Family holidays create such lasting memories. As nice as it is to go away without them occasionally (I’m only human), some of the most precious times in my life are when I’m on holiday with the kids. But whether you’ve got an infant or teenager, happy family travel requires precision planning and organisation. The following tips should make flying with kids simple.
When to Fly
It really depends on how old your kids are and their sleeping patterns. If you have a nursing infant, you should be okay flying anytime, except for early morning – waking your baby in the middle of the night is never a good plan. Teenagers certainly don’t appreciate being woken before they’ve had their 12+ hours of sleep, so a late afternoon or evening flight could be better for them. If your children take naps and you know they’ll be too excited to sleep on the plane, try to give them a nap before you go.
To get your preferred times at the right price, it’s essential to book early. Skyscanner is great for checking prices, but don’t forget to check with the airline directly, as you can sometimes get a better deal.
Getting to the Airport
Trying to herd children and suitcases onto a bus or train, particularly at ridiculous o’clock, isn’t fun. Driving yourself makes far more sense because:
- Kids might sleep
- You can stop for comfort breaks
- You can park near the terminal
The moment you’ve bought your flights, use a site like Looking4Parking to book your airport car park. This way you’ll not only have a spot reserved for you in your preferred car park, you’ll also get a substantially cheaper rate than if you just drive up without pre-booking.
Waiting in Departures
Even when you’ve timed everything brilliantly and you’ve only got two hours to wait, that can seem like a lifetime if you’re travelling with bored, fractious children. Here are a few recommendations for keeping them entertained:
- Keep them moving
- They’ll need to sit still on the plane, so expel some of their energy in the terminal.
- Bingo card
- Make a card of things to see at the airport for them to tick off. Add some less obvious spots, so they’ll have to go exploring to find them (not unaccompanied, of course).
- Map your route
- Bring a map to mark your holiday route and add the places you’ll visit. Get them to suggest ideas for things to do at your destination. It’s nice to let your kids know their opinion matters and you might get some amazing ideas from them, so a bit of clever compromising will be needed. Pony trekking is almost as good as riding a unicorn.
- Story teller
- Watch planes departing, then imagine scenarios based on where they’re going, who’s on the plane and what they’ll be doing on their trip.
Just in Case
As flight delays are common, pack extra nappies, pants and tops in the hand luggage. It’s also wise to pack something extra for yourself (just in case your child is sick all over you). If the airport has a Boots or Superdrug, you can pre-order infant formula to make sure you have more than you need. Keep a first-aid kit handy and stock it with Calpol, plasters, teething granules, colic drops, etc.
Even the most diligent parent can lose a child, but if you dress them in something bright you’ll be able to spot them from a distance. If you have a Houdini in the family, consider a GPS tracker for children. You’ll always know where your child is, and with some models, you will be able to tell if they’re in trouble. Pushchairs are a major investment, so you might like to buy or rent a cheap model for travelling, in case of loss or damage.
On the Plane
Children love surprises and presents, so give them each a bag with wrapped goodies to open on the plane at given intervals. You can stuff them with toys, colouring books and crayons, healthy snacks, mini-board games, cards, and sticker books. Don’t forget to load your tablet with films, books, games and music to keep them entertained during the flight.
To keep them comfortable, travel pillows are useful, as well as noise-cancelling headphones. And for the problem of air pressure changes, you can hand out lollies as a treat.
A holiday with the kids can be a great bonding time, particularly if your home life is hectic. Together you can build memories of new places and cultures. Flying with kids doesn’t have to be a nightmare, provided you prepare ahead using some of the above tips. *collaborative post