Flying with young children can be daunting at best, but like with all other things in life, it becomes easier (and, dare I say, enjoyable) once you know what to expect. A little preparation and a positive attitude is all you need. I have never flown for longer than five hours with my daughters, but I believe these tips would work on longer flights too. This is how I prepare for a flight with my children:
1) Think positive
Instead of seeing the flight as a torturous few hours, look at it as an adventure. Take a deep breath and instead of playing out worst-case scenarios in your head, remind yourself that these moments will one day be your fondest memories and, hopefully, those of your children too.
2) Choose the right time
When booking your flight, work out what time would be best for your children. Assuming you have a choice in the matter, that is. In our case, we learned through experience that night flights are our nemesis. Our children don’t do well with travelling at bedtime. Instead of sleeping, they become overexcited, which then makes them overtired, which eventually leads to tantrums and tears. As far as we can, we travel during the day. The ideal flight leaves late morning so the children can nap in the early afternoon while we’re airborne and we reach our destination before night. I am obviously referring to flights within Europe, where the longest we’ve flown was for five hours.
Dress yourself and the children in layers. It will get hot on the plane until it takes off. Once you’re in the air, it will get cold, so you want to be able to take off a layer and put it back on again as needed. This will also save you freezing your bottom off once you get off the plane if you’re flying somewhere colder or sweating through your clothes if you’re going somewhere hotter.
4) Pack light
It took me a few years to realise that I didn’t need to pack everything but the kitchen sink when we travelled. Contrary to what one might believe, children need very little when travelling.
You will need nappies if your child still wears them (one for every hour you will be flying, plus an extra two or three), wipes, a change of clothes, a sippy cup or bottle and formula, a few age-appropriate snacks and some toys. When it comes to toys, the less the better. A few figurines, toy cars and stickers are amongst our favourites.
5) For emergencies
A tablet or mobile phone with a few downloaded cartoons or films can come in handy. We try to avoid electronics as much as possible while travelling, because our children seem to become even wilder after watching a screen for a while. However, I’d be lying if I said the dreaded iPad hadn’t saved our sanity many times during take-off and landing with our youngest. Speaking of landing and take-off, make sure you pack some chewing gum for older children or offer a sippy cup or bottle to a younger child to avoid earache. It would also be a good idea to teach older children how to pop their ears.
A favourite soft toy is also a good item to pack. Not only will it comfort an upset child on the flight, but it will also remind them of home when it’s time to go to sleep in a new bed when you arrive at your destination. Hopefully, your child will also nap during your flight, in which case you can use the soft toy as a pillow.
6) At the airport
Some airports have a play area, which can be a godsend. In airports where there are no specific areas for children to play, let the little one go (reasonably) wild before boarding. This way you’ll avoid restless little legs trying to do laps on the plane. Speaking of which, you might need to walk your baby or toddler up and down the aisle a few times. There were a couple of occasions where we even let our babies crawl up the aisle. We then had to change their clothes and wipe them down with antibacterial wipes, but it was worth hyperventilating through those few minutes to have a happier baby.
We also make sure that everyone has had something to eat and has gone to the toilet before boarding. They will still ask for snacks the second they buckle their seat belts, but at least they won’t be ravenous.
If your child doesn’t walk yet, keep your stroller with you until you board. You can check it in with your luggage but keep it with you until you get to the plane. Alternatively, you can use a baby carrier, which I suggest taking with you on holiday anyway.
In conclusion, like life in general, travelling with children is far more enjoyable if you relax and approach it as an adventure. And, remember, once you have flown with children a few times, it will become easier both for you and for them.
This article was written by guest contributor Maureen Saguna, founder of www.islandfairy.com and freelance writer and proofreader. Born and bred in Gozo, Maureen spends her days reading, writing, dreaming of Sweden, refereeing her three daughters and plotting ways to have a hot cup of coffee without any children hanging off her. Follow her adventures on Facebook and Instagram