9 top tips for flying with kids
It can be the stuff of nightmares – for kids, parents and the flyers sitting in front of you. That’s the likely scenario if you don’t know how to prepare your child for the flying experience and make it fun for them.
Here are top tips for flying with kids based on years of experience and many flights taken with our two daughters:
1. Start them early
Our daughters are incredible flyers. They love the experience, are well-behaved, and always receive praise from fellow flyers and air hostesses. It’s because they’ve ben flying since they were only several weeks old. They understand the flying process and see it as a grand adventure. The earlier you start your children, the quicker they’ll adapt and the more at ease they’ll feel.
2. Prepare them for the flight
Talk to your child about the flight experience and what they can expect. Practice even before you board at home with make believe. Talk them through the experience on the plane as well. Explain what is happening and when and take frequent looks that the flying map together and talk about how far you’ve flown and how long you have to go.
3. Let them take control of their bags and ticketing
My children love rolling their bags through the airport and sending them off to the plane and picking them back off the bag carousel. They hand over their tickets and passports and walk down the aisle looking for their seats. The more they feel they’re in control of the experience, the more they’ll love it.
4. Book the right food and take plenty of snacks
We only just discovered that for some airlines when booking your child’s ticket you must specifically select a child’s meal. Otherwise, they’ll receive the adult’s version, which might be a great option if your child is not a fussy eater like ours. We didn’t pack enough extra food for her as we didn’t think we’d need it. Pay careful attention to the airline’s food choices and always take your own. And have your own bottles of water as flight attendants can be hard to track down!
5. Be entertainment prepared
It’s a big ask for your child to sit in a tiny airplane seat and occupy themselves for however many hours. Take enough entertainment for them. Letting them watch movies on the in-flight system or your own devices is not bad parenting. It’s allowing them space to chill out and have fun. I’d also recommend taking their favourite toy, a colouring and reading book. Kids generally start kicking the seat in front of them when they get bored.
6. Fly overnight
Flying overnight tends to work better for younger children who are great at sleeping anywhere. It’s normally worked for us, except for our recent flight from Singapore. It was overnight and uncomfortable, and none of us slept well. Know your children – if they’ll sleep, the overnight flight will be quite painless.
7. Go for walks
Get up and stretch a little. Your kids will love taking a plane wander and waving to fellow passengers. It’s great for the circulation system as well. Take them up the back and do a few star jumps and stretches together.
8. Unwrap a goodie
Take a bag of treats – a few small toys from the $2 shop work well. Wrap them up and let your children unwrap a new one every couple of hours. They’ll feel entertained and excited, and will behave to have the pleasure of unwrapping another treat.
9. Fly as direct as you can
Direct flights always win when flying with kids. Sometimes it’s better to save your sanity rather than a few bucks. Stopovers can destroy children and yourself. We once flew to Bangkok, via a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. It was the worst decision and resulted in very tired children and a huge meltdown in the most important temple in Bangkok.
10. Have them sleep in the middle
You certainly don’t want hot coffee spilt on them during food service, or have them go missing after you’ve nodded off to sleep. I know you’re thinking of Flight Plan right now aren’t you?
11. Prepare their ears for landing
It’s rare to be on a plane coming in for landing and not hear a chorus of children crying out in pain. Whether it’s a dummy, bottle of milk or water or a thumb, give your child something to suck on during landing to help ease the pain of their ears trying to stabilise.