We have flown 8 times with little kids now and these are our practical tips for making it easier on yourself.
1. Pack well ahead of your trip! This seems obvious but we always lose track of time. If everytime you try to pack, the kids unpack, it’s easy to never make much progress. Don’t do what we do and leave it to last minute and be rushed and stressed. Also, make lists of what to pack and account for all weather possibilities!
2. Check in online and pay for fast track security. There is a lot of queuing in airports for little tots, and they get very restless, reduce any you can. I was so pleased on our last trip to by pass an enormous security queue. So worth it.
3. iPads/tablets – now is not the time to be precious about screen time. Download some movies, apps that don’t need wifi and make sure that sucker is charged up. Also pack some children’s headphones so they can hear it ok.
4. Protect their ears during take off and landing. Their little ears can really hurt and it makes them cry. If you are nursing this works a treat, time it so you can nurse them take off and landing. If you bottle feed then a bottle or dummy will help. If the kid is older then some chewy treats or a lollipop will might do the trick.
5. Toys! Have a little pack of things that will help entertain them during the flight. I try to think of 10 minute activities as that is all my kids can manage before getting bored. Examples of things that have worked for us include, sticker books, crayons and paper, books, lego, little toys (not so little you are constantly searching for them under the seats). Hit up a b&m or poundland in the run up to the trip. You’ll find lots of bargain small items there for making a busy bag or fun pack for cheap. If you have time to wrap the toys up then even better as they’ll spend more time opening them and it will make it feel like more of a treat for them.
6. Give potty trained toddlers and preschoolers lots of opportunities to use the toilet – if they need it urgently and there is a big queue it can lead to upsetting accidents for them (and you!).
7. Plan your flight time carefully. Think about nap/sleep schedules. Sleep can be take up part of your journey but can also backfire. If it works then it’s a dream and you have a chilled out flight but my kids tend to just fight it then become overtired grouches the whole flight!
8. If the kids can be eating on the plane then that keeps them busy and happy for 15 minutes or so. Get snacks/drinks/food at the airport that you know they will enjoy. You can buy food on the plane just be aware you are more limited in choices and dependant on the times the cart comes round. We made the mistake last time of eating in the airport before but actually I should have let the kids snack and then run around in the airport and eat properly on the plane.
9. Use your carry on luggage just for kids stuff. Make sure it fits under the seats so you aren’t in and out of the locker all the time. Make sure you have nappies, wipes, changes of clothes for everyone, toys, snacks, iPads etc.
10. Take into account transfer times when booking your hotel. The last thing you want after finishing your flight is having to try and keep your kids sat still again on a 90 minute coach transfer. We try to stick to 30 minutes and under ideally.
And don’t drug them! Seriously so many people give their babies antihistamine for flights to make them sleep. This seems very 1950s ‘give the baby whisky to help them sleep’ to me but to each their own I guess!
If you want to read more about flying with children then I love this blog for great tips on travelling when pregnant and with kids.