You know when you’re all set to take that flight across the country, and you feel happy from within?
For once you look forward to having an exciting vacation with your family, leaving your workplace woes behind…
And then suddenly you remember the last time you were on board with the kids and how the day had ended for you.
Ask yourself if the thought gets you stealing fearful glances at your perfectly innocent kids from time to time.
Flying with children can be one of the most challenging things for a parent. It can go from scary and awkward to nerve-wrackingly exhausting real quick.
To be on a flight with kids takes a lot of preparation.
So, if the approaching travel date still feels like the day of reckoning to you, then trust me, this is just the article you’ve been looking for so long.
Because we’ve brought for you the ultimate guide to flying with kids that will teach you to do it just right!
Ultimate Flying with Kids Guide
1. Packing Up!
This is the first step to prepare for any journey. Try to pack light, stick to the essentials. Heavy baggage that you need to drag around will only add to stress and pressure.
It is too easy to get carried away with things that you wouldn’t really need. Check out this list to know what to carry on a flight.
Mind the Luggage Weight
Be informed of the maximum weight and dimensions of luggage that is going to be allowed on the flight. You can call up the airline helpdesk beforehand to find out about their luggage and carrier regulations or simply look it up online.
Make sure to pack your, and your kids’, ‘essentials’ in separate small zipped kits or packing cubes. Avoid stuffing everything up in one bag even if you feel that these belong to the same category of items. In this way, you can retrieve your kids’ requirements from their own bags/cubes without having to open the main traveling case.
Carry the Essentials Separately
Use a handbag to carry things such as disposable wipes, anti-bacterial gel or tissues. If your kids are really young, consider packing up their drinks and formulas in something that you can access with ease (we love using backpack diaper bags for this).
Avoid mixing up essential things like keys, passports or tickets with any personal belongings that of yours or your kids’ within the same bag. On that note, keep your passports and tickets in easy to reach pockets.
Do not Overburden Yourself
Everything, apart from the essential items, should go into your “checked luggage.” Avoid carrying any such objects on the plane that you would only require after reaching your destination. This greatly cuts off burden and pressure enabling you to enjoy a smooth trip with your kids.
Most importantly, try to pack as lightly as you can. Carry only the things that you know your child would undoubtedly need on the plane. These could be their favorite toys, food, water bottles, small blankets or entertainment devices.
2. What Exactly Should You Pack?
Decoding what to carry and what not when you’re about to board a flight with your kids can be a daunting task. Do consider going through this section to have a better idea regarding the things you should have with you on the plane.
- Pack up a change of clothes for your kids and yourself – really vital for long-haul flights.
- Make an onboard kit consisting of hand sanitizers, disposable wipes, tissues, panadol/nurofen etc.
- Put dental care equipment, toiletries for personal hygiene and night wears like pajamas in separate compartments. Remember to take travel-size toiletries on board.
- Pack a little blanket or cardigan for comfort.
- You can also carry a separate bag or a Ziplock bag to store up messy clothes if there is a big spill of any sort.
- Snacks, toys and technology (tablets/iPads etc) are always a great idea too.
A quick tip on travel pillows for kids: Select a durable and flexible travel pillow that sits curled around their necks. Avoid getting flat pillows as these won’t hold up with the frequently changing sleep patterns of children. You can see our guide on how to choose the best travel pillow here.
3. The Absolute Onboard Essentials to Have
Pack Your Own Snacks
Never forget to bring your own food on the plane. Your kids might not like plane food all that much, and we often find that our kids get peckish in between meals.
Bring snacks like dried fruits, nuts, crackers, colorful Cheerios or popcorns that can be a healthy and fun alternative for everyone to munch on.
Make sure to keep devices for your child’s entertainment at hand. This could be music players, Ipads or even Kindles. We also like to bring decent kids’ headphones with as well. And don’t forget to pack the power adaptors so you can charge up during layover.
Carry these Necessary Candies
The takeoffs and landings can create pressure on your child’s sensitive eardrums causing a considerable amount of discomfort. Consider keeping a pacifier or things like lollipops or chewing gums that they could suck and chew on at these times. These help pop the pressure off their ears.
Create a Compact Medicine Container
Never forget to make a separate zip-top bag for carrying the medicines. You can also opt for making a separate one for your kids that could hold their syrups and vitamins.
The basic first-aid kit should have a separate compartment. Remember to carry your child’s medication and prescriptions. To be on the safe side, make sure that the kids are up to date on their vaccinations.
4. All about the Airline You’re Availing
It is essential to know all about the airline you’re opting for and also the things to look out for when you decide on one, especially when you’re traveling with kids.
Book Newer Planes
It is always advisable to travel in newer aircraft which are much more comfortable in comparison to older ones.
Consider Flying Direct
Fly direct as much as you can when you’re flying with kids. Avoid the stressful run from terminal to terminal with the children and all the bags and backpacks. This could really make them cranky (especially if you have to wake them up in order to change flights).
Consider selecting a stopover if you have to break the journey at all.
Go for Friendly Airline Services
Always fly with a family-friendly airline consisting of a staff specialized in dealing with kids onboard. They could really provide you with valuable help and assistance in looking after your kids on the plane. Some airlines such as
Etihad has dedicated staff that helps with the needs of kids. They gave our kids a little welcome onboard kit with toys and coloring things. We could also grab spare diapers from them when we ran out as well.
Opt for a Full-service Airline
We find it so much harder when we fly on budget airlines. Full-service airlines will make life easier as you have to pack less (they supply pillows and blankets) and they are also ready to hand out juice, milk or water when your kids get thirsty.
Select Your Airline Sensibly
Have an insight into the space and seating arrangements. Some offer delicious meals for kids and activity packs for specific age groups. Find out if they provide generous luggage allowances for accommodating necessary items for children.
Take a Break
Lastly, do not hesitate to allow yourselves a break and make an overnight stay. This can help with your kids’ sleeping patterns and keep them energized for the journey ahead and provide you with a well-deserved rest.
5. Make the Seating Arrangements Wisely
Seating arrangements are one of the most important factors to consider when you’re flying with your kids. Knowing how to get the good seats can pull you out of a lot of unpleasant situations.
Go for Pre-Seating Requests
Always consider getting an airline service that allows pre-seating requests. This can help you get joint seating arrangements for you and your family.
Reserve Your Seats Strategically
Try blocking out the windows and aisle seats which would leave you with a spacious middle seat. Since middle seats are generally the last ones to fill out, you might even get lucky if the one on your row doesn’t. If it does, politely ask if they can trade seats for one of your aisle ones.
This way, the children will have enough space to sprawl and stretch out. Aisle seats work better for bathroom breaks while window seats are great to lean on.
Get a Suitable Place Inside the Plane
Try selecting a place inside the aircraft suited to your needs. It can be at the back of the plane or on the front. Manage the seating arrangements in a way that helps your kids to operate their seats comfortably without causing trouble for anyone else.
I hate sitting close to the toilets, as the noise of the toilet doors opening and closing, and the noise from the toilets flushing can keep me awake.
Introduce the Kids to the Staff
One of the smarter tips for flying with children is to introduce them in a friendly way to the flight attendants. Encourage them to ask questions and politely make their requests. This will help your kids overcome shyness and obey the rules better.
6. Dire Situations Call for Dire Distractions!
We have a few tips to help you handle the situations where your child might get too restless, cranky or fidgety.
- Make sure to always pre-load your devices with your kids’ favorite games, shows or movies. Do not entirely rely on airlines entertainment.
- Pack up your child’s favorite toys or storybooks. Colouring books can be an excellent alternative for keeping your kid occupied, and it also works as a great stress buster.
- Pre-book your kid’s meal and feed them first thing on the plane. Also, maintain their sleep regime as much as you can.
- Introduce simple, harmless objects as potential playthings to your child, such as sugar packets, tiny spoons or shakers. They will quickly get busy exploring these.
- You can also create a ‘busy bag,’ which is a reusable bag containing simple playthings. It allows you to easily take the toys out or throw them back in the bag without much hassle.
- You can bring sticker activity books too. These are generally very attractive to kids of all ages and make for an engaging activity. Avoid carrying any toy consisting of multiple parts for the obvious reason of losing them in the plane.
- You can also choose to give them the toys one at a time as rewards for good behavior.
- You can even create a travel journal together with your kids using lots of stickers, postcards, and maps. This is one of the sweetest ways of capturing the essence of a family trip and keeping the little ones engaged in the process.
7. Airport Game Plan
Track Your Flight
Keep a check on your flight schedules; know if it’s on time. Waiting at airports for long hours can be boring, and children tend to get impatient really quick in these situations. Also, look for family-friendly airports.
Go for the Lounge
If you’re early at the airport and have an access to the lounge, then give no second thoughts about putting it to good use. Kids will love the atmosphere of the lounge, and it will give all of you some time to relax before catching the flight. Grab on this opportunity to get some snacks and refreshments.
Pick an Arrival Time
Select a suitable arrival time for long-haul flights. Think about what would work best for the kids. If you arrive around late afternoon or evening, it will give them the time to relax soon followed by bedtime. If your arrival time is in the morning, then you would have to make sure they catch up on some sleep first before going out.
Day-Flight or an Overnight One?
Think about what would be suitable for the kids. An overnight long-haul flight can be ideal for the children to get some sleep onboard. For some, catching a daytime flight works the best as it saves them the trouble of lining-up for immigration real early in the morning.
Finally, at the very end of it all, we would like to encourage you to be positive and accepting of the difficulties that may arise while flying with children. Being a parent is the toughest job of all, but it’s also the most beautiful.
Your children deserve to have a wonderful holiday as much as you do and instead of thinking about what could go wrong, look forward to the fantastic time you’re going to have with them.
Remember, that you can only have them remain kids until they grow up. So be awesomely zen and enjoy the time to come!