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50+ ways to stay sane when flying with children

Flying with Children; Kids stowed in the Cabin Locker ona

Er…no, not one of the 50+ tips!

Flying with children can be a touch stressful at times.  We recently blogged about the behaviour of children on a flight and it’s affect on other passengers.  We think the key to de-stressing the flight for ourselves, our children and in turn, other passengers, is to be well prepared.  So here are our 50+ tips to getting prepared and enjoying your flight with your children.

Before you get to the airport

1. Pack well in advance (don’t graze the house last minute looking for things to throw in your bags)
2. Don’t let kids pack their own bags. If you do, check what they’ve packed. You don’t want them taking anything that could be confiscated by security!
3. Make a list of the documents you need to take and have them accessible
4. If you’re borrowing a buggy, make sure you know how to put it down before you get to the aeroplane steps!
5. Check cabin baggage allowance (size and weight) with the airline before you pack. Airlines are generally strict and an argument with them over whether yours will fit is stressful and could be costly if you have to put your luggage in the hold.
6. Take a small travel change mat pouch as there is little room in the aeroplane toilets for a full size change bag.
7. When flying with children, give your self more time. Allow enough time to arrive including parking the car, taking the bus to the airport. Lateness = stress from the start.
8. Have coins ready for trolleys if you have a lot of baggage.
9. If little one needs to sleep on the flight, take a travel pillow and blanket like a Snoozihedz.

Airport Security Control with children

10. Know what the hand baggage allowances for baby milk and food are before you arrive
11. Have baby milks, foods etc in bottles/jars/pouches that can be resealed incase you have to sample them
12. Don’t take drinks for older kids, they’ll be confiscated or poured away. Take empty cups that can be filled from drinks brought at the airport lounge.
13. If you borrow a buggy from a friend, make sure you know how to put it down (they need to be folded to go through the scanners)
14. Take your child’s comfort toy, drinks bottle, etc. away at a convenient moment before you are near security control and slip them in your bag. Your child has to walk through the scanners without holding anything. Parting from teddy to walk through may be traumatic.
15. Don’t wear belts, boots, or keep keys etc in your pockets.
16. Check beforehand if the airport has a fast track security line for families with children.
17. If you’re travelling with a baby alone, be prepared to have to put your buggy down single handed while still holding your baby.

In the airport

18. Check where you’ll be boarding if the gate has been announced.
19. Duty free shops are stressful with kids as they need to touch EVERYTHING. If you really want to shops, tag team the kids with your other half.
20. Check what restaurants are available at the airport before you go to find out the most family friendly.
21. If you’re in a rush, ask for your bill with your meal at the restaurant.
22. Check to see if the airport has a play area for letting off steam before you board
23. If not, find a gate/area with plenty of space and let them have the freedom to run around.
24. Take your kids to the toilet before you board

Boarding the aeroplane with children

25. Check if your airline allows kids to board first.
26. Use a rucksack as hand luggage so that you have free hands to help little children up the aeroplane steps.
27. If you’re free to choose your seat; near the front is less turbulent, the back is sometimes less busy (and near the toilets/baby change)

Getting ready to take off

28. Ask for a seatbelt for your infant as you board
29. Keep kids bags under the seat in front of you for easy access to their next toy
30. Talk about what you can see from the window
31. If you’re worried about take off, try chatting to your child to distract yourself and not let them see you’re nervous.
32. Slip off their shoes and encourage toddlers to sit crossed legged
33. Give them something to suck, eat or drink for take off
34. Put a sandwich bag in the magazine holder for all your rubbish

Entertaining children on the flight

35. Small colouring books
36. Stickers and a note pad
37. Travel journal for older children
38. Small jigsaws (packed in sandwich bags)
39. Role play toys; baby, with bottle, muslin, etc.
40. Pick reliable, favourite, small toys that you know hold their attention for a while
41. Download some suitable (non noisy) phone apps, eg. Tozzle (3-5 yr olds)
42. Little books (Mr Men are perfect)
43. DVDs shown via laptop/ipad (if your child can wear headphones)
44. Flying with children is a chance for some quality time; talk about where you’re going, what you do, or listen to them read to you.
45. If they get bored, use what’s around you. Play the spotting game in the inflight magazine (eg. Can you find someone wearing red shoes, or tell the time on the watches, etc)
46. Give them snacks (see below)

Eating on the flight

47. Ask for your child to have their meal served before you so you can help them before eating your own
48. Take your own drinks cups so children don’t have to use the flimsy plastic ones that they tend to bite/crush/spill
49. Take plenty of snacks that can take some time to eat eg, cheerios, raisins, cheese blocks, cut up grapes
50. If you think your child won’t like the inflight meal, pack something in reserve.

After the flight

51. Take your time to get off, avoid the crowd rush
52. Check the seats, down the side of the seats by the window, the floor and the magazine holders for toys. There will be something dropped somewhere!
53. Make sure comfort toys go back in the hand baggage for their safe keeping.
54. Use a baby sling to walk to the baggage carousel to meet your buggy (it could be a long walk)
55. Keep children well back from the baggage carousel; so many accidents waiting to happen there.
56. If possible, send someone ahead to organise car hire if you have booked it, as the queues can be long
57. Enjoy your holiday and don’t think about the return flight yet!

What are your experiences flying with children?

Did you fly with your children and wished you’d thought of one of the tips above? Which one?  Or do you have a tip of your own to share.  We’d love to read your experiences and you’ll help make that next flight a bit less stressful for other parents too.  Feel free to leave your thoughts below:

(Photo credit: MA1974 via flickr)

Posted in Travel Advice.


39 Responses

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  32. Tracey says

    I first travelled alone with my 15month old daughter – the tips on being super organsied and practising one handed buggy folds and keeping to one hand luggage are spot on.

    I always make sure I have triangle shaped crayons, they don’t roll away – perfect for flying.
    Also lots of little “surprises” I tend to stock up on things from the pound shop, something new always keeps them amused for a while. Always take my portable DVD player along with a new Disney DVD – buys you about 90 minutes. This year I have a 5 hour flight with my daughter who is now three and a half. Even though the nappies are long gone I’ve talked to her lots about putting pull ups back on for the flight – just in case. It’s really not that hard if you are super organised and stay calm!

    • admin says

      Great tips Tracey. Triangle crayons are genius for travel! Yes – love ‘em or hate ‘em a DVD certainly keeps things quiet for a while. I’m with you on that one!

  33. Andrea says

    We don’t have kids yet but I imagine flying with them will be a challenge…these are great tips!

    • admin says

      Sometimes a challenge, always different! Thanks for stopping by. Clare

  34. Abi says

    I always have issues with my daughter and the security. After a year and a half of international travel she has only just started to go through the detector alone. I found a way to encourage her was to pretend the bus stop signs (with two poles) are detectors when waiting for buses.
    We role play a lot about planes before we travel (and after) so she knows exactly was to expect.
    Also, my daughter has her own hand luggage, It’s a trolly that also has shoulder straps so I can carry it if she gets bored, (or falls asleep).

  35. Single With Kids says

    A great list! One thing I’ve found is that the less hand luggage, the easier the travel – there’s less to struggle through the airport with, leave on the plane, rifle through to find the passports and essential documents. Our last flight was accompanied only by our documents, an iPad, bottle of water and my purse….and my dozy daughter still managed to leave the iPad on the plane! (Fortunately recovered by a friendly hostess).
    Chrissie x

    • Clare says

      Nooooo! Thank goodness for the friendly hostess. It’s a good tip though – you’re right, there’s no need to overload the hand luggage, especially if something like and ipad will keep them amused for long enough.



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