I didn’t fully understand it then – and I still don’t understand it now. At the time, I brushed off my confusion, putting it down to my own ignorance. After all, I wasn’t a mum then. I had zero experience with children.
Of course, now I am on the other side, and I fully recognise and appreciate the fear in fellow passenger’s eyes as they work out what row their seats are in.
Now, I’m not saying travelling with children is as easy as it once was, back when there was just the two of us. Having said that, ushering my husband to the departure gate and looking after his tickets and passports was pretty good preparation.
In those days, we would be knocking about the duty free shops, whiling away the time until our flight was called. These days, we’re lucky if we don’t knock everything over in the duty free shops.
Having said that, our children are now older, so those days are pretty much behind us. But, in the past, we have done our fair share of travelling with young, and very young children. And we live to tell the tale. We are yet to be banned from boarding an airline.
Read on for my travel tips for flying with children
1. Pick the time of your flight carefully. Don’t assume that if you go for a night flight your children will automatically fall asleep. It doesn’t always happen. And if it doesn’t, you are going to have a very cranky child in a very confined space. If you have a short flight time it would make sense to just go in the day time when you have all had a decent night’s sleep.
2. Keep them busy. Pack according to age, but assuming they are past the sleeping all the time baby phase, they are going to need something to do. Colouring books, play doh (just 1 tub each, or you’ll never contain it!) top trumps, playing cards, reading books, rubiks cube. If you have a phone or a tablet then bring some headphones and let them watch some cartoons (remember to listen to when you can have them switched on.)
3. Pack some surprises. This follows on from the previous point but with a twist. The element of surprise. When we first flew with our eldest son, he was 15 months old. You know, that age when they have just discovered running, and absolutely must practise it at any given time. I was feeling pretty anxious about the event – it was our first time flying with a child and even though it was only a 2 hour flight, I knew I absolutely couldn’t get off. Before we went, I spent some time gathering up a shoe box full of ‘items.’ I say items, because they weren’t all ‘official’ toys. Anything I could find that I thought would intrigue him, even if just for 5 minutes, would be worthy of a space in the surprise box. The important factor was that they had to be things he had never seen before, the novelty of surprise! When we later flew with all 3, I produced a mini etch a sketch for each of them on take off. That one was a winner.
4. Have a supply of goodies to munch on. You will have to check with your airline before travelling because I know the rules change from time to time, but try and pack enough snacks to use as a distraction tactic if they get restless. Of course what you bring will very much depend on the ages, but lets assume they can eat most things. Raw carrot sticks, cucumber, rice cakes, raisins, all the things that they can pick at throughout the flight. I really wouldn’t recommend foods high in sugar for obvious reasons – let’s not make energy levels higher than they need to be. If you have a young baby then breast or bottled milk is ideal for the flight (again, check beforehand with your airline for restrictions). If you can get them to drink it on take off and landing even better, it will also help with equalising their ears if they have any trouble.
5. Get them interested in where you are going. If they are old enough, really get them involved and intrigued about where you are going. Make a scrapbook for them to fill up with pictures, tickets, leaflets etc. Give them a map of where you are going and plot out your flight path. Make plans with them and ask them where they want to visit. Have a look at my Family City Breaks Guide for some ideas (if you are going to any of these places.)
Do you fly with your children? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please let me know in the comments below!