I know that the idea of flying with kids concerns (terrifies) a lot of people. When it comes to taking children on an aeroplane, even just the thought of a 2 hour domestic flight sends some hearts racing, let alone a long haul international flight. In fact, I have friends who have completely ruled out even the thought of an overseas holiday because they just can’t get past the thought of the ‘nightmare’ that will be the flight with their kids!
Well, I’m here to tell you – don’t stress! It’s really not that bad. In fact, it can actually be a lot of fun. If you let it!
Over the last 7 years we have flown extensively with kids aging from 3 months to 9 years, including many 10+ hour flights, and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every single flight. On our most recent trip we flew with 5 kids, the youngest being 4 months old, from Australia to London, and it was truly such a great experience. Sure, there were moments when it got a little stressful, but those moments were very rare and very short lived and I truly believe that if you follow the few simple tips and tricks I am going to share with you, flying with kids can be a great experience for everyone!
Before I get into the finer details, let me just give you one thing to think about – Have you taken your child/children to the movies before? Well, if you can take your kids to the movies, you can take them on an aeroplane! Think about it. At the movies they MUST sit still and silent and stare at the same screen for 2 hours. There is no other option. In an aeroplane you have options. Not lots, but some. And those options, if utilised well, can make for a fun and breezy flight!
So, here are some tips for taking the stress and drama out of flying with kids, including my ULTIMATE TIP:
Get them excited.
Weeks, even months, before you go, start gearing them up for it. Tell them about the aeroplane, how much fun it’s going to be, all the great things they can do and see on it. Take-off, landing, air stewards, snack carts! Talk about it regularly, telling them (and yourself) what an amazing time you are going to have. Show them photos and videos of aeroplanes. Research your airline – if they have TV’s discuss what you may watch, if they offer meals find menus online to give them an example of the food they may be given. Help them pack their own carry-on with things to do and snacks and talk about those things and how fun it will be with them in their own special aeroplane seat. When the time finally comes, they are so geared up for it, doing and seeing everything they have been excitedly waiting for will make it such an enjoyable experience for you all.
Bring a variety of entertainment
Let’s face it – kids don’t have great attention spans. If you just pack one or two things to keep them entertained, chances are they will be bored with them in no time and you’ll find yourself struggling with what to do next. Most airlines do provide kids with some sort of activity bag or book, but whatever it be, it’s not going to be enough for an entire flight, especially a long haul one. Here are some things I pack to keep the kids entertained and engaged for a long flight:
This can potentially keep kids entertained for quite a while, especially if you join in with them. One thing I have learnt though after many flights spent on my hands and knees searching for dropped lids and markers is – less is more! A whole pencil case is not necessary and potential for a lot of mess and mayhem. Just a select few colours is all you need. Better still, those invisible ink books where one magic marker reveals all the colours on the page.
There are so many age appropriate activity books out there for kids. From educational ones with maths and spelling, to spot the difference, dot-to-dot and hidden objects. These are fun, entertaining and offer a real sense of achievement each time an activity or task is completed. We love the ones that come with a whiteboard marker and can be wiped over and used again and again. My older kids really enjoy crosswords and sudoku puzzles too.
We have spent hours doing sticker books on long flights. Those that come with pages and pages of stickers which you need to find the page they belong on, are simple to use and really fun (even for parents……well, this parent anyway)
For older kids to read themselves and for younger kids to have read to them. These don’t need to take up much room either. Light paperbacks are ideal.
An iPad, portable DVD player or portable game console like a Nintendo DS is guaranteed to keep kids entertained. Our iPads are filled with educational games, music apps, favourite shows and movies and family photo albums. Our kids don’t use them a lot, but they are definitely a welcome change and distraction when needed, especially if your airline does not have tv’s or charges for the use of them.
A simple deck of cards or a specific card game like UNO is fun and entertaining and takes up very little space in your carry-on. Maybe not suitable for really young kids though as you don’t want to spend half the time searching for them on the floor.
For writing, games such as hangman and paddocks and general doodling. You’d be surprised how long a child can keep entertained with a simple notebook and pen!
Snacks. Snacks. Snacks.
Kids are always hungry. Or at least they think they are. Even if your flight offers meals and snacks these may be few and far between, and a hungry kid waiting for a meal is not fun. Bring a selection of their favourite snacks. We use snacks as much for entertainment as we do to keep them from being hungry. They are something to look forward to and to take time to enjoy. Let’s have some sultanas before we move on to our next activity!
MY ULTIMATE TIP – FLY AT NIGHT!
After many flights, at all different times, we now ALWAYS try and find a flight at night. And it is THE BEST! You board the flight, the kids are a little tired, but still super excited. You settle into your seats, check out the plane, look out the window, have something to eat, have a little play and then SLEEP!
You see, kids are extremely adaptable and when it comes to sleep, if they are tired they will sleep anywhere. Sure, if they are not in their own bed (or in a bed at all for that matter) it will probably take longer for them to get to sleep, and their quality/length of sleep may not be as great, but ultimately THEY WILL SLEEP. They may be a bit tired and cranky the next day, but I assure you that is a small price to pay when it means you haven’t spent the last 10 hours trying to keep them entertained. Very often I end up actually having to wake them up for landing. And then, even though they haven’t had the best night’s sleep, they are so excited about the plane landing and their holiday beginning, they are in a great mood. And an added bonus – I also find this approach actually helps in combating jet-lag too. As they have slept, and then had a fun and exciting start to their holiday, whatever time you decide to put them to bed they will sleep. Truthfully, when we fly this way, jet-lag is not even an issue we factor in. It all just works!
So there it is! Follow these simple tips and flying with kids will be a lot less stressful than you think. I am not guaranteeing you will have the best time of your life by any means. Every kid is different, as is every flight. These tips will however HELP make it as carefree as possible. Happy Flying!