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Our Favourite Tips for Flying with Children

Don't stress out about flying and travelling with children, planning ahead and sticking to a routine will help you make it to your destination with your sanity intact

 

Travelling with children?

Every year when it comes time to plan a holiday there are parents around the globe fretting over the fact that they might have to fly to get to their final destination. Yet there will be others who think flying with kids is easy, it all depends on the experiences you've had.

Flying with childrenYou may have spent hours beside someone's screaming child, or marveled at how well behaved the child in front of you is.

You may have rolled your eyes at the parent who ignored their child's tantrum or made meaningful eye contact with the parent who'd jollying their child along.

Or you may have been the one trying to manage a screaming toddler during take-off and landing or thanking your lucky stars that the little one fell asleep as the pilot made his first announcement.

As most of you will know, every trip is different and there is no way to guarantee success, but being as prepared as possible does help to alleviate some of the stress before the first glass of wine at your destination.

Every child is different and as they grow up from babies to toddlers to children and even into teenagers the problems you might encounter will be different! And eventually, you just might take a flight and realize... they've turned into seasoned travelers.

As we reminisced about our own travel experiences, we decided to ask the experts at Virgin for some of their advice on flying with children.

Before you fly with children

Booking flights

When booking your flights, think about your child's rhythms. Book flights that coincide with sleep time. Avoid stopovers when possible. If they are unavoidable, try to make sure there is enough time for your kids to run around a little! They'll be a lot happier than if they are corralled straight back onto another plane, but avoid really long stopovers unless you can leave the airport.

Stick to routines

In all of the excitement before you leave, don't forget to keep the kids in a standard routine. Try to keep their sleep times the same, keeping them up in an attempt to tire them out will usually backfire and equal tired, grumpy children.

Luggage allowance

Find out what your luggage allowance is and stick to it. You don't want to have to rearrange your suitcase at the airport while keeping an eye on roaming children.

If your child has their own seat they will have their own luggage allowance. If they are big enough, have them pack and carry their own entertainment for the plane. If they are too small to help, remember how many hands you'll have when flying and try to keep your luggage to something you can manage on your own or between you and your flying companions.

Kid's meal options

Order a kids meal before you get on the planeCheck with the airline you are flying with and see if they offer children's meals - these will be made to cater to smaller appetites with many options so even the pickiest eater will find something to their liking. The food is often packaged individually as well so that you can keep some items for later.

Formula

If you have really little ones, take pre-made cartons of formula which are easy to pour into bottles rather than making up the powder which is fiddly and messy. Remember that you may have to sample any liquids you bring on the plane as you go through security. It's a good idea to confirm what you can bring with your airline before you get to the airport to avoid confusion.

Snacks

Pack lots of healthy snacks that you know your children like in small portions. Keeping sugars and food colouring to a minimum is a good idea as on the plane there isn't a lot of space for them to burn off a sugar high. And the low experienced after the sugar high can turn your angels into demons in a confined space!

Baby food

If your child is small enough to still eat processed food, make sure you bring more than you think you'll need! Children's appetites vary with their excitement levels and it's better to be safe than sorry.

Extra clothes

In your carry-on luggage pack an extra set or two of clothes for each child, as well as lots of nappies (for those children still wearing them). There is bound to be a spill on the plane or an upset tummy, and rather than stress over the state of the children when you arrive to [insert your relatives or location here], have a change ready for just before they leave the airplane. This will mean you can relax when the juice box gets an over jealous squeeze! If you do happen to run out of nappies, check with your flight attendant, you won't be the first parent to ask them for help.

Gifts (otherwise known as bribes!)

Special treats that appear throughout the flight are a great way to keep the kids busy as you. But you need to be prepared! Think about the space they'll have and how messy the activity could get. (I remember watching in horror as this family brought out a clay modelling kit partway through a flight once.)

Remember to wrap each gift as this adds an element of surprise and a few more minutes to the distraction time.

TV and film

If you know your child is particularly interested in a TV show or film and you have a tablet, download a few episodes in advance, you never know when they will save the day.

The rules

If your children are old enough, have a conversation before you leave home about what your flying rules are. Just as there are indoor voices at home, there are quieter voices and space bubbles on the place that they need to understand. Talking to them about it in advance will help you on the day.

Familiar itemsPack a familiar toy when traveling with children

Pack a favourite toy or blanket, but make sure to properly label it in case it gets lost! This item could be the difference between a child who feels at home and comfortable and a child who feels uncomfortable in their unfamiliar surroundings.

Wet wipes

They will be your best friend! From wiping up spills to de-stickifying fingers and freshening up tried faces - wet wipes are a must have for families.

On the flight with your kids

Inflight entertainment

Once you are on the plane, check out the inflight entertainment and see what's available. Decide on what the limit of viewing is and plan around that, keeping in mind the flight time and what you know about your child's rhythms.

Ear pressure

Remember to pack some sweets for small children that can be sucked on during take-off and landing. If your child is too small for hard sweets, a gummy worm can work well as an alternative as they can be sucked!

If your child is even smaller and you can bottle or breast feed during take-off and landing we recommend it. If they really won't latch on at that time, a simple dummy can help alleviate the pressure. We also find that having a whiff of eucalyptus oil helps clear your child's sinuses before take-off, making a pressure build up less likely.

Gifts (AKA bribery) implemented

Remember the toys you wrapped up before you left? Plan to get them out every 45-60 minutes. And make sure that the last activity is put away before something new comes out. This may mean gift number one can make a reappearance later in the flight!

The rules re-established

Have your child tell you what the flying rules were that you established at home. Getting them to repeat them back to you will make them remember them a little longer. Try not to get frustrated when they forget the rules, but remind them gently and don't ignore the breaches! Kicking someone's chair over and over again is not ok, and it's alright to remind them of that.

Kid's packs

If the airline offers "kids packs", check with your flight attendant. The packs will include things to keep the kids busy and distracted throughout the flight. For example a Virgin KiDs pack includes: a watch, reading book, baseball cap, pencil, magazine and Love Heart sweets.

Move around

When the seat belt sign isn't illuminated, take advantage of it! Taking the kids for a short walk up and down the aircraft once an hour can make all the difference.

First of all they will interact with people along the aisle, and just moving around a little will help improve everyone's disposition and alleviates restlessness. Just remember to try and keep them seated and strapped in during the meal and drinks services as the aisles can get blocked by the carts.

Too many treats

Limit the amount of fizzy drinks and sweets your children eat on board the flight - there is hardly any space for them to burn off that energy, and fizzy drinks tend to mean more trips to the toilet.

Loo breaks

Bear in mind that the toilets are always very busy at the end of the flight and are locked and out of use when the seat belt sign goes on for landing - so make sure to do your toilet trips with plenty of time to spare to avoid any accidents!

Respect other passengers

There might be a line for the toilets, but changing your child on the seat will not make you any friends.

Try to relax

The flight may not go to plan, or it might be brilliant, but if you are stressed your child will know and behave accordingly. A calm quiet voice will not only soothe your child, it won't alert other passengers to your plight.

Stay calm

Flying with Children

Don't fall asleep or put in headphones and ignore the chaos. Other passengers should not have to parent your children. Having said that, if you are doing your best, ignore the stares and looks from other passengers and just stay calm. One day they too may know what it's like to have an unhappy child in a small confined space with no escape route in sight.

 
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