Having been in the travel industry for a fair few years now I have come to pick up many tips and tricks along the way. Then after travelling with our son on various holidays I have learnt even more. So I thought why not share my knowledge with all you wonderful people. I’m purely going to share how to just survive the flight and maybe if your lucky throw in some need to knows for airports, but I will also be writing a holiday survival guide as a part two to my Family Travel Tips … so watch this space.
1) A Pen Just one is suffice, first rule of thumb when travelling you will nearly always be expected to fill out some sort of form or other. I can guarantee you every flight I work on at least half the passengers don’t have a pens. So I’m asking on behalf of all cabin crew out there…take a damn pen! (This isn’t children related but had to throw it in there anyway.)
2) Baby Carrier/Stroller – These are essential. You would be surprised as to the amount of steps you can rack up just walking in the airport. Always check if the airport/airline on arrival to destination bring these strollers back to the door to meet you or if you have to collect at the baggage reclaim area. If you do have to collect from baggage, the carrier always comes in handy. Some airports these days offer an airport buggy, just be warned however these are not always available.
3) Wear them out – it is common sense, right? If you let them sleep before you get on the plane, where do you think they are going to want to use all this recharged energy? That’s right a 75 tonne metal tube. You may get disapproving looks but trust me you will be thanking us, run them around in the terminal. Some airports even have play areas so use them if they do. Keep them awake to the very last moment, so that fingers crossed you can at least enjoy a crappy cup of coffee on the flight.
4) Ask If there are Spare Seats – Not every flight is a 100% full all of the time, so it’s always worth an ask. I always try to look for the crew member that looks the nicest. (Never judge a book by its cover of course though.)
5) Snacks – Being 35,000ft in the air its very hard to cater for all dietary needs or fuss pot toddlers. Take as many snacks as physically possible to get in your on board hand luggage, I promise you won’t regret it.
6) Ask For a rubbish bag – Trust me whatever length of flight you may be taking, you will definitely need this. Just think of the mess your house gets in, when you spend a morning at home? (I can see you all nodding your head, like you all know what I’m talking about). Well imagine this but in a very confined area of an aircraft. You will need somewhere to put the 100s of 1000s of wipes you use.
7) Entertainment – When I say this i don’t expect you to pack Mr Tumble himself (although if I could I would), just take whats manageable and what they love to play with. Maybe even throw in a new toy, one they haven’t seen yet, kids love to play and explore new things.
8) Home Comforts – Whether it’s a favourite blanket or cuddly toy, or if your child still has a dummy, take the lot. Remember an aircraft is a strange environment even for some adults. They are loud and unusual, so your little cherubs might feel a little uneasy. Take as many comforts as you can to try make them feel safe. The smell will help relax them.
9) Change of clothing/ Pajamas – Without trying to teach you to suck eggs, this is always a useful tip. If on a long haul flight, I usually find it works if you stick to the same routine as at home. What I mean by that is if you want them to try have a sleep do what you would usually do at home, put their pajamas on and read them a night-time story time. Doesn’t quite work as well for big kids but for little ones getting into pjs and having down time is always nice. Plus no one likes to wear traveling clothes too long (smelly).
10) Milk – again not to teach you to suck eggs but this usually coincides with night-time routine. If you’re wanting to try to get the little ones to sleep especially on those horrid red-eye flight’s milk is always a good go to. The other useful tip with milk is to use it to help pop their little ears on both takeoff and landing.
11) First Aid – We have first aid supplies on board but for children is quite limiting, most airlines will carry some type of Calpol or paracetamol for children but it won’t be a lot. Imagine a jumbo jet heading to Orlando and a handful of sachet’s of calpol?…yep you got it, won’t get very far. So always bring your own. This goes for other medications your little ones need. Never rely on the aircraft to hold what you might need.
12) Oversize Baggage – I’m going to let you in on a very good piece of information… oversize baggage is your friend. WHY? I hear you ask, let me explain. Most airlines will allow you to take checked in baggage, an extra piece of hand luggage, stroller and car seat all included in your infant fare. This is where it gets interesting, car seats and strollers (if not needed in airport) can be checked in to oversize baggage areas, these are not usually weighed. Which means invest in a car seat or stroller bag and fill the things with EVERYTHING. Nappies, formula, buckets and spades whatever you need. Not only does it relieve space in your suitcases but it means that if you do need to pack the kitchen sink…YOU CAN. Just remember this is only included in infant tickets.
13) Sleeping Aid – Again most (not all) airline carriers offer a sky cot of some sort on long haul flights these will usually have to be booked at least 72 hours before your flight and they are limited so get in there quick. They are age and weight restricted so check with the airline what these restrictions are as they will all vary. There are also companies such as Fly Legs Up and Plane Pal that offer blow up beds which fit between the seat in front and the edge of your seat so that children can lay down. I have seen these more and more on flights now and have to say they look brilliant.
To conclude, the best piece of advice I have for traveling with children is to try to keep relaxed, so what if the man in the row behind tutted, so what if the woman next to you rolled her eyes. You will never see them again so SCREW THEM I say. Daily life with kids is testing, lets throw in an airport and confined space big metal tube its like trying to play a game of operation blind. You probably would have been up early trying to organise everyone, you have probably been trying to pack for the last week, you are probably trying to shake off a feeling like you have forgotten something and your probably desperate to just get yourself on a beach with a cocktail, but if you can take a few minutes and breathe. If you need help, ask for it, don’t suffer in silence. Traveling with children will offer a different experience every time you travel, some tips will work and some might not. You are not expected to do each and everyone one in that order (although if you could just remember a pen that would be great). Learn by your mistakes and try new things, at some point whether it be when they are 2 or 20 you will get it and travelling with kids will seem as easy as… forgetting a pen.