Taking children on their first aeroplane flight can be an exciting adventure that the whole family can enjoy. This is a parent’s guide to flying with young children and it aims to help make the most out the travelling experience, so everyone can have a safe and fun-filled journey:
- If your child has a cold before you’re due to fly, get them checked out by your local doctor. If it’s a severe cold and your child ruptures an eardrum, it will be the end of your holiday. Some infant nasal saline spray can come in handy for blocked noses whilst travelling, so make sure you keep some in your handbag. If you’re travelling with really young children, try to put them to the breast or bottle on take-off or landing as the act of swallowing will help ear- drums to ‘pop’ and equalise the aircraft pressurization.
- If you’re heading to the tropics make sure you have contacted your GP beforehand and know the necessary inoculations you’ll be required to take.
Some malaria tablets need to be taken three weeks before the start of your holiday and some injections require a time period of six months before travel.
- If this is the first flight your child has taken, it’s a good idea to have some junior travel sickness tablets handy. All airlines have air-sickness bags in the seat pocket in front of you, but it is good advice to take a light-weight spare set of clothing for them, just in case.
- Long haul travel can be gruelling for parents with children, so try to book a night flight where your child is virtually guaranteed to sleep on at least one leg. If you have young infants ask your airline operator if they have baby bassinets on board; many companies do and infants sleep like a dream in them.
- If you have toddlers under the age of 2, they will sleep on your lap unless you book an extra seat (at extra cost) for them. This can be a nightmare if you want to settle them to sleep, but the ‘Flyebaby’ hammock is a great invention which hooks over the parent’s seat in front and forms a make- shift bed for your little one. If your trip is over 8 hours, this is a great buy.
- If you’re taking your car seat on the flight for your child to sit in, make sure the airline you are travelling with approves of it first. Some airlines have specific guidelines regarding width, height and brand which your seat has to adhere to before they will let you use it.
- Have a check-list of everything you absolutely must have in your handbag before you leave the house. This should include your passports, tickets, travel insurance and any medicine that you or your children might need on the flight. Make sure that none of these items go in your checked luggage as there is a chance that this might go missing for a day or two. If you have space in your cabin luggage, take a light-weight change of clothing for each member of the family.
- Allow yourself plenty of time at the airport. Grumpy children who refuse to walk to the check in desk, need the toilet or simply throw a tantrum in the middle of the airport concourse will have your stress levels fit to burst before you’ve even seen an aeroplane.
- Whilst you can’t carry water with you through the departure gate (airlines don’t let you carry liquids over 100ml in volume) you would be well advised to buy some in the airport departure lounge. Flying is very dehydrating due to the aeroplane air-conditioning systems so buy yourself and the children plenty of water in advance.
- Airlines aren’t as good as they used to be when handing out toys and some airlines don’t hand out any toys whatsoever. Be prepared and pack your own goody bag for your child. You can put colouring books, crayons, stickers, snacks and little toys in a rucksack which they can carry themselves and it will give you hours of peace and quiet on your flight.
- Meals on board the aircraft can be difficult with children, especially if they’re sitting on your lap. The best way to deal with this is to ask the cabin attendants if you can have the children’s meals first and then your own. That way you’ll have much quieter children and may even be able to eat some of your own meal in relative peace and quiet.
- The days of children being allowed to visit the cock-pit of an aeroplane are unfortunately long gone. The only real entertainment aeroplanes provide is in- flight TV and parents travelling with small children should make the most of it. This is not the time to limit viewing hours and if it keeps your child amused for a few hours, you may even manage to get some sleep yourself!
If you have any queries regarding your flight, call your airline first to make sure problems do not arise later when they cannot be resolved. Travelling with children doesn’t have to be difficult and stressful, as long as you remember to do your research and come prepared.