Guest post on behalf of Olivia Jones.
Every parent will tell you that dealing with children is often hard enough with both feet on the ground. Keeping them occupied, clean, fed and dry is a challenge even with all the resources at your disposal. Now, imagine having to do the same task 30,000 feet up in the air, with very little, if any, space available to move around, for hours on end!
Before you dismiss any idea of taking your children with you by plane until they’re old enough to keep themselves occupied, let’s look at the things from another perspective. Very young children travel long distances every day and all of us who have been through such a trip and lived to tell the tale might be able to help you prepare for what doesn’t have to be a horrible experience at all. Here are eight suggestions that will help you eliminate the most common problems faced by parents and their children on long-haul flights.
1) Be Prepared
All children need passports if you’re travelling abroad, so make sure you have a passport processed before the trip. If you’re divorced and travelling with your child, the non-custodial parent should provide a letter showing they know about your trip and agree to it. You also need to have copies of all passports, insurance documents, etc. in case you lose them or they are stolen.
Another important thing to remember is that you need to check if there are additional vaccines required for a trip to your destination. The best way to go about this issue is to consult your pediatrician and sort out vaccinations, copies of prescriptions (should you need to replace them while traveling), contact information (if you need to get in touch with your regular doctor) and basic medical history.
2) Keep Your Children Entertained
Children’s energy levels are likely to be increased by the sheer excitement of flying, but with very little happening on board a plane during the flight, you need to make sure that your children are occupied, so that they don’t make you (and other passengers), miserable. No matter how much your child loves coloring, one coloring book is not enough for the whole flight, so you’d better stock up.
Bringing a tablet is a good idea, but don’t offer it until it is really necessary, otherwise they’ll get bored of it. A pair of headphones will allow you child to enjoy whatever they want without disturbing other passengers. Other gadgets, activity books and kits should all be considered and the choice depends on your children’s preference. The key, however, lies in both variety and quantity.
3) Keep Your Children Clean On Flights
Well, we all want our children to look neat and clean, but there is something about flying that makes this even more important. It’s safe to assume that there will be even more germs in the air than you’d find in a school, for example. That’s why you shouldn’t forget to pack sanitizing hand wipes, which you can use to clean everything that your child is likely to get in contact with. Other passengers might find your behavior odd, but pay no attention to to their weird looks or eye-rolls.
4) Keep Your Carry On Packing Simple
When planning a flight with a child, you have to take into account the time you’ll have to spend at the airport. Pack your carry on bag with one extra pair of clothes for your and for your kid, a baby sling or any other necessary item that you can think of, but don’t think too much. Many people tend to overdo it and stuff every single thing they use at home into their carry on, imagining every bad scenario there is. Instead, focus only on what you really might need by considering the amount of time you’ll spend in the air. Think about all the things you would need over the same period on the ground and stop right there. If you book an overnight flight, you’ll probably realize that you’ll all spend most of the time sleeping and there’ll be even less need for all the stuff you smashed in your carry on bag.
5) Bring Your Own Food
A lot can be said about airplane food, but not many of the comments are good. This fact combined with a fussy eater is a recipe for a disaster. However, if you remove one element (hint: not your child) from the equation, the result will be completely different. Despite the strict security measures, you are still allowed some food into the plane and you need to make sure that you take something that you know will go down well. Even if you can’t take enough of it with you to the airport, once you pass the security check, you’ll have a chance to purchase some water, snacks, protein bars or even fruit which will minimize your dependance on what they serve on during your flight.
6) Safety First
You should also have a small bag or a pouch with everything you need to deal with cuts, allergies, upset stomachs and ear pressure. You don’t know how your child is going to react and what might happen to them during the trip, so it’s important to take both prescription medication and some fever reducer, cortisone cream for rashes, as well as bandages. All these things should be in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost.
7) Ace Up Your Sleeve
My experience shows that if you’re ready to give your child something they usually can’t have and treat them to a new game, app or a toy they’ve always wanted, their attention will swiftly turn to this “bribery material” and you’ll be able to keep them occupied for much longer. Another idea is to use food that is usually not allowed at home, such as chocolate-glazed donuts (if necessary) to bribe them in order to prevent a situation from escalating.
This may be frowned upon by some who insist that even a slight change in the normal routine actually means that you’re changing your boundaries. Of course, they have a point, but don’t we all sometimes diverge from our normal behavior and treat ourselves to something different? Who among us has never splashed out on an item of clothing or gadget? Are you telling me you’ve never bought anything on a whim? Did it have a permanent effect on your character? I don’t think so.
8) Include Your children
Depending on their age, children can be included in planning and packing, and they too can be given some responsibility. Ever since my oldest daughter was old enough to carry a small backpack, she’s been in charge of packing and carrying it around. The feeling of responsibility and sense of importance she feels is so strong that she looks after it much better than I expected which gives her a sense of pride and accountability during travels.
Naturally, I still inspect the content of her backpack, since there’s always at least one item that she tries to “smuggle”, but overall, she’s becoming an experienced and smart traveler. Giving your children (limited) freedom and some responsibility is important for your ultimate goal – helping your children become independent and self-confident human beings.
This list of tips doesn’t cover every single aspect of travelling with children on long-haul flights, but it certainly covers the most important ones. To some, it may be simply overwhelming and they might decide that all the preparations are not worth the hassle. On the other hand, if you never try it, you’ll never know for sure. I’d say that getting out of our comfort zone is actually very beneficial to both parents and children. Long-haul flights are by no means a standard way of living and your family is very unlikely to turn them into a weekly or monthly routine. But long-haul flights with children can actually be a manageable event, even be a memorable experience, if you plan ahead, and are prepared.
Guest post on behalf of Olivia Jones. Do you have any tips for traveling with children? Please share your experience in the comments below!