With the school holidays fast approaching you’re probably looking forward to a summer holiday in the coming months. A well-earned break and a chance to spend some quality time with your family, the only thing that stands between you and two weeks of bliss relaxation is the flight!
Flying, especially long haul, with children is no small feat. Airlines are generally well equipped with bassinets for babies and children over four or five can usually be distracted by the in-flight films and entertainment, but there are a few years inbetween where you seem to be on your own!
But don’t panic, plenty of parents fly long haul with toddlers and, with a little bit of forward planning, the journey is completely manageable. Here are our top tips for flying with young children this summer.
1) Be prepared!
In a worst case scenario your toddler will throw up, have a potty accident, or spill food and drinks everywhere – maybe even all three. So be prepared for a messy flight with plenty of baby wipes, sealable plastic bags and a full change of clothes in your carry on. They’ll be a real life saver should disaster strike.
2) Sweeten up your fellow passengers
If you’re dreading being those people on the flight that everyone wants to avoid, then you could follow the example of these thoughtful parents and write a short note apologising in advance to the passengers around you.
The new parents on board a flight in America were traveling for the first time with their 14 week old twin boys and put together a little sweetie bag and a note from their babies:
“Hello! We’re twin baby boys on our first flight and we’re only 14 weeks old! We’ll try to be on our best behaviour, but we’d like to apologise in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them. We are all sitting in 20E and 20F if you want to come by to get a pair. We hope you have a great flight!”
The gesture went down brilliantly with fellow passengers, who took to social media to share the sweet message.
3) Arm yourself with snacks
A hungry toddler is never a happy toddler so pack plenty for them to eat during the flight. It’s a good idea to have a back-up plan if they don’t like their in-flight meal as well as snacks and treats.
The added bonus here is that a snack will keep them quiet and occupied for a while!
4) Travel with a tablet
You might not usually like your toddler to spend hours glued to the iPad, but it’s definitely OK for those standards to slip when traveling!
Get your tablet loaded up with their favourite TV shows, films and games before you fly and you should buy yourselves a few hours of contented peace and quiet during the flight.
On this note it’s also worth buying your children their own headphones for a long haul journey. Most airlines will give you a complimentary pair, but these can be uncomfortable and difficult to fit on little ears. If the ultimate goal is to entertain them for as long as possible a comfy pair of headphones will be worth every penny.
5) In-flight entertainment
Even with a fully stocked iPad, your toddler is unlikely to sit still for the entire duration of a flight and it’s a good idea to have some back-up entertainments on hand. Pack plenty of colouring pens and paper and any of their favourite games that you can manage to play in the confined space of an aircraft – a lot of board games come in a travel sized version perfect for when you’re flying.
One great idea from Mumsnet is to wrap up small, stocking-style gifts that your child can open every hour or half hour, so there’s always something new to do.
6) Plan your journey
If you’re travelling a long way, think about whether breaking your journey down into several hops rather than one direct, long haul flight would work better for your family.
Breaking up the journey gives children time to burn off some energy running around the airport; this isn’t the best tactic if your little ones struggle with take-off and landing though.
7) Buy reins
If you are planning on tackling multiple airports during your journey, toddler reins may well become your best friend.
Your little one will no doubt want to walk after being cooped up on a flight and you’re likely to be juggling bags, buggies and boarding cards without a free hand for holding. Reins will fit in a hand that’s full of something else and mean your toddler can walk on their own without straying too far from you.
8) Consider a night flight
Again, this will depend on what you think will work best for your family, but a night flight can be a good option for small children.
If all goes well, a flight at around their usual bed-time will mean your child sleeps through most of the journey – the ideal scenario for all involved. On the flip-side this could mean you add ‘feeling sleepy’ to the list of things making your toddler grumpy if they can’t settle on-board.
9) Ask for a bulkhead seat
When you book flights for your family request you’re all seated at the front of the plane, in the bulkhead seats, where there’s extra leg room and space for a bassinet should you require one.
This removes the anxiety of your toddler kicking the seat in front of them and there’ll be a bit more space for restless little ones to stretch their legs during the flight.
10) Comfy clothing
Now isn’t the time for their pretty party dress or big-boy jeans. When dressing your child for traveling go for soft, roomy layers they can take on or off according to the air conditioning on-board – pyjamas might even be the best option!
Do you have any other tips for flying with small children? Share them on our Facebook and Twitter pages today!