A word of advice to anyone setting off on a first flight with their kids is that children, like grown-ups, are all different and some are easier to fly with than others. So some of these tips may help, but the best advice I could give anyone is to prepare for the worst, be patient, and take deep breaths when it all starts to get too much.
Here are some top tips from the experts at Bound Round, the travel app for kids, by kids.
Choose your airline carefully – find out about the in-flight entertainment and any services provided for kids. It is worth paying a bit more for extra leg-room, peace of mind and happy, occupied kids.
Some airlines, including Etihad and Gulf Air have inflight nannies, and some, including British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific, have better activity packs than others. Find out what options they have for kids' meals and let them know of any allergies.
You really will not need as much as you think you’ll need on holiday, so pack what you think you need, take a break and then go back and remove a few items. If the kids insist on bringing toys, make sure they don’t choose toys with loads of small loose items, such as Lego or puzzles, and they don’t fill the suitcase with that enormous teddy bear.
Remember how much longer it takes you to achieve anything with kids in tow and apply the same formula to travel plans. Smile sweetly and helplessly at everyone and you may get help jumping queues.
Ask if your flight is full when checking in. Some assistants will offer you the option of seating next to a vacant seat.
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Give all the kids a backpack with a change of clothes, lots of (non-greasy, non-smelly) snacks, a mobile device each and a book or two. Give younger kids colouring-in books and older kids journals. It doesn’t matter if the journal is ignored once you get to your destination – it has served its purpose on the plane.
If you’re flying with a budget airline such as Scoot or Virgin, they will sometimes have a BYO device in-flight entertainment program – make sure your chosen device is compatible and that you have downloaded the required app (and any movies or games your kids want) long before you get to the airport.
Especially if travelling with a baby, pack all his/her favourite foods and don’t rely on the airline because what they serve up may not be to your baby’s liking. Better to be safe than sorry with a child too young to reason with.
Always ask for food/bottles to be heated up well in advance of when you need them because cabin crew do not have access to a microwave and will need to use hot water to heat.
We grown-ups can usually pop our ears to adjust to changes in air pressure but babies and children really struggle. Try to time feeds for babies to coincide with take-off and landing – whether breast or bottle, the sucking action helps. For older kids, try giving them boiled sweets to suck on.
8. What to wear
Forget about style and focus on comfort, with plenty of layers to cope for changes in temperature – especially if you’re travelling from a chilly Melbourne winter, for example, to tropical Thailand. Always bring a spare set of clothes for the kids for that inevitable spillage, and bring pyjamas to help with the kids’ in-flight sleeping routine.
Aeroplane bathrooms are small. So you need to be prepared before entering with a squirmy, smelly baby. Pack a small bag with one nappy, travel pack of wipes, a nappy sack and rash cream and store it in the pocket in front of you. You can re-stock after the baby is changed.
Let’s be realistic, you’re not going to get enough and the kids will likely be cranky. Get plenty of sleep before you leave so you at least start out refreshed and make sure your kids do the same.
Talk to your doctor about using sedatives for your baby or child. Some children travel well with sedatives, others become even more hyperactive. Test them out before you travel.
Create an in-flight bedtime routine, get the kids to change into their pyjamas and brush their teeth before snuggling up under a blanket.
About Bound Round
For more recommendations on holidays with kids, check out Bound Round, the kids travel app for kids by kids. The app is full of fun facts, games and video destination guides to all the best activities and attractions, narrated by local kids, the experts on what’s fun in their home town.