10 tips for flying with kids: secrets of travelling with toddlers
How to keep your kids happy at 30,000 feet: a frequent-flying mum reveals her top tips.
At holiday time, parents around the world worry about the ‘joys’ of flying with their young children. But fear not, owners of tantrum-prone toddlers! Skyscanner’s Mary ‘Mother of One Two’ Porter reveals her top tips for travelling with children…
I make no bones about the fact that I have found flying with a toddler an absolute nightmare – in fact a recent flight from Birmingham to Edinburgh with my “darling” two year old proved to be possibly the worst 40 minutes of my motherhood experiences (and I’m including childbirth in that). He screamed for the entire journey, much to the obvious delight of the suited and booted businessmen sitting nearby. It was therefore with great trepidation that I organised a holiday to Portugal which would involve a three-hour flight each way with said “darling”.
In order not to repeat the flying-with-toddler nightmare, I asked all my parent friends for their tips and advice – and low and behold we had a near perfect flight!
So if you are planning to take your little darlings on a flight, here are my top 10 tips to ensure a stress free journey (without the use of drugs*).
1. Invest in a Trunki
They may appear a little overpriced, but Trunkis are a lifesaver for entertaining little ones when you’re in long queues, as your kid can happily propel him/herself around while sitting on top. Not only that, the strap allows you to pull your child around, saving their tired little legs if your walk to the departure gate is a long one. I’m just dreaming of a remote control version now! But in the meantime, a few cheaper forms of ride-on luggage are gradually trickling onto the market, like Skoot Kid's and Kiddee Cases. Read our review of Trunkis, along with other great hand-luggage buys...
2. Plan your flight in 15-minute slots
For a three-hour journey you need around ten activities to keep young kids entertained (as the first and last 15 minutes you can occupy them by looking out the window for take-off and landing). CBeebies magazines, a favourite story book, drawing, Snap, and snacks are all good activities to keep them entertained. It's unlikely you will need all ten (especially if you manage to get them to sleep) but better to have too many than too few.
3. Get a portable DVD player or tablet
Without doubt the one thing all parents seem to agree on is investing in some sort of video tech to keep your kid occupied – either a portable DVD player or, increasingly, a tablet computer. DVD players are a bit bulkier and obviously require a set of DVDs to go with them, whereas tablets are much smaller but often have limited storage space for videos. You'll also have to make sure to download all the videos you need before getting on board. Cartoons and movies can help to while away a sizeable chunk of the flight and allow parents some downtime too. Read our review of the best plane movies of all time
4. Present your child with presents
Wrap up small toys that you can present to your child as a reward for being good every half hour or so. These don’t have to be expensive and can even be your child's old forgotten about toys (yup, I'm Miss Thrifty too). Small soft animals are ideal, as are little wind-up toys that can travel across the fold down table – although there is always the possibility that they may end up 'driving' into nearby passengers or a passing steward. A good idea is to wrap up your various activities as presents, like snacks or stickers (see below).
5. Download some kids’ games or apps
Before you board, download some kids’ games or kid-friendly apps to your smartphone or tablet (make sure to switch it to Airplane mode for the flight). Some good ones include Bubbles (where you simply have to pop bubbles with your finger, an endlessly fascinating pastime for toddlers), Toddler Cars (animations of all sorts of vehicles, complete with noises - make sure to bring headphones) and Peppa Pig Happy Mrs Chicken (chances are your child is obsessed with Peppa Pig, so anything starring the pink one will inspire awe, but this is actually a pretty good game).
6. Get sticking with stickers
Stickers are great for keeping children entertained for a while – just give them an empty water bottle to decorate, or some scrap paper. Bear in mind that you will probably end up having to unpeel stickers from the back of the seat in front and from various parts of your child's body, but it's a small price to pay for keeping them quiet for 15 minutes.
7. Take a pillow
Small children can sit on a pillow so they can see out of the window better, while older children may find sleeping more comfortable with a pillow. A blanket is also good as its familiarity will comfort your child as well keep them warm if it gets chilly on-board. Read our review of the best travel pillows on the market
8. Take some sweets
Landing can cause painful ears – babies are often given a bottle to encourage them to suck and therefore swallow. The same principle will work if you give your child a lollypop (ideally sugar free) for take-off and landing, which will also distract them from the potentially scary sensation.
9. Bring longer lasting foods
Offer foods that take longer to eat which will occupy your child for longer. A box of raisins is great because it contains natural sugars, while strawberries, grapes and cherry tomatoes are similarly healthy and fun to eat (although potentially messier than raisins). Sweets can be a great bribe (and I am all for bribes), but be warned: trying to contain a child in their seat once they have eaten an excessive amount of sugar can present a challenge.
10. Watch out of the ‘Aeroplane Police’!
A clever trick is to warn young children of the “Aeroplane Police” who are looking out for badly behaved children as they are not allowed to fly. I am not suggesting you scare them out of their wits (and admittedly we never did explain what the Aeroplane Police actually do when they catch a naughty child) – however it proved hugely effective in stopping my toddler climbing over seats, playing with the fold down table, kicking the seat in front and all the other things that passengers around you really love.
*Skyscanner does not condone the use of drugs – even when flying with small children!
Get more top tips for family travel: listen or download our podcast How to Survive a Family Holiday...
...or read more tips and inspiration for family-friendly holidays:
Save your money for spending with these 10 cheap flights to short-haul favourite destinations for fantastic, fun family holidays this summer.
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