Flying with kids: a survival guide

All parents know that preparation is key to successfully travelling with children.

If the thought of five hours on a plane with one or more children wailing “I’m bored/hungry/tired!” is enough to send you running for the hills, you’re not alone. While there are undoubtedly a range of factors outside of our control that contribute to whether or not we deem a flight with the kids to be successful, there is also a lot we CAN do to help.

Being prepared is paramount when travelling with kids; taking the time to plan, pack properly and think about each stage of your journey could be the difference between a (relatively) enjoyable trip and losing your sanity an hour into your flight.

Checkout our top tips for getting kids out the door and onto the plane with a minimum of fuss.

 1.  Pack a punch with carry-on baggage.

Getting the balance right between provisions and weight is an art with  carry-on baggage; you want to include all of the  things  but don’t want  to be weighed down unnecessarily as you weave your way through security. Ensure you have all the essentials plus some spares (food, spare clothes on the ready for an unexpected hit of motion sickness and entertainment options) but try to use bags for the kids which can fit underneath the  seat in front to avoid having  to reach for the overhead lockers continually.  Share the load with back bags or pully bags for older kids to carry, know what you can/can’t take on the plane and chose iPads or tablets over laptops where possible (tablets don’t need to be taken out of bags during the security screening process). Which brings us to the next tip…

2.  Screen time fun

If you’re fortunate enough to have devices for the whole family, be sure to pack them and avoid squabbling over whose turn it is. If not, create a roster BEFORE you get on board the plane for kids to share the device and switch it up every half hour or so (be sure to have other entertainment options while the other kids wait). Make sure all devices are full charged and purchase a portable charger for those extra-long flights. Pre-load all apps and games, and choose options that don’t require internet connection;  not all planes are fitted with wi-fi and there is also the chance of a technical issue where wi-fi is available in any event. Don’t forget headphones, as nothing annoys your fellow passengers more than the pinging sounds of video games if they’re trying  to get some shut-eye. Finally, accept the fact that your kids will overdoes on screen time on your travel days and shed the guilt; your sanity is far more important.

3. Food, glorious food.

A well-packed lunch box can go a long way to keeping kids happy on a long flight. Be sure to pack enough food (and some extras) for your trip and try to avoid anything that will likely increase the rate at which your child/children needs to use the toilet. Sandwiches with non-soggy ingredients, fresh fruit (check your destination’s quarantine rules before you go), muesli bars, crackers and rice cakes, combined with some small treats will keep kids feeling satisfied (and quiet) on the journey.

4.  Window v aisle seat?

If you’re travelling with more than one child, work out seating arrangements before you get on the plane, so that kids know where they’re going. If you’ve got  kids who all want the window seat, avoid holding up the  boarding queue by working out who will sit there first and rotate as necessary Have kids who naturally squabble? Take the middle seat to keep the peace; your fellow passengers will be grateful.

5. Count on delays

On-time performance is as important for airlines as it is for you.  However, because there are so many factors that go into getting a plane safely into the air (a number of which are outside the airline’s control), bank on experiencing some delays, particularly during the holiday season. Be sure to have enough food, activities and battery life in portable devices to cover a reasonable amount of delay time and build some flexibility into your travel plans on both the  outbound and homeward parts of your journey.  

Words by Rebecca Walker. Image courtesy of Shutterstock - Published 16 December 2018
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