9 excellent travel tips that will save your sanity when flying with children
Many new parents dread travelling with their children.
And while I will be the first to tell you that it is not nearly as stressful as most people think it is (seriously; my little girl had well over 100 flights under her belt before she turned two!), you do have to sometimes factor in things like jam-packed airports, potentially delayed departures, and children who suddenly develop things like ear-ache/travel sickness/an out and out allergy to having to sit still for more than five seconds straight.
And when children go into meltdown mode, often, us parents tend to follow, trying to micro-manage the situation until we are literally dripping with sweat and regrets we didn't just book a caravan in Wexford instead.
But mamas; travelling with your kids when they are kids; it is worth it. For you, for them, for the family – going on holidays together, making memories, seeing other countries and places, it is the stuff family bonds are made from.
The good news? All you need in order to make flying a total breeze are a few tricks up your sleeve.
And to help you out, we recently caught up with Cathy Burke from independent travel company, Travel Counsellors Ireland, who offer unparalleled industry expertise and first-hand destination knowledge, to get her top tips on how to ensure a smooth journey:
1. Hold onto the buggy until you reach the aircraft
If your child is being well-behaved at the beginning, it can be extremely tempting to check-in the buggy. Don’t do it. Having a buggy is vital in case there is a long wait at the departure gate, and your child needs to rest. That buggy will also give you peace of mind that they are not heading off on an adventure without you in a crowded airport. In long haul hubs such as Dubai International Airport, there are ample free buggies that you can use transiting between gates. Check with your Travel Counsellor or airport before your holiday to find out more.
2. Give out the gold stars
One of our Travel Counsellors swears by the use of gold stars for kids when travelling and I agree, it’s a really good idea. Give out gold stars for completed activity books or ‘chores’ like getting their younger sibling a drink. The winner with the most gold stars gets to choose an activity on the first day of the holiday, such as a waterpark or crazy golf.
3. Gadget time
Children being glued to the iPad is not something we are recommending for the actual holiday, but for transit, it will mean a stress-free flight. In the airport, where the wait can be long and tedious, it keeps them occupied (and out of trouble) while on the flight itself, it’s an option in case the in-flight entertainment fails to entertain.
4. Allow for extra time
The days of swanning up to the airport with an hour before the flight are long gone. Always allow yourself extra time, and account for possibilities like heavy traffic, backlogged security lines, and long walks to the departure gates. We always recommend allowing yourself an hour extra in the airport, so you won’t be fighting against the clock the whole time there.
5. The family lane
Always seek out the family lane, as it will allow you fly through security. Some airports have a “Fast Track” lane instead. They may charge a small fee for this and it can be worth it! Once you are there, be prepared. Baby food is exempt from the 100ml regulations but you may be required to demonstrate that what you are carrying is for genuine purposes. It is helpful to note that kids under the age of 12 do not have to take their shoes off to go through security. We always advise treating the experience as an adventure. Try telling small children a story in advance, explaining why they may have to part with their favourite toy or blanket as it goes through the machine. This simple step can help prevent tears on the day.
6. Travel overnight
Choose flights which fit into your children’s sleeping patterns where possible. Travelling overnight means that when the cabin lights go off, it’s much easier for the kids to settle in and get to sleep. For toddlers, go through the pre-bedtime routine, getting them into their pyjamas, brushing their teeth, and telling a story. Also bring your child’s bedsheet or blanket from home. It takes some organisation, but the benefit will be a much more relaxing flight. On long-haul flights, make sure you request a bassinet for infants at an early stage as they are allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
7. Prepare for popped ears
With babies, make sure you nurse them, or have a bottle available for take-off and landing (or a dummy if they use it) to help their ears to pop. For older children, try mints or hard sweets.
8. Try nanny services
Certain airlines now have dedicated family-friendly facilities. Etihad Airways provide an in-flight nanny service on all long-haul flights, which provide an extra pair of hands – whether it’s helping to get the children settled for bed, keeping them entertained or simply offering advice and support to parents.
9. Go short haul
With their brief flight times, and endless fun, short-haul destinations are great for kids. At Travel Counsellors, we have some great family-friendly destination options, like the stunning coastal city of Šibenik in Croatia; the laid-back vibe of the Lisbon Coast in Portugal; or the family-orientated resorts in Majorca and Menorca.