Air travel with children – tips and tricks

Plane flights with kids

A long haul flight with children can be a terrifying prospect for parents. But, take a deep breath and… relax. We’ve got a whole lot of clever tips and tricks to help ease the stress and make your flight as comfortable as possible – for your children, yourself and the people around you!

Before you book.

Many airlines offer children’s meals –  but you’ll need to book them before you fly as it’s unlikely they will have spare kids meals on board. Your children are more likely to tuck into a familiar kids favourite rather than the adult option.

Spend some time talking about your impending trip with your children to build some excitement. Explain how long the flight will be using a measure of time they will be able to relate to:  it’s as long as a day at school or, it will take as long as it takes to drive to grandma’s house.

Pack more diapers/nappies and wipes than you think you will ever need! Keep a diaper, wipes and a spit up cloths on your person so you don’t have to rummage around in the overhead compartment.

Before you board.

Waiting for your flight is a good time to wear out your little travelers – go for a walk or visit the airport playground if there is one. Make sure everyone visits the bathroom before boarding – you may wait on the tarmac for a  while and passengers aren’t always allowed to use the toilets during that time.

As you board.

Take advantage of early boarding – you won’t wait around in the queue and you’ll have time to settle into your seats before the crowd arrives.

Little ears and tummies.

Sore ears during take off and landing due to pressure can be painful. If you child is breast or bottle fed – take off is a good time to feed as sucking action helps equalise the pressure. For bigger kids, have a lollypop handy – it will help your child’s ears equalise and it can be a welcome distraction during take off and landing!

If your child is prone to travel sickness consider talking to your doctor about medicating before your flight. We use Phenergan for our daughter (only for children over 2 years old) which prevents motion sickness. Phenergan also has a (welcome when flying long haul overnight) sedating effect on MOST children but can make some feel hyperactive. Consult your doctor and try before you fly!

Ensure there is a sick-bag nearby – just in case!

Good night, sleep tight.

If traveling overnight, change your children into their pjs before boarding your flight – it’s easier to do than once in the air and the routine of getting ready for bed (along with a toilet stop, teeth brushing and a story) may help your child to mentally prepare for sleep. If your children are young – pajamas with feet in them mean you won’t be chasing discarded shoes and socks as you make your way to your departure gate! Pack a warm top – planes can sometimes be chilly. Check that your airline has blankets – not all do and you may wish to bring your own.

Take a pillow. Small children can sit on a pillow to see out the window, while older children may find sleeping more comfortable with a pillow.
– Mary Porter, Skyscanner.

Snacks, treats and a bit of bribery.

Bring snacks, lots of snacks – a hungry kid is a grumpy kid! For toddlers, foods that occupy some time – like getting raisins from the box – are a good option.

Individual bags of snacks, like crisps, work better than sharing a big bag around. And you’ll minimise conflicts over who got more than their share etc.

Messy accidents

Keep wet wipes handy – good for sticky faces and hands without needing to make your way to the bathroom.

And include a change of clothes in a ziplock bag – messy foods, spilt water or diaper overflows can make for an uncomfortable child. Change them into the spare set and stow the soiled clothes in the ziplock bag. Sorted! Have another ziplock bag handy for food scraps and rubbish.

All the screen time they could possibly hope for!

Load up your mobile device with games and movies – most kids will be more than happy to settle in for unlimited screen time! Remember to bring your chargers (some airlines have USB ports on board) and comfortable, kid sized headphones (the ones given out on board have a different plug and bud earphones fall out easily.

Keeping youngsters entertained.

The novelty of a small new toy or game can help while away some time –  and these are even more exciting if they are wrapped as a present! You could use them as rewards for good behaviour.

Do a magazine scavenger hunt with the catalogs in your seat pocket. Put together a list of 10 things they need to find (a dog, a cat, a kid, etc.) and when they hit 10, they get a prize.
– Kristen Chase, Cool Mom Picks.

Pads of paper, stickers and pens can be fun. Toddlers will love sticking stickers to themselves, you and everything around them!

Once you land.

Let other passengers disembark first, this gives you more time and room to gather your children and belongings. Before you leave, take a good look around for anything you may have left behind – especially any much-loved cuddly toys!

And congratulate yourself and your children – air travel with children is not easy but you did it! Let the holiday fun begin!

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