WRITTEN BY LUCY MURRAY (GUEST WRITER)
Flying with children at any age is no mean feat. Gone are the days of just settling down on the plane, choosing your films and having a little snooze. Nowadays, travelling with kids may be less relaxed but it doesn’t mean that it has to be really stressful and no fun – promise! My family are lucky enough to have travelled many times already with kids during the baby, toddler and young child stage. This has been both solo, and all together, so below I have included some things that we have found useful on our travels. Hopefully, when we can all travel safely again, these tips will be helpful for you too!
- Have a checklist a few weeks before you travel including what you want to pack for everybody and any questions you have for the airline. Such as their car seat policy and how to book special seats ( the bulkhead seats are really handy). Also check to see if they do kid’s meals and if you can pre book those.
- Think about seating. Can you all sit together or do you have to split up? Sometimes it can be easier to split the kids up and each adult takes one or two and sits somewhere different. It can often mean they behave a little better without their siblings, or both parents there, and you can swop them around at different intervals.
- Plan how you are going to get to and from the airport on either side – do you need to hire a car and do they come with car seats? Do you need to take a taxi? Quite a few places now also have ubers that can come fitted with car seats too.
- Check what time you land and whether you are allowed to check in straight away. If not, it’s worth asking about early check in or even just booking the night before so you can go straight into your room when you arrive. This helps avoid any hanging around with jet lagged and tired kids (and parents!)
- Tell your accommodation if you need cots, or smaller bed etc., and ask them to have it ready on arrival – you can also ask if you can get any items delivered there like nappies / milk/ snacks, as this will save packing space and any emergency trips to find the local supermarket when you arrive.
- Start preparing the kids for travel, we found watching a few programmes helped to get them excited.
- We like to have some sort of activity for the kids and an ‘emergency’ snack for each hour of the flight. We have been on some really long flights and this can be daunting so this helps to break it down into sections. Some of the things we have packed include:
- Magic pens and pads – the kids love them and limits the risk of anyone drawing on any part of the plane….
- Window gel clings. If you are sat near a window these provide so much entertainment For the kids.
- Their favourite book and a new book, or magazine, to try too for a treat. We often try to get a children’s book on the place we are going to visit too.
- A blank notebook and sticker pack will keep them entertained for quite a while.
- Download a few of their favourite programmes and some games onto a device if you have one as something different to what the plane might offer. It also helps if they are being fussy and you know you have something they love watching that can distract them for a bit.
- Different snacks you can pull out at different intervals , bonus if they take a while to eat, like raisins or a packet of smaller crackers.
- Pack of kids cards – could even be sight word cards etc.
- A special flight teddy – for my son’s first big flight where he was old enough to understand we got him a Jet teddy from SuperWings.
- Some child friendly antibacterial wipes.
- Kid friendly medicine as sometimes teething can happen or kids ears can be sore from take off.
- Be a smart packer, try not to be bogged down with lots of bags. When the kids got bigger I got them each their own rucksack and popped in their spare clothes, nightwear if it’s an overnight flight, and some of their activities and snacks. That way it gives them some responsibility and frees up your bag for any electrical, and liquid items, that you can pull straight out at security, rather than having to dig for them whilst trying to herd everyone through. I also took a rucksack myself instead of a suitcase as this meant both hands were free to keep a hold of any runaway kids.
- When packing the bags also think what you use , most or what order you will be using things in. I always pack changing items for younger kids near the top in a separate travel sack so you can grab when in a rush. I also pack a spare empty travel sack for any dirty clothes or used snack pots.
- Sometimes we split up during boarding, depending on how busy the flight is. If it is really busy one of us will go on with all the bags to make sure we can get them into the overhead lockers where we are sitting. It also gives the kids more chance to burn a bit more energy.
- If you have a child who has recently been potty trained or still has a few accidents pop them in a nappy for the flight before boarding as you can’t use the toilet during taxi, take off and turbulence. We just explained to ours that we still want you to use the toilet, it’s just in case the planes seatbelt light comes on.
- Always handy to smile at everyone and make sure to try to connect with the cabin crew – they can prove invaluable allies! Especially if you are flying solo with kids.
- Get some bits out for the take off and keep handy in the seat pocket.
- Make use of the entertainment system for the kids. We wait until after eating to start any films as it can be something to look forward too. We also brought children’s headphones so that they were comfier and had a volume limit.
- Even trips to the bathroom can be an activity so just use this as an excuse if the kids are getting cranky to give them a change of scenery (just make sure little fingers can’t press the emergency assistance button, and yes I learnt this from experience..)
- We always wait until the last people are getting off before we leave the plane as it usually helps to use some time up with less of a wait at the baggage carousel. It also means you can do a thorough double check to ensure no beloved teddies, or passports, are left behind without holding up other passengers.
- We always plan beforehand how we are getting to places and have a back up. We try to get through the airport as quickly as possible, including a bathroom stop, and then straight for taxi/rental area.
- When checking in, ask if they do anything special for kids – we once got a tent, teddy, snacks and a book set up in a room for us just because we asked and the kids were thrilled.
- Expect some tantrums and jet lag issues – try to stick to your usual routine if you can. However, if everyone wakes up in the middle of the night have a picnic and stick a film on – you will all get on track eventually.
- If you have any leftover snacks, or activities, from the outbound flight put them to one side so you can use them on the return flight.
Here are a few more specific tips for the different stages:
Travelling Whilst Pregnant
- Pack some compression socks, snacks and anti sickness bands.
- Wear comfy clothes – Maternity leggings , oversized top and bigger jumpers are your friends – you can always jazz it up with some lippy, scarf, hats and jewellery.
- Keep some pregnancy tablets/ vitamins in your carry on in case of delays or lost luggage.
- Go light with the carry on bag and don’t be afraid to ask for help putting it in the overhead compartment.
- Double check with the air stewardess that the in flight meal is ok for pregnant women.
- Drink water often. They also almost always have ginger ale which can help with any nausea.
- Remember to keep walking around at regular intervals.
Travelling With Babies
- Try to pre-book the bulkhead seats so you can get one of the airplane’s cots if they have one available. Don’t worry if you don’t get it as you actually have to get the baby out during turbulence, and seatbelt signs, so sometimes it can be detrimental.
- Try to get seats by the window so you and the baby can be nice and comfy for sleeping and feeding. It also offers you a bit more privacy and you won’t have to get up if anyone needs the bathroom.
- We found baby carriers invaluable round the airport and also on the plane if you need to take a cranky baby for a walk, or dance, around the plane.
Travelling With Toddlers
- Try getting them into the sleep pattern that might suit the flight before you go. Then if it is an overnight flight they will be more likely to sleep.
- Make it as fun as possible and don’t worry if a tantrum happens. Just handle it how you would normally and remember – you probably won’t see anyone on that plane ever again so don’t get too worried.
Travelling with Young Kids
- It starts getting a bit easier now, promise!
- We found the kids love it when they have responsibility so give them jobs- let them help pack their rucksack, carry it in the airport and be responsible for it.
- We found taking a game of eye spy for the airport was great fun for the kids, and you can get free downloadable ones you can print out and take with you.
Finally, flying with children of any age can be both hard and fun so try not to worry about it too much in advance – we found preparation helps and then you just have to go with it – delays happen, kids can have meltdowns or be fantastic, you just never know. At the end of the day as long as you all get to your destination without any Home Alone style disasters it is a huge win! You may just need a huge glass of wine, a workout or relaxing shower once the kids are asleep.