all the best prices, routes and airline options to choose from. Convenient right? This gives you more time to crack on with prepping the kids for adventure in the sky.
Dealing with documents is as appealing as a visit to the dentist but it’s crucial. Ensure all passports are renewed and valid, visas are in place as well as supporting documents including unabridged birth certificates (and possible affidavit if travelling without your spouse). Keep everything together in a secure pouch and keep electronic copies accessible by smartphone. Consult the airline for document guidance on what is required to avoid check-in drama.
Chat To Your Airline
- Enquire on their policy for bringing a stroller/booster seat onboard.
- Pre-book child meals as airlines don’t automatically provide those.
- Verify any questions regarding liquids eg. infant milk etc.
- Ask for seats nearer the toilets.
- If you have an infant, try book one of the limited bassinet cots. Infants don’t get their own seat so when the seatbelt light is off you can pop baby in the cot to sleep while you eat or read a book.
Dress the kids in comfy layered clothing that accommodates long stretches of sitting as well as those hot/cold temperature variations in the plane cabin. There may also be seasonal variations from your departure place to arrival destination. Pack spare clothes and ziploc bags that can seal off dirty or wet clothes!
Pack extra nappies in carry-on for babies in case of delays or lost luggage. If your toddler is newly potty trained consider popping them in a pair of pull ups for the flight to avoid potential accidents on seats or in clothes.
Medication & Toiletries
Keep all medications handy especially like Nurofen (sore ears, headaches etc.) and anti-nausea meds in case of air sickness. For prescription meds, keep copies of the script on hand as some countries restrict what you bring in without proof it’s yours.
Keep wet wipes and tissues on hand. Also keep travel size hand and toilet seat sanitiser for airports and those plane toilets which can get unpleasant on long-haul flights.
At The Airport
Leave plenty of time for getting to the airport and for check-in. Tearing through an airport won’t work with small kids! Make the kids go to the toilet before boarding to avoid a writhing toddler who declares they must go “right now” to the loo as the plane zooms down the runway!
Take Off & Landing
Rapid changes in altitude during take off and landing can cause severe ear discomfort. To alleviate this I do a jaw wriggle and my husband has a trick with blocking his nose which makes absolutely no sense to me, but let’s not digress!
Babies and children don’t know how to do tricks. Babies will scream leaving mom and dad desperately trying to soothe whilst fending off irritated looks. When my youngest was a baby, I gave her the dummy and a bottle. Sucking helps equalise pressure changes. Try manipulate a feed for take off or landing or just give them a small extra bottle.
Give kids a chewy sweet or a lollipop. Use the promise of this take off treat as an incentive for good behaviour during check-in and again as a reward when landing for good in-flight behaviour. Chewy dried fruit like mango strips will also work. Biltong sticks only if travelling domestically.
Other than a chewy treat/lollipop for take off and landing, avoid too many sugary sweets and drinks. Besides the meals served onboard; savoury mini crackers, rice cakes, popcorn, crisps, nuts, fruit pouches or dried fruit make tasty occupiers. Minimise liquid to counter endless toilet visits.
Games & Activities
Snacks and activities are ultimately the currency that gets you through the flight without too much mutual frustration between kids and adults. That and the glass of wine they serve! Keep activities mess free and restricted to ones that won’t annoy other passengers.
Let your kids bring a beloved stuffed animal for comfort. Kids love to have have their own little bag of tricks. Mini pencil crayons, activity books, stickers and those magnetic drawing boards, cards for snap or pocket size board games are ideal. Bring a favourite book and a fully charged tablet or smartphone with headphones for games or audiobooks. Pack a power bank for recharging devices. Some planes have a great onboard service with movies/games.
In my B.K. days (before kids) I sat in my seat during boarding hoping families with babies and small kids walking down the aisle weren’t going to sit next me. Uncharitable I know. Well things change and I’m the one with kids now that has passengers silently chanting “keep walking with your menagerie lady”!
You’re much more understanding of kids once you’ve become a parent. Plan everything that can be planned and accept there might be hiccups. Pick your battles so that you, the kids and fellow passengers can relax as much as possible.
Taking kids travelling enriches their world with experience and adventure that cannot be taught in a classroom. Happy travelling!
Moms and dads, please let me know your top tips in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this article head to Essential Tips For Road Trips With Kids.
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