Tried and tested: Our 10 top tips for flying with children
The world is back open – and thank goodness for that.
Travel is once more back on the agenda, and having made it through something like 400 flights(!) with kids in the past decade (most of them on my own with baby/toddler/child), I consider myself to be quite the expert when it comes to air travel with littles.
The majority of these flights were more out of necessity than holidays and pleasure, and due to many factors like Other Half ending up doing an MA in the UK the year our baby girl was born, me insisting on giving birth in my native Norway (both times) and then the fact that we officially live in a different country to my family.
All these logistics and the flying it entails has resulted in the fact that my children have spent a LOT of time mid-air. Mostly between Ireland, Norway and the UK, but add in a holidays or city-break a year as well, and you get the picture; we know the drill when it comes to airports, aeroplanes and getting from A to B by plane with our sanity intact.
I have dealt with pretty much EVERY on-board eventuality at this stage. I have breastfed squeezed in between two other (male) passengers, changed (SO MANY!) nappies in cramped airplane toilets, eaten crappy plane food with only one hand free, the other holding baby. I have dealt with ear pains and boredom and refusals to sit still. I have - whilst holding baby - managed to use the bathroom myself, and have at other times had to pass my baby onto a cabin crew member so that I could wipe my toddler's bum when she has used the bathroom. You name it, we have done it - on a plane.
And after all that, here is what I have learned (sometimes the hard way):
1. Do NOT stop travelling because you have kids
This one is such a biggie to me, because travelling with kids IS completely doable - you just need to know the tricks. I have heard so many new parents say they worry about the stress and fuss and disturbing other passengers they think travelling with baby entails. But what if your fear is doing nothing but coming in the way of what can be great family adventures?
Yes, travelling with kids IS a little different to travelling solo - or just in the company of other adults, but it CAN be done. It just requires a little organization beforehand.
2. Plan for everything
Remember this: You are NOT alone if you are worried about taking to the skies with your baby or toddler. Most new parents admit dreading the experience, and worry about everything from crying to poop explosions. But here is the deal: Just be a ninja planner, and you will fly (haha!) through it.
Start the planning early, write a list of everything you will need to bring, from Bonjela to bibs and favourite blanket for an onboard snooze, and use this as a checklist when you pack. Always bring a couple of extra nappies, a few more wipes and a little more food/snacks/formula than you think you need. This way you will avoid feeling stressed and anxious if there are delays. A stressed parent will rub off on the baby, so the cooler you manage to stay, the calmer your baby will be, I promise.
3. Pack smart
When packing for a flight with kids of almost any age, think smart and practical. Use a handbag large enough to contain all the bits you need, and if possible, chose one with multiple pockets and rooms as it will make it easier to stay organized. And you will save yourself time rooting for something when the baby is howling for his dummy or your 3-year-old is looking for her colouring book.
For babies, keep things like wet wipes and nappies, as well as soothers and bottles of formula, as handy to reach as possible. Bring a little blanket in your bag too, preferably one baby knows, because it can get cold on the plane, especially if you are flying through the night.
Another great tip is to pack passports and all your travel documents in a handy to reach, zipped pocket on the outside of your bag. This will make it so much easier when you are going through security or passport control, because, trust me, you will have your hands full as it is. And if you put a toddler down for even a minute to root for your passports, chances are he will run off and you will have to get airport police to return him to you. (You know, in theory... *blushes).
Your wallet and phone should be easy to get a hold of too, if you want to buy something on board or just need to get your phone switched on or off.
4. Allow extra time
On the day you are travelling, make sure you have allocated enough time so that there will be no stress getting to the airport, or racing through it to get to your gate in time. Stress is bad news for you, and worse news for your kids, who will pick up on your panic. If you have an early flight this is even more important, as the kids will be tired and disturbed by the change in routines as it is.
Also, remember that EVERYTHING takes longer with children in tow - so make allowances for this. You will need to have time for emergency toilet breaks or nappy changes, some food and possibly also a little play before you board, it will make the sitting still for so long go more smoothly, trust me.
5. Make sure to drink enough
The air onboard a plane is very dry and dehydrating, so it is important that both you and the kids get enough to drink. Water is the better choice, off course, but some juice is OK as an alternative if they tire of the water. Bring your own anti-spill cup, and you will save yourself some clothes changes. For babies who still only get milk, whether breast or formula, make sure you offer them the chance to drink more often than normal when flying.
6. Dress smart
This one I have come to adhere to very strictly when travelling. Think comfort and layers, both for you AND them. Children will need clothes that are soft and easy to move around in, and also comfortable enough to allow them to sleep if they need to. Layers will ensure you can help them remove or add items of clothing if they get too hot or too cold, and I also try to stick to clothes in natural fabrics like cotton or really soft wool, as these will keep them both ventilated and warm, whatever the need may be.
Also choose shoes that are easy to get on and off. This will ensure an easier transit through security, and will enable your kids to kick off their shoes and get comfy once in their seats.
7. Bring healthy food and treats
Kids high on sugar are tricky to manage, I am sure we can all agree. Avoid this by bringing your own food and snacks, as healthy options can be hard to find in the airport or once onboard.
Pack lunch boxes for older children, and bring a jar for baby, whether homemade or shop-bought. Also, try to bring a little more food than you think you need, as this will take away any stress should there be any delays in your day.
Snacks like raisins, bread sticks and rice crackers are good choices. I have also taken to bringing a little Tupperware container of Cheerios, as it keeps my toddler occupied for AGES trying to eat these himself. BLISS.
8. Try to stick to routines
This one is especially important for longer flights or if you are travelling through the night. Children are easier to deal with when they don't have to endure too many changes to their habits and routines, so try to stick to these as much as possible. If they are used to brushing their teeth and then getting a good night story before bed, try to do this like you normally would, then tuck them into their seats to sleep.
9. Charge everything and bring an extra power unit
Games, e-books, DVDs or even just scrolling through the pictures on your phone, anything that can keep your children happy and in their seats is a winner when you are flying.
10. Bring surprises
I have come to rely greatly on little surprises to keep my littles from crawling all over my fellow passenger and creating havoc when flying. Now, these don't have to be expensive or unhealthy surprises, the truth is that kids love pretty much ANYTHING as long as it is presented as a surprise pressie. For my little girl colouring books are always a winner. Or a new book we can read to pass the time. And for my little boy, a new little toy car or some raisins (wrapped in, so that he gets to open them) seem to do the trick every time. Use your imagination and your kids' personal preferences, and you will thank yourself later.
Now; what are you waiting for? The world is at your feet!
Have YOU got any great tips for flying with kids? Feel free to share them with us in the comments.