Does the thought of boarding a flight with your children fill you with dread? Join the club!
There can’t be many parents who don’t fear the upset coming when you leave the departure lounge behind. Cramped seats and restless or upset kids can make for a nightmare plane journey.
For me, it used to be hard to say which was worse – the thought of my baby twins being upset while flying or them causing upset to others. It was an academic dilemma for our family as we would have been hard pushed to afford to fly anywhere.
But I’d read so many horror stories about the negative reactions of fellow passengers to children on flights that I considered aeroplanes no-go areas, and the thought of struggling through the airport terminal laden down with bags and screaming children made me want to keep my feet firmly on the ground. But I’ve always loved to travel, and I wanted my children to have the same experience of discovering the world beyond their back garden.
A seasoned traveller’s advice
So what can you do to take the hassle out of flying as a family? Most people work hard to plan and budget their holidays so you want to have the best time possible right from the moment you close your front door and head off.
The following tips have been gathered from well-travelled mums who have flown their families to destinations including Europe, Thailand and South Africa amongst others. They claim even long-haul flights with stop-overs are entirely bearable with a little forward planning.
Mum tips for hassle-free air travel
1. Avoid car parking catastrophes
Use a meet and greet service at the airport rather than car-parking. This will mean you park outside the airport, unload your luggage and your car is taken away, parked for the duration of your holiday and is there to meet you when you get back. This avoids the hassle of managing children, pushchairs and luggage on and off airport buses.
2. Use family fast tracking
Take advantage of any VIP schemes run by the airlines or fast tracking. Most airlines will now let younger children and babies onto the plane before other passengers.
3. Stay Calm
Whatever you do, don’t let anxiety about the flight take over. Children pick up on your emotional state and, if you’re stressed out, chances are they will be too!
4. Stock your hand luggage with essentials
Most airlines stock supplies such as nappies and milk for long haul flights but it’s still a good idea to make sure you have enough nappies, wipes and milk to last the journey – as well as medicine if needed.
5. Make sure baby’s bottles are ready to go!
Ask the flight attendant to fill any bottles you need with boiled water at the beginning of the flight, so they have time to cool for when they’re needed.
6. Bassinets ensure better sleep for baby
Most airlines offer baby bassinets. They are only available with certain seats so book early and request one of these as it will help you get some rest and ensure a better sleep for your baby.
7. Be pushchair prepared for stop-overs
If you are stopping en-route, ask that your pushchair be available during the stop over. (This will involve taking it right up to the cabin and it being put in the hold). This means you won’t have to carry your baby. If they are crawling, it can be unhygienic to put them down but impossible to keep them in your arms!
8. Use airport hotels for longer stop-overs
If you have a long stop-over of four hours or more, see if there is a hotel at the airport. This can be a good option if you have a few children especially under five. It means you can check into a room and use the facilities, without having to try and keep your family amused in airport lounges.
9. Keep the routine
For babies and toddlers, it is important to maintain their routine. If it is a night flight, change them into their pyjamas and read them a story and give them their milk.
10. Keep things familiar
Even if you are going short haul, pack a familiar blanket from their bedroom to keep them warm and cosy, this will help them feel secure in a strange environment and help them relax. If they have a favourite teddy, keep it with them.
11. Pack an activities bag
Make sure that you have a bag packed specifically for on board activities. Colouring pencils and colouring books, reading books and small but chunky toys that won’t get lost easily are all a good idea for young children. Older children are usually OK with their phone or tablet. Be sure to wait until the cabin crew give permission for passengers to use consoles.
12. Remember the sweets!
Don’t forget to take sweets to suck or gum to chew (depending on age) to help with unblocking and popping ears on take-off and landing. Some children suffer really badly.