Flying with children is an experience that some parents would find cringe-worthy. Your journey starts in the terminal before; you even board the flight. Onboard, anxiety levels increase as you are thousands of feet in the air trapped in a confined space, with your children who are a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
Flying doesn’t have to be like this! I am sharing some invaluable flight tips for your next trip. This information comes from personal experience, research and invaluable information from a friend who has been a flight attendant with Virgin Australia, International, and Domestic for over 14 years.
I have broken the information down into three categories – Before, During and After your flight, plus you’ll find a handy FREE CHECKLIST available of what to pack in your carry-on for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
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- When planning your trip look at the travel times closely. Your flying times tend to be more important when you are travelling with infants or younger children. Choose the right time that is going to suit the family. It’s not uncommon for people to think they will book a night flight as their children will sleep. However, children may find it difficult to sleep on the plane and older children may be too excited. Now when you are looking at the deals yes, I completely understand the temptation to save money but if your children are starting the trip miserable and cranky is it going to be worth it? On the other hand, if this is the only flight possible and a flight over sleep time is unavoidable don’t worry! I share some tips below on helping your child to sleep on the plane.
- If you are travelling with an infant, request a bassinet. These need to be reserved in advance at the time of booking as the aircrafts have limited bassinets available. Some airlines are first in best dressed at check-in, so it pays to get to the airport early. Before booking a bassinet check the dimensions with the aircraft. For example, with Qantas Airways flights the bassinets are approximately 71cm long, 31cm wide, 26cm deep, and have a weight limitation of 11 kg. Any children that are too large for these must share your seat.
- You may want to pre-order children’s meals at the time of booking, especially if anyone has dietary requirements.
- Choose your seat – do you want to sit on a window, or the aisle, have more leg room near the emergency doors, be close to the bathrooms. If so pre-allocate your seats ahead of time.
- Ensure you know the regulations on the flight, g., maximum luggage weight and how long before your flight leaves do you need to be at the airport to check in.
- Some airlines such as Virgin Australia allow guests who are travelling with infants to carry an extra bag containing items to be used on the plane such as nappies, baby food, etc.
- If you are driving to the airport and plan to leave your car in long-term parking, research to see if the airport offer discounts or specials.
- Some important questions to check with your airline carriers are:
- Do infants fly for free?
- What is the baggage allowance for children with a seat?
- Does it cost extra to check-in strollers, car seats or other large items?
- Are baby/toddler meals available?
- Will cabin crew heat up baby bottles?
- Does the aircraft have child activity packs?
3 Months Before Departure
- Invest in backpacks as they leave you with two hands to juggle children.
- Passport tip – All your passports need to be up to date and valid for at least 6months from departure and valid for the duration of your trip. To check the details and apply for a child’s passport see the Australian Government website here. The site advises allowing up to 3 weeks to receive the passport after lodging. However, I would arrange one before this to allow for any delays.
2 Weeks Before Departure
- Research if you can take milk in bottles on the aircraft. Airlines such as Qantas Airways allow passengers travelling with an infant or toddler to carry a reasonable quantity of liquid for the duration of the flight.
- Some airports have children’s play areas and facilities, which is a great way to kill some time and burn off energy before the flight.
- Remember to pack any medication that you might need for the flight. Including children’s Panadol or equivalent. Most airlines are very restricted on what medication they carry or can administer. Never give your baby or toddler any new medication on the flight that they have not had before, in case of a reaction.
- Does your child experience motion sickness? If they do or if this is your first trip, be prepared!
There are some remedies that you can buy to assist such as:
- Travel sickness wristbands;
- Ginger lollies;
- Peppermint oil on a handkerchief.
Tips for motion sickness – Try to avoid reading, writing or looking down. Keep hydrated and opt for healthy snacks instead of sugary ones.
Day Before Departure
- Check your flight status 24 hours before leaving to ensure it has not changed.
- If you are travelling on a long flight, ensure you are active the day before or morning of, go for a walk, have a runaround. For long-haul flights, it is a long time for the body to be sitting in the one position.
- Be organised the night before. Lie your clothes out on the bed, arrange the drinks and food, have your luggage packed, organise your carry-on bags along with any plane activities. All this saves time on the day of your flight, especially if you need to leave early.
- Ensure you are all well rested. Don’t keep the kids awake hoping they will sleep on the plane. It is possible they won’t sleep and then they will just be more over-tired and grumpy for the first few days until they catch up.
- Inflight entertainment – Some airlines such as Virgin Australia Domestic have an app that you can download which allows you to watch the latest shows on your mobile or tablet. On their International flights, there are dedicated children channels on their entertainment system.
Day of Travel
- Check your flight status again to ensure it has not changed and there are no delays.
- Check in earlier, so you are not rushed before boarding the flight.
- Request an extra seat for an infant when you check in. If the plane is not full, you might be in luck for everyone to have a seat to themselves.
- Avoid too much caffeine, and alcohol as these can be dehydrating.
- For some children, a flight may be a new and scary experience. Talk to the children before take-off on what they may feel, hear and see during the flight.
- Airports are large places with normally many people inside. On the way to the airport set your boundaries with the children and what your expectations are for when you are at the airport and on the flight.
Tips to Entertain the Kids
- Create your own entertainment *activity pack for each child. What’s even better is if the children have their backpacks to carry them in. Ensure they are suitable for the size of your child though as the last thing you need is to be carrying an additional bag.
- Pre-load books and games onto i-pad/tablets. Don’t forget to pack headphones for each child. The small earphones they give to adults on the aircraft are not suitable for children’s ears, and by each child having earphones, it will hopefully eliminate arguments and not disturb other passengers.
- Give children the window seat. One it keeps them occupied by looking out the window and secondly it is harder to escape.
Eating & Drinking
- Pack a variety of healthy snacks and drinks for during the flight. Keep kids fuelled for longer with healthy alternatives, so they are not bouncing off the aircraft walls high on sugar. In regards to how much to pack it’s always best to have more than not enough.
- Keep everyone well hydrated.
- Caffeine, fizzy drinks, juices, and alcohol can affect sleep patterns if you are on a flight and want everyone to sleep.
- If you take drink bottles on board, un-screw them before opening the lid. The pressure of the plane can make them shoot out like a fountain. Learnt this one the hard way!
Take Off and Descending Tips
- We all know that the plane pressure can affect your ears when leaving and descending. Sucking and chewing can help with this.
Older children – Try giving children a lollipop or chewing gum to relieve the pressure of altitude change.
Infants and Younger children – Babies bottles, breastfeeding, dummies, teething toys, sucking on pieces of apple may help.
- In your carry-on luggage pack a spare change of clothes for the kids and if you are travelling with an infant an extra shirt for yourself.
- Ensure everyone is wearing comfortable clothing for the flight. There is nothing worse than sitting for a long time wearing something uncomfortable, especially when the kids are jumping all over you.
- A swaddle is a great addition to take on board no matter your child’s It can become cold on the planes and also can be used as a comforter to help them relax.
- If you are on a long flight, don’t be afraid to let the kids stretch their legs and walk around as long as they are not in the flight attendants way.
- A baby carrier may be useful on a flight when you have more than one child to attend to. It may also assist with the baby or toddler going to sleep, but remember you will still need the infant seatbelt on at times during the flight and the carriers have to be removed for takeoff and landing.
- Use anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down armrests, tray tables, and seatbelts. Tray tables are one of the most un-hygienic areas on the plane.
- If you are travelling on a long haul flight, pack toothpaste, toothbrush, eye mask, and PJ’s.
- I mentioned travel sickness earlier, and sometimes it is going to be unavoidable. Ensure there are travel sickness bags in the seat pocket in front of you.
- When changing nappies, check with the flight attendants how they are best disposed on the plane. They usually have extra sickbags in the toilets to place them in before putting them in the bin.
Tips to Help Encourage Sleep During Flight
Have you ever heard people tell you that you may need to sedate your children while flying? We have some other suggestions to assist with helping your child to sleep without resorting to medicines.
- Dehydration is more likely at altitude, so ensure your child is well hydrated with water and avoid sugary drinks.
- Try to make the seats as comfortable as possible to encourage sleep by taking sleep devices, such as neck or leg pillows or an inflatable cushion to rest their legs. Be sure to check the airline’s policy on this equipment as some airlines due to safety regulations do not allow them to be attached to the seats.
- Follow your normal bedtime routine as you would at home to the best of your ability.
- If your child has a comforter, blanket or a soft toy they use at bed-time, ensure that they are taken on the plane with you.
- Change your children into their PJ’s for comfort and to re-enforce that it is sleep time.
- Older children can wear earplugs to block out the noise and eye masks to avoid light.
- Have a wrap/swaddle or ask for a blanket if the temperature is cool.
- Listen to relaxing music or an audio story to unwind.
- Read a bedtime story.
- Try giving them some warm milk to drink.
- If getting to sleep is difficult after 30 minutes try a quiet activity for a little while and then try again later, there is no point everyone getting frustrated, after all, you are on holidays!
When you arrive
- Have transfers arranged &/or know directions where you are going?
- Will you be able to check into your accommodation and if not what are your plans between arriving at the airport and check-in What are you going to do with your luggage?
- What time of day will you be arriving, breakfast, lunch, dinner? What is around the area for places to eat?
- Try to fit into your new time zone as best as you can. If you are tired, it is easy to have a nap when you arrive but try to follow the same bedtime routine you would have at home and just have an early night.
- Go for a walk, arrange an activity outside as the sun helps reset your body clock.
- If you have arrived early, have a shower and a bite to eat.
- Plan for an early night for the first couple of days away.
HAVE YOU READ?
Part 1 Travel Series: Your Essential 4 Step Pre-Vacation Guide with a Planning Checklist
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