When it comes to take a fly with children, there are some small things that can make the journey more comfortable for everyone. Lately I had to fly alone with two small children (3 years and 18 months) but it was better than I thought. I’m here to say that it can be done and that it is possible to enjoy air travel with kids, just be prepared for every possibility.
My children have taken flights since they were very little, even before moving to the UK, because grandparents live in Sardinia and my first child took the plane that was just three months old. Then, when we moved to London, we travel between Bergamo, my hometown and Cagliari, where my parents-in-law live. In short, we tale lots of planes, and I thought to gather here some tips that are the result of our being a frequent flyer family.
ENJOY AIR TRAVEL WITH KIDS: BEFORE LEAVING – ORGANIZE THE FLIGHT
Book flight times that you think work best for your child
According to our experience, early morning flights are our favorites. It’s not the best to wake them up at 4 am in order to be at the airport by 6 or 7 am, but both have always started to sleep again shortly after take-off. As it’s morning, even tough you interrupt their sleep, they will not be too tired and the arrival at the airport will be manageable.
Another good alternative is to match the afternoon nap with the flight. Flying during lunchtime or early afternoon, will allow you to keep them busy with food and then they probably take their nap as usual. If your children have a doudou, or a stuffed toy to which they love or their blanket, take them on the plane because they will be useful. Try to RECREATE THEIR NAP ROUTINE, perhaps by reading them a little story after lunch.
It is however important not to ignore the tiredness of a child, so flights in evening or night hours are in my opinion not a good choice.
Check the ID/passport
It is not the first time that someone has to gave up the flight because the identity card was expired. Checking documents, it’s usually the last thing we usually do (as you have to insert all the info only when you have to di the online check-in), but it’s the first thing we should check as we’ve booked our flight. Even newborns must have ID and if you are a mom traveling without your husband or partner, they may ask for your children’s birth certificate. Bring a copy of everything. If you are traveling to a Shengen country, ID can be enough, otherwise you will need to make a passport for them.
At the time of writing this post, in order to come to the UK from Italy, you can have only the ID card.
Stay in the same time zone
If it is the first time you travel with a child or a newborn, the best choice is to avoid jet lags. In this way, once you have landed, you will not have to add the adjustment of their sleep and you will not have problems when you came back home.
Prepare them for the flight
If this is your children first time traveling by plane, it may be helpful to read a book on airplanes. My kids are not afraid of noise on the plane, but during the take-off phase, they may be disturbed or frightened. In addition, the ears are plugged, may have a bit of nausea: KEEP THEM BUSY is the best way to have a smooth take-off phase.
Surely if you are the first to be relaxed, they will be as well!
It would be useful also to explain to kids “the etiquette on board”. Children have this thing with kicking the seat in front but it can be annoying, i.e.
ENJOY AIR TRAVEL WITH KIDS: BEFORE LEAVING – ORGANIZE BAGGAGE
Bring a backpack that is comfortable and spacious. And organize the content. Try to RATIONALIZE what you need first, ORGANIZE YOUR NEEDS and subdivide what you need in envelopes by category (changing clothes, food, toys, …).
In my opinion, it is better for you to keep everything you need during the flight in one unique place: I don’t recommend giving backpacks to your children if they are very young. You get rid of the space, but you may have to spend valuable time collecting what has fallen instead of preparing to get out of the plane. Better keep everything under control.
Always check with the company the airline rules for boarding your hand luggage and the stroller, because they change continuously. Here you find some of the major companies with all the specific requests.
When you prepare the bag with changing clothes and nappies, always bring more than need (you included!). Something not bulking as leggings and a t-shirt. Be prepared to the worst (for example, the vomit).
Whether you travel without the suitcase on board, or you decide to board the stroller, it is always useful to have a baby carrier with you.
This is because when you get off the plane, it is not said (although you ask) that you will give you the stroller at the ladder when leaving the aircraft and you may have to take a long walk to go to collect your luggage. If your children don’t walk or they may be tired, a baby carrier can be essential. In case you have the Babyzen Yo-Yo stroller, as it can stay in the lockers above your heads, it can come on board with you.
However, check with the airline company, because Emirates often provides strollers for courtesy. If, on the other hand, you want to get an idea of which baby carrier to buy here, you will find many brands with a review.
How to organize your hand luggage
Try to organize at best the little space you have, using envelopes to divide clothes, at the bottom of the bag, from toys, food and other entertainment. In this way, you will not have to dig into the bag every 5 minutes removing everything. If you have everything organized in different containers, everything will be easier.
Entertainment for the trip
What to bring on the plane to entertain the little ones?
I always prepare a SURPRISE BUSY BAG with all brand new toys, that I have bought before travel and never show them. My kids now know that there will be a surprise, and I can assure that all new toys will keep them busy for a while and especially in the first phase (even the most delicate) of take-off.
No need to buy expensive things. I’ve found that stickers, for instance, keep them busy for a long time. You can buy them in packs of 100 and more on ebay, maybe about their favorite cartoon! I usually go to Tiger, where you can buy small toys with just a few euros. Other toys that work well are coloring books, or magnetic puzzles, and even books with flaps.
EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY, in a tiny space like an iPad, you can load apps, books and cartoons.
With Netflix you can download all the cartoons you want on your iPad! There are some great free Fisher Price apps for children aged 6 months and above, including the Laugh and Learn collection. BBC Iplayer allows you to download Cbeebies shows for free from the UK and watch them within a month. However, once you have started watching an episode, you have 48 hours to finish.
Snack on board
FOOD is always a great way to divert and keep them busy for a while. I’m not just talking about sandwiches for lunch or dinner, but small snacks, raisins or dried fruit (which they eat one by one taking a lot of time) or crackers. Also keep some chocolate to give them as a reward at the end of the flight. Bring also some extras, because delays and unexpected events are unfortunately frequent. If you do not breastfeed, always bring two or three doses of formula milk. Do not think it is easy to find food, drinks and snacks appropriate for babies or children at any airport or on the plane.
ENJOY AIR TRAVEL WITH KIDS: AT THE AIRPORT
Avoid stress and surprises. As there are different airport rules about liquids, be ready.
Put food, liquids, bottles and baby food at the top of your hand luggage in transparent bags. It will be easier to pass the controls.
Hold documents/passports and save boarding passes in the wallet of your smartphone to have them always available. While waiting for the controls, start taking off all the jackets, put your cell phone in your pocket or bag once you have passed the controls. Always explain to the children what you are going to do, take off laptops, iPads and all liquids and place them in the trays.
Arrange everything calmly, if you have the baby carrier you need to take it off, and the stroller should be closed to go inside the control (with the umbrella type like the Maclaren quest you will have no problems).
Be at the airport on time
Arrive at the airport on time. Far are the times when you could afford to get to the gate for the last ten minutes it was open. With children, the unexpected is always around the corner.
If you do not know the airport, it may take a long time before you reach the gate for example. Most of the airports served by Ryanar, to be honest, save money on the transfer, making you to walk to the gate that is in front of the plane. It means chewing up the mines.
Besides, once you have passed the baggage check, it would be better to take the kids to the restrooms and change their nappies. It is more comfortable in a decent bathroom than in the tiny one of an airplane.
Reduce the stress to the maximum, because half hour at the airport does not change your life!
Priority boarding: yes or no?
If you have a child who is crawling or walking, I DON’T RECOMMEND TO BUY THE PRIORITY BOARDING (which, among other things, with low cost companies is at your charge). You will thus avoid having to stay more than necessary sitting in the limited space of the seats of a plane while the boarding of all passengers ends and all the boarding procedures are completed.
Let them free to run until the last useful moment!
In case you are not alone and worry about placing the hand baggage over the lockers, then let and let your partner go before you. If you are traveling with Ryanair, it may happen that you have to leave the luggage anyway. It happens more often now, I think it’s just an advantage because you will travel with less weight around you.
And without having to pay for it!
Of course you’ll have to wait to collect your baggage, but there are more advantages than disadvantages in doing so.
ENJOY AIR TRAVEL WITH KIDS: DURING FLIGHT
Always keep the wipes to clean arm rests or trays, hand sanitizers and an empty bag, where you can collect all the waste under your seat.
If it’s not a low-cost flight, and you have a front seat pocket, put a change kit there, so it will be more convenient when you need it.
If you are in the process of potty training, I suggest you don’t use the panties during the flight, because you will avoid having to take off pants and shoes, in the tiny bathrooms of an airplane.
You probably know it already, however if you have small children, in order to compensate for take-off and landing, attach them to the breast, or give them a pacifier or a bottle.
ENJOY AIR TRAVEL WITH KIDS: SOME TIPS
- Traveling with very young children can be really easy, because most of the time they will sleep! Three months so I’m a perfect age to get on board an airplane!
- Prepare for the worst and if this does not happen, you will have had a good flight!
- If you are traveling with babies or small children, do not expect any extra help. Get ready to have to do everything BY yourself.
- Keep in mind that even if you are super organized and you have calculated every risk, the trip could still be an epic fail and you could be pointed out like that mom with the screaming baby. We’ve all been through this, it’s a spinning wheel!
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See you soon!