How to have a great flight with children
We love travelling and are always looking forward to our next adventure. Pre kids we were always very lax about planning and packing, but once the little adventurers have arrived, planning has become very much part of the holiday experience. Preparation is the best key to having a successful holiday for the whole family and below are my top tips on how to have a great flight with children.
A few days before your flight
Make a spreadsheet (I am married to Mr Spreadsheet) of all the passengers passport details. Include things like names, dates of births, passport numbers, expiry date etc. If you have a long haul flight, chances are you will need to fill in landing cards and it saves you taking out all the passports. This is especially true if there is a big family party as we normally go on extended family holidays. This also really helps if you ever need your passport details in case of an emergency.
We also take photos of the information pages of our passports on our phone, this means that we always have a copy of the passport on our phones.
Birth certificate may be needed for your children in certain countries. If you are flying outside of Europe we recommend that you check the rules in the country you are visiting as I know South Africa have introduced the need for children under 18 years old to have their birth certificates with them.
Make back up documents of all passports, flight itineraries and insurance documents. Have a copy in the suitcase in the event of losing your originals. Also, email yourself all your travel documents so these can be accessed and reprinted if required.
Always pack a few pens in your hand luggage as you will need them for filling out forms.
Sort out your first aid kit as we never travel without one. If you are keeping the first aid in your hand luggage ensure that the liquids (ie calpol is less than the 100 ml, otherwise you will not be allowed to take it in).
If you have a new pushchair or baby carrier, give these a dummy run before the day you go. The last thing you want is to be at the airport and struggling to collapse the pushchair, or being unable to put the baby safely in the carrier. I have seen it happen to lots of parents and it just adds to the stress of travelling with children.
If you’re flying with children under 12 months its always worth asking for a bassinet for long haul flights. They are great for having somewhere for the children to sleep in or as we used with Maya, its great to let them play inside.
Night before your flight
Have all the clothes set out, so in the morning, you are good to go. For kids leggings or joggers with a top, for adults trousers that don’t need belts. My top tip would be slip on shoes for all, we have had to take our shoes off at so many airports and having to keep an eye on your luggage, watching the children and flapping about with shoes is a nightmare. Also, ensure that you empty all jacket pockets, they will make you do so before they scan it, so if your a collector of random things like my children, empty, empty, empty before you leave the house!
If you are driving to the airport, make sure you take off items on your keys like your swiss army knife. Doc had his confiscated and was truly gutted for the rest of the flight.
We have only ever had a rucksack as our changing bag and makes it so much easier to have your hands free. Ensure that your hand luggage is packed and the essentials I would pack are: nappies (if long haul, 5 or if short haul 3, a pack of wipes, First aid kit, a change of clothes for the children and a change of top for you too. I would also have a few extra treats and surprises for emergency use on the plane if the kids are upset.
If your children are in nappies, I would have everything you need for a nappy change in a small bag within your big rucksack. Aeroplane toilets are tiny and the last thing you want is to have a huge bag taking up lots of space.
If your children are over 3 years old, I would recommend that they have a bag each. Not a huge rucksack, but one which can hold their snacks, a few toys and some form of entertainment. Pack some headphones for the children as the short haul ones don’t supply them and long haul ones are often too big.
Have a baby carrier with you for your baby or toddler. You will not get your pushchair back until baggage reclaim. If you have a stopover, depending on where you are stopping could mean that you do not have the use of a pushchair until your final destination. Believe me, you will love having a means of carrying your children especially if you have older children with you too. Place this next to the hand luggage as we have forgotten it a few times.
For short-haul flights you will not get blankets and it can get quite cold on board so I only pack one or two small blankets for the kids. Put these into your rucksack to ensure that you don’t leave the in the pushchair at the gate.
Ensure all the gadgets are fully charged, especially iPads, these batteries soon get empty so yo want to start the journey fully loaded.
At the airport
Regardless of the time of the flight, I recommend trying to really tire out the children in the airport. We have done flights at 8am, at 2pm, at 9pm and at 1am and the easiest tends to be day time flights. My kids love napping in the car, so always arrive at an airport slept and ready for mischief. I recommend getting there early, finishing all the admin and letting the children get really tired. Each airport has information about child friendly facilities so check these out before you fly. You will be surprised how friendly the UK airports have become with a whole host of family friendly features including soft play areas, guides for them to print off. Here are the links for the major UK airports Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Going through security is a real faff when you have little children. Top tip is to have nothing on the pushchair as you will need to empty it all before collapsing. This leads to huge tailbacks, and lots of sighs from the passengers behind you. Have all your liquids including bottles out and in the clear resealable bags before getting in the queues. Have All passports in a separate bag and together so they can be checked. One adult at the front and second at the back, I know it sounds simple but the children seem to race ahead with the security and often the adults are sorting things at the end.
Get to your gate in a timely fashion but do not board your plane until everyone else has. Getting on the plane and waiting an extra half an hour (at least) will add nothing to your childs patience and there’s no need to board first. You have your seats allocated so there is no point putting more pressure on yourself.
For the flight, have a bottle fed ready for babies and hard-boiled sweets for toddlers and older children. The sucking action helps to prevent little ears from popping which can be really distressful for all.
If you have a night-time flight, it helps to have the children flying in their pyjamas and hopefully will help them sleep on the flight. In keeping with this, if your child has any favourite night-time teddies etc, ensure that these are packed for the flight and not in the checked in luggage.
Go to the toilets just before boarding the plane. Often the taking off can be a while after you have boarded the plane and having a toddler who desperately needs the toilet is the last thing you want before a long journey.
Entertainment on board
If you have a long haul flight booked with the likes of Emirates you will all be given a pair of headphones and some great in flight entertainment. The headphones may not be a good fit on children so we always take our own. In other flights such as Thomas cook, you will need to purchase the headphones so always have cash to hand.
We find an iPad loaded of favourite shows and videos is also great way of passing a few hours. Download some games to as they can make a nice change and the children will love finding new games to play.
Pack some easy playing games such as cards and get the children to play a few games. If there is a few of them it is good to have them sat in seats where they can play a few games and share things without disturbing others. We also love our story cubes. they are small, compact and great for getting the children’s imaginations going and telling stories.
Buy and pack some sticker and colouring books. For older children, a plain notebook is great for drawing and keeping a journal. Pound shops are great for stocking up on cheap and cheerful activities for your children and its always great to take the kids shopping with you and letting them choose. I would also pack 2/3 things that the children don’t know about if they need a distraction.
Have plenty of snacks and treats to go get out during the flight. We have two types, healthy ones,: fruit, raisins, rice crackers and then have a secret stash of the chocolate and crisps to aid in fraught situations.
If your inflight meals are not included I would pack some food and take them out at the same time as the flight attendant are giving out their meals. A yum box or compartment lunch boxes are great and gives you options of packing lots of different snacks 🙂
Make friends with the flight attendants, they are always more attentive when you have children but it can be a good ice breaker and is great way to spend 5/10 minutes to get the children to talk to them during a walk around the aeroplane.
Pack a book, my little adventurers love a story before they nap and having their favourite book really helps to get them settled.
If you need to do landing cards, make sure these are filled on the plane so you ready to go straight through customs without having to wait around.
Have another bottle of milk or sweets on hand for the landing as this again is a prime time for ears to pop.
If you have a baby carrier for one for the little ones, get them back inside the carrier before you leave the plane. This means that you have your hands free for hand luggage and rounding up the other children
And there you have it, I hope you find this list useful and it helps you all to have fantastic flights with children. Flying with children can be trying at times and often at times other passengers can make you feel more stressed about having children with you. But relax and try and enjoy the flight. Let me know if you have any other tips that would make flying with children better?