Are you dreaming of that family holiday in the sun, but fretting about what to do with the kids during the journey? It can be a deal breaker for many and a lot of parents simply put it off until their children get older. Keeping that anxious baby, terrible two’s terror, or that “difficult” pre-schooler occupied and happy during a long haul flight isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be as scary as you think with these top tips.
First rule – get rid of the germs
Bring some disinfectant wipes and wipe over every surface that you or your kids might touch. Germs are hiding there in their multitudes and the last thing you need is for you to all arrive at your destination nursing a nasty bug for the next couple of weeks.
Get them excited about flying
The wonder of flight is both amazing and fun. They will be extremely excited about being up in the air, so point things out the things they can turn into memories like the tiny houses on the ground, passing through cotton wool clouds, and being able to fly above coastlines and lands of distant countries.
Kids love role play
Get them to play! Playing is the best way to defuse any sort of tension and children can make up stories and act them out. They can play at being the pilot, co-pilot, steward or stewardess, or even being air traffic control. This is a game they will carry on for hours, much to the amusement of the airline crew.
Hang on to your stroller
Many airlines will let you store or “hold” your stroller in the front of the craft, ready for immediate use upon disembarkation. This will help you a lot and make a real difference with the juggling act of holding their hands, keeping everyone together, and managing luggage. Otherwise if you check it in you will have to rely on a sling or may end up carrying your child throughout the terminal. Keeping your stroller with you also lets them have e a chance to have a sleep while if you have down time in the airport. If your airline doesn’t have this “on board stroller hold” service, an alternative is that many stop over airports offer courtesy buggies for families for use within the terminal.
Book a night flight
This works because they are already tired. With their natural body clock still regulating their sleep patterns it’s almost a sure bet that your children will sleep for the majority of time or for at least the majority of the first part of your long haul fight and all of you mid-haul flight.
Take a break and enjoy a stop-over
If you are travelling long haul for more than 13 hours, breaking up the trip and staying a few days is a far more attractive option, especially with small families. Not only is this a good excuse to fit in another country to your must see travel bucket, but it will also help with jet lag, breaking the time differences into more bearable segments.
When you are planning your flights, try and pick another night flight to carry on through to your final destination. This way, with a bit of luck, your kids will sleep through the second leg of the trip as well.
Bulk-head seat are the best for babies
Should you be travelling with a smaller baby, this is where the bassinettes are kept, but you will need to book this when initially booking your flights. If you don’t, you will be travelling with your baby in your arms for the entire journey and this could make meal times very difficult. There is plenty of storage room for those extra “kiddie” things and you will not have anyone in front of you to bother.
Bring along some snacks
Bring some snacks and treats to top up on the airline’s food. Packets of raisins, dried apricots and even some party nibbles can help wonders when you start seeing that tantrum brewing. Sometimes you just have to go with the “whatever works” philosophy.
Load up on the apps
Bring your ipad, smartphone, or tablet and load it to the brim with apps that your children love, games, TV programmes and films. This may be your life saver should you have a long stopover in a connecting airport. There are usually plenty of docking stations in most international airports where you can charge up your device.
Sometimes upgrading isn’t the best option
Those who can afford it may think that upgrading will give their children more room to move and higher quality meals. The problem with this is a lot of the passengers in higher class seats have paid that much extra to avoid the noise of economy and they have little patience for noisy babies or children. They often have meetings to attend on arrival and usually need to sleep or work on board. Unfortunately, you may find you get the opposite desired result and create an even more stressful situation for yourselves. You would be better putting that extra cash into buying more seat room.
You may have a child with a special meal need, or perhaps just a fussy eater who you know will not touch what will be on offer with the standard fare. Should kiddie meals be available with the airline you are travelling with, make sure they know in advance the ages of the children. If your child has food allergies, let the airline know, especially if there is a nut allergy. Kosher and Halal are widely catered for, but again, the airline must know your needs in advance.
Prepare them for security
This is the only part that can be a bit scary for children. It’s not anything that any of us enjoy, but is a necessary evil. Bear in mind that a lot of security officers are also parents and will treat your children gently and with respect.
The Transport Security Administration (TSA) policies for screening under 12’s are:
- They can keep their shoes on while passing through the detector
- They can have several passes through the metal detector in order to clear any alarms without being pressured
- Children will not be separated from their parents
- Babies must be taken out of a carrier and carried through the x-ray machine by their parent or guardian
- All toys and carry-on luggage will be screened. It’s advisable to prepare your child that they will need to part with their favourite toy or blanket for a very short time so it can pass through the x-ray
- Strollers and other child-related equipment will need to go through the x-ray machine and will need to be collapsed. Pockets and pouches will need emptying into the plastic bins provided.
Look after yourself
With all the pressure being put on you to make sure your kids are happy, safe, and display perfect in-transit behaviour, make sure you don’t let things slip with your own well-being. Take those naps when the children are sleeping, drink plenty of water, and store up your energy so that you can calmly tackle any challenges that may face you until the end of your journey.