The thought of boarding a long haul flight with a toddler (or young children) in tow is enough to make even the most seasoned traveler break into a cold sweat.
Before she turned to gin and Valium, Mrs S posed the question to our wise community of Mothers and, as per usual, they answered the call and gave such practical, inventive advice that we’ve put them all together as a comprehensive ‘how to survive flying with children without resorting to drinking’ list*.
Don’t leave home without it.
- Relax all rules associated with television and load an ipad with all their favourite shows.
- Take a lightweight foldaway stroller for use in the terminal, but have the children walk (if able) as much as possible. Use the stroller for hand luggage.
- Take more nappies/clothes/wipes etc than you think you’ll need. Pack them in individual ziplock bags containing 1 x nappy, wipes, and a change of clothes per bag.
- Find a quiet spot in the terminal and let the kids make noise. Lead them in some exercises – jumping jacks, stretches etc, to help them burn energy.
- Attach a name tag to your child in a somewhat disguised place (not obvious enough that a stranger could call their name).
- Take a photo of your children in the clothes they are travelling in to assist if they wander off.
- Once through security, buy enough water for all of you for the duration of the flight.
- You can buy healthy-ish lollipops to help with ear discomfort on take off and landing.
- Explore your options in homeopathic/natural remedies such as Brauers Calm and Rescue Remedy
- Where possible, book a night flight.
- Acknowledge and recognise that parents are doing their absolute best to keep their kids calm and happy (this is what you can mentally send the other passengers in the plane!)
- Speaking of other passengers, one of our Mums handed out earplugs to the people in the seats around her in case of ‘banshee like wails’ and found that most people smiled and appreciated the offer, but didn’t take the earplugs!
- Wrap little surprises – sticker books, stories, activities and stagger them. Giving one each hour, on the hour.
- Magic Erase drawing boards can solve the problem of pens and pencils rolling under the seats.
- Sleep when (if!) they do. Even if just to rest your eyes.
- Assume you will neither sleep or do anything other than tend to the needs of your children. Then you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you get to do anything else!
- Break up your trip. Stop over for 10 hours. Find a hotel, sleep, shower and let the kids have a run around and play. Then check in for your next flight.
- Baby Carriers are wonderful travelling tools for babies (even toddlers if you have something like an Ergo or Manducca)
- Make and take your own baby food.
- If breastfeeding be sure to keep hydrated with plenty of water.
- Try and get bulkhead seats. Not only do you have more leg space, but it eliminates the problem of having a seat in front of you reclined into your lap (which will inevitably have a small child on it!). And it means no little feet kicking and little hands pulling at said seat.
- Create a little ‘nest’ for sleeping. One with a head on your lap, other with feet. The grown up sits on the aisle.
- No sugary food. At all.
- Dress them and yourself in light, breathable clothing in layers that can be removed (particularly in descent when the air seems to go off and people can easily overheat)
- Take enough plastic bags to store any dirty clothes, fash cloths etc.
- Explore your options to be assisted through terminals/customs quicker. Some airlines offer ‘Meet & Assist’ programs.
- Take the car seat for toddlers. Then they are sitting in a seat they are familiar with being in for longer periods of time and can quite often amuse themselves for a longer time than if sitting in a big aeroplane seat.
- Pre-arrange special kids meals or dietary requirement meals. This means you will be served before the other passengers.
- Use the restrooms when the other passengers are eating to avoid queues.
- Play to their sense of imagination and wonder. Can you create different scenarios? Perhaps you are al in a rocket ship? A magic carpet?
- You will get there. All will be well. You will get through it. You will sleep again.
*kidding – we by no means advocate taking anything that will impair one’s judgment when there are children in their care.