Flying with kids doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Even if you are flying with a toddler or flying with an infant, there are ways to survive unscathed. Here is the suitcases&strollers must-have essential travel guide to traveling with kids in the air.
Pack your carry on baggage strategically and methodically.
Plan for every contingency from wet clothes to long delays without food. Consult the suitcases&strollers travel advisor for travel packing tips for flying with kids here.
Tell the kids what to expect.
From the time they are small toddlers, kids manage better if you manage their expectations. Explain what the seatbelt sign means. Explain that they can’t get move around the aisles during meal service. And explain about the entertainment system – what they are allowed and not allowed to watch – and when it turns on and off. If the kids are prepped, their likelihood of overreacting when they have to follow the rules of the flight is far less.
[For more travel tips on how to avoid tantrums when flying with kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with an expert behavioural therapist here.]
Prepare for take off and landing.
These are the times when cabin pressurisation can affect little ears, so save little treats for kids to suck on. Lollipops, hard sweets, boiled lollies or chewing gum (depending on the age of your kids) can all work. For very small children, dried fruit or anything that keeps them chewing has the same effect. Try to time milk feeds for take off and landings too to have the same result in infants. [For travel tips on flying with baby’s milk, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Don’t let children carry their own passports,
It might seem cute at the time, but it won’t be so fun when the documents are lost or damaged.
Treat the flight as a time out zone from the normal,
every day rules.
Trust us, if you keep the little ones happy when travelling with children, it will make your life so much easier. Offer this treat for good behaviour: in exchange for being quiet and well behaved, let the kids watch TV non-stop and eat all the junk that arrives on their meal trays that they’d never normally get at home. It’s better than squabbling over trying to stop them eating ice creams that they’ve already seen all the other passengers consuming. Then they will remember the flight as a fun experience and look forward to the next one.
The time out zone also applies to naps.
The plane is a very stimulating environment with people walking around, lights on and televisions in close proximity, even for babies. There are some tricks you can try, but if your kids won’t follow their normal sleep routine while on the plane (even if it’s in the middle of the night), don’t worry. You can get everyone on local time zone once you arrive. Just do whatever you need to in order to keep the kids quiet and happy.
[For travel tips on encouraging kids to sleep on the plane and in foreign environments, see the suitcases&strollers interview with Tizzy Hall; for travel tips on adjusting to time zones changes and jet lag on arrival, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Plan and prepare the toys you are carrying with you.
If the kids are easily bored, plan surprises and games and pace when you produce them so they last the entire flight. [For ideas on the sorts of toys that travel well, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Ensure everyone has gone to the toilet before take
off and as soon as you see the food service is about to start.
That way won’t be any accidents when there are long delays.
If the kids are only recently toilet trained, put
them in a nappy.
This will prevent the unfortunate situation of having to sit on a wet seat for the entire flight. If your child has managed to wet the seat, fold a couple of extra blankets to sit on and this will stop additional clothes getting wet.
Be strategic about who is going to sit where.
If you have small, fidgety kids it’s a good idea to put them on the window seat to “trap” them and keep them away from the moving trolleys. Or if your child really needs to move about, try using a safety harness to allow them to move in close proximity in the aisle while you still retain control over them. [For more ideas on how to use a safety harness when travelling with toddlers, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Use the time in the airport to explore, play games,
run around and teach the kids about aviation.
Don’t use up your precious iPad batteries and their short attention span reading books in the terminal. Burn some energy while you are on the ground and save all of that "sitting down entertainment" for the plane.
Try to enlist help beforehand.
Plan to travel as an entire family unit so you aren’t travelling as a “single parent” or ask if friends or other family members can fly with you. Alternatively, look for a family-friendly airline that has a “flying nanny” service (for the suitcases&strollers travel advisor list of family-friendly airlines, click here) or otherwise engage your own private inflight babysitter. (For more details, click here.)
[If you do find you have to fly solo with kids, read the suitcases&strollers story here for more travel tips.]
Use the resources around you.
If you run out of nappies, your child gets a temperature or you simply must go to the toilet but the baby is asleep in the bassinet, ask the crew or other passengers to help you. Some airlines carry specific items for situations just like this (although you shouldn’t rely on this when you pack your carry on luggage). Other parents are usually quite understanding and can often help out if you’ve forgotten the baby food or are desperately in need of a few spare wet wipes.
Plan your itinerary with strategic breaks if you can.
Sometimes it is better to get it all over and done with, but if you have the ability to plan your itinerary with a stopover halfway in a decent airport, do it. If you can spare the time, plan to spend time in ports like Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai as part of your holiday itinerary. 24 hours in the airport hotel sleeping on a proper bed, eating proper food, having somewhere to bathe and having a pool to play in makes for a surprisingly refreshing break for the entire family.
Go with the flow.
Once you have all these contingencies in place, there is not much more you can do to control the situation so breathe and take it as it comes.
For more travel tips on flying with kids, see the suitcases&strollers Travelling Tips
For more travel tips on travelling with toddlers, see the suitcases&strollers story here