The ultimate guide to surviving a flight with kids this summer
Nobody wants to be the parent of the most annoying kid in the cabin. And nobody wants to sit by one! Here's the definitive guide to surviving the whole midair experience... happy flying!
The main school summer holidays are just around the corner and millions of families will be jetting off to the sun over the next few weeks.
And that of course brings the challenge of travelling on a plane with your offspring.
Nobody wants to be the parent of the most annoying kid in the cabin. And nobody wants to sit by one!
1: BEFORE YOU BOOK
Make sure you consider your children's routine (timing of naps, mealtimes, bedtimes and so on) when deciding what time of day to travel. It might be better to go for the most convenient and suitable flight, rather than the one that's the cheapest. Spending a few extra pounds is undoubtedly worth it if it can buy you peace of mind and happier kids.
2: CONSIDER INDIRECT FLIGHTS
Although you might want to just get the journey over and done with, sometimes having a stopover might break up the boredom and give kids the chance to burn off some energy.
3: GET THEM INVOLVED
If you have older children, get them to help you plan the holiday, so they'll be more excited about it when the time comes. Encourage them to help pack their own suitcase and decide what they want in their carry on bag. Making even a small child 'responsible' for something gives them a sense of purpose (under your watchful eye, of course - you don't want a suitcase full of dinosaurs and no clothes).
4: GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY
You should factor in time for tantrums and stalling. If you've got little ones, do plenty of walking around the airport as hopefully it will wear them out ahead of the coming plane journey.
5: REIN THEM IN
Depending on the maturity and reliability of your child, invest in reins or an electronic child locator so you don't lose them in the airport. Also, write your mobile number on their hand.
6: CASE FOR TRUNKIS
Trunki ride-on suitcases may be cumbersome but they're good for getting difficult children to the departure gate on time. You might have a bad back for most of the trip, though.
7: KEEP 'EM BUSY
Bring plenty of activities to keep kids occupied, as sitting on a plane for hours won't be easy for them (see our ideas on the next page).
8: BRING BACK-UP
Don't count on in-flight entertainment as the only distraction for older children, it can break down! Have a back up plan. And hold off on the use of electronics until towards the end of the flight - otherwise they won't want to do anything else. Also, pack earphones that fit: airline ones rarely fit smaller heads.
9: UNDER PRESSURE
Bring something for them to suck on to stop their ears from popping, whether it be a sweet for older children, or a dummy or bottle for babies.
10: GO GADGETS
There are some nifty gadgets that turn your economy seat into a little bed for kids. Life saver! Check out Jetkids Bedbox, Fly LegsUp, 1stClassKid and FlyTot. Trunki's portable car seat that doubles as a hand-luggage approved backpack is another winner for parents. It can carry the child's toys, games and essential items during the flight, then transform into a car-seat on arrival, thus saving the expense and hassle of adding car seats to the holiday car-hire booking.
11: CREW'S CONTROL
Make friends with the cabin crew as soon as you get on board, you may well need them over the coming hours.
12: EARLY START
Check in early to make sure you can all sit together, and take advantage of early boarding to get the kids sorted out before the hordes arrive on the plane.
13: BATHROOM LESSONS
Make plenty of trips to the toilet. If you have younger kids who are potty trained, you might feel safer bringing pull-up training pants, just in case you're stuck on the runway for a long time and are not allowed to use the bathroom.
14: SMART SEATING
If you're a family of four, confirm in advance with the airline or check in desk whether the flight is busy or not. If not, it often pays off to reserve seats in two separate rows - one child and one adult in each.
If you book an aisle seat and a window seat then leave the middle seat free; you'll often find it goes unclaimed - and, if someone does sit there, they'll be more than happy to swap so that you're sitting next to your child!
15: BE OVERPREPARED
Bring the biggest bag you're allowed and fill it with snacks, wet wipes, medicines, extra clothes, games, iPads…everything but the kitchen sink!
16: TRIP TREATS
Pack kids a special 'plane bag' full of little treats and presents that they only get to open once on the flight. Not only will it seem like Christmas has come early, but hopefully the bag should keep them entertained for a while: give them one new toy or treat per hour to break the boredom.
17: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Avoid any food that can be smeared by sticky fingers - dry crumbs are less fuss to clean up than wiping down a sticky small person. Adopt a 'little and often' approach to snacks or treats and stick to water: juices or fizzy drinks when spilled get sticky… (and have higher sugar content).
18: WEAR IT WELL
Layers of loose-fitting clothing (to avoid in-flight fiddling with bothersome buttons) that can be easily added or removed are ideal for aircraft with overly-efficient cabin air-conditioning.
19: AN AIR OF WONDER
Try to remember that flying to your child will be a thing of wonder, and indulge this. Take time to explain the process of travelling through the airport or why the seatbelt sign is important, get excited with them, make aeroplane noises, point out all the little houses and wispy clouds Every aspect can become part of the fun of the trip if they are engaged and cooperative.
20: STAY CALM
Last but not least, be respectful of other people on the plane, but don't panic every time your child makes a fuss or is a little unruly.
Children have a sixth sense for stress and know how to push all our buttons, so deal with the situation as calmly and efficiently as possible.
'View the situation through the other person's eyes'
Phil Bloomfield, Global Head of Communications at Cheapflights, said: "Flying with children can be one of the more challenging aspects of the family holiday experience. Many parents worry about the reaction of other passengers to their children and with good reason - during research commissioned by Cheapflights last year, 42 per cent of travellers cited 'crying babies and fidgety children' as the least enjoyable part of a flight.'Whichever side of the coin you are on, the best way to avoid a potentially difficult flight is to make sure you come prepared and try to view the situation through the other person's eyes."
14 MIDAIR ACTIVITY IDEAS
1: DO STICKER BOOKS
Stickers stick. To everything. And that's exactly why they're so perfect for the plane - there are no little bits to lose, or drop repeatedly in the footwell. Usborne do a great range of holiday and airport themed sticker books. And the appeal isn't limited to toddlers - there are plenty of options elsewhere for older children, too, from Minecraft to Star Wars themed.
2: COLOUR IN
These days, colouring books are just as much for adults as kids. If you've got teens, pack something such as Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel Colouring Book and you may well be fighting over it. And if you've got toddlers and you're worried about them getting pen everywhere, have a look at Crayola Colour Wonder books. They come with pens, so you don't have to remember to pack them, and they're specially designed to only work on the pages of the book. Neat.
3: PLAY ETCH-A-SKETCH
Or you can avoid having to bring pens or pencils at all, and get a travel-sized Etch A Sketch pad. The little stylus is attached by a string, so your little one can't lose it. And once they're fed up of their masterpiece, they can wipe it clean and start all over again.
4) BUILD LEGO
There are some very cool DIY Lego travel boxes on Pinterest, and it's really easy to do at home. Just buy a Lego set that comes in a carry-case - lots do - then superglue a Lego base plate to one of the inside surfaces of the case. Pull down the tray table, open it up and your child can build whatever they fancy, without dropping the pieces everywhere.
5) PLAY THE POST-IT GAME
You know that game where you write names on Post-Its and stick them to your forehead so you can guess who you are? It works a treat for kids on the plane, too, and all you need is a bit of imagination (plus Post-Its and a pen, obviously).
Smaller children will enjoy playing with them long after the game is over.
Plus, they won't leave any mess - even if they do decide to decorate the seat-backs with them.
6) GIVE THEM YOUR iPODStill own an iPod? Got a teenager or pre-teen? Let them fill it with audiobooks, download some podcasts and create their own soundtrack of holiday songs before the trip. Then invest in some decent earphones designed for young ears and enjoy the peace and quiet.
7) DO AN ACTIVITY BOOK
Lonely Planet do a great range of books where every page is packed with interactive things to do, so it'll be a decent amount of time before anyone says they're bored. Try the Adventures In series for pre-schoolers, Spot The Lot for kids aged five and up, and the Not For Parents range for older kids and pre-teens. They're all travel-themed, naturally.
8) GET CRAFTY
You don't need to pack glue and paint to get crafty on the plane - there are loads of craft activities that are mess-free. ELC's Sew and Lace cards are ideal for travel as they'll keep toddlers and young children busy without any fuss, plus they're super cheap. And Robots to Make and Decorate is another glue-free option aimed at older kids, which is all flat-packed in a handy book.
9) PLAY TRAVEL GAMES
Loads of classic games come in travel-friendly sizes. Pack a mini Guess Who? for younger kids or Uno cards if your children are a bit older and you can play them on holiday, too. Plus, 50 Fun Games For On The Go is a good one for ideas that don't need any props. Even if each game only takes five minutes, that's more than four hours of your journey covered.
10) DOWNLOAD SOME APPS
Get some games on your smartphone and save it for those moments when you're waiting around at the airport pre and post-flight. Toca Life: Vacation is an interactive, holiday-based game that will keep older children entertained for hours; £2.99 for both iPhone and Android.
11) DESIGN A POSTCARD
Put them to work before your trip, and get them making postcards to can send from their holiday. Take a blank pack and some pens, or buy a postcard book - there are loads to choose from. It works especially well for younger kids, who can help buy stamps and find a postbox.
12) READ A BOOK
Go old school and pack an actual made-of-paper book for your pre-teen. Choose something travel-themed, or just go for something you'd be happy to read, too, and you'll save space in your hand luggage. Young adult novels such as Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars are prime examples.
13) WRITE A BOOK
Because, what better time to get started on that novel? For older kids, take a look at DK's Write Your Own Book or Lonely Planet's My Travel Journal to get them started. And don't just leave it to the kids. Try this stylish option from Not On The High Street and pen your own travel adventures.
14) PLAY HAIRDRESSERS
One final thought for the desperate mums of toddlers. Pack a comb, some hair ties and clips and let them loose on your hair. It requires minimum props, many of which you may already have to hand, and the only downside is that you may look slightly insane. But you're a parent, on a plane, with your toddler. You're allowed to.
TOP 5 TIPS IF YOU'RE SAT NEXT TO CHILDREN ON A FLIGHT
- If being near children really bothers you, you should probably aim to take flights that will be at more difficult times for families, such as late night flights. Or fork out for a seat in premium economy, where there are fewer children. Last resort - request to move seats.
- Try not to let it wind you up - why not try to engage the child in a game of peekaboo or a little chat, or even offer to help? If you feel like you need to have a quiet word with the parents later, it's better to have endeared yourself to them in advance.
- Take a break. Remember - you don't have to sit in your seat (unless the seatbelt sign is on). Go and have a walk around the plane, chat to the flight crew, do something positive rather than sitting there quietly seething.
- Take a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, lie back and enjoy some calming music. Or just any music that's louder than the child next to you.
- Sometimes you just need to accept that children make noise. Just think: at least you don't have to deal with them at the other end! However, if their behavior is unacceptable (for example kicking the back of your seat) and the parents are making no effort to stop them, a polite word with the airline staff can work wonders.
Daily Mirror UK