Ask any holidaymaking parent for their most stressful experience and it will usually be flying with small children. But with some insider know-how and preparation you can take the turbulence out of even the longest-haul flight. We round up key tried-and-tested ways to make life easier while family flying.
1. Pick the right airline
Pick a child-friendly airline. Singapore Airlines allows you to pre-book a skycot, Lufthansa has children’s lounges and British Airways offers bottle and food warming as well as skycots and priority boarding. Go one step further with Gulf Air, which has sky nannies on some long haul routes to help with boarding and disembarking and give parents a break during a long flight.
2. Ask for a spare seat
Book a flight that’s not likely to be full, such as a midweek one – and ask the check-in assistant to block out the seat next to you. The extra space is a sanity saver if you’re travelling with a toddler under 24months without their own seat.
3. Take turns to snooze
If you’re travelling with a partner, think about booking seats apart from one another on long haul flights. It will allow one adult to have a snooze while the other entertains the children, swapping mid-flight.
4. Take a baby hammock
If you’re on a short- or medium-haul flight with a baby, consider investing in a baby airplane hammock. The FlyeBaby Airplane Hammock attaches to your seatback tray table so you don’t have to hold your little one the whole flight.
5. Let them burn energy
Take a set of baby reins or a toddler harness to use in the airport, which will allow them to run around and burn off energy, but keep them close at hand during crucial moments while you negotiate picking up luggage from the carousel or hand passports and tickets over at checkpoints.
6. Go fast-track
Make full use of the fast-track entry security and customs checkpoints for those traveling with infants. You’ll bypass queues and move around the airport much quicker.
7. Watch out for ear pressure
Give a boiled sweet to older children to suck to equalise pressure changes in ears during take-off and landing, or play the ‘open your mouth as wide as possible’ game. For babies, try to time a bottle feed at these times – their ears should pop as they swallow.
8. Stagger toys
Not all planes have TV monitors, and even then that may only work for so long to entertain very young children. A favourite travelling trick is to wrap up small gifts children can open when the seatbelt sign is on and they can’t move around. During the flight, stagger toys, bringing out a favourite book or toy every 20-30 minutes or so to keep them distracted.
9. Plan feeds
Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for bottles and meals to be warmed. Cabin crew heat things using hot water in the galley, which takes time – so factor that in to prevent hungry meltdowns.
10. Synchronise routines
Start synchronising regular routines to local time during the flight using a dual time clock. Lightweight, compact versions are available on Amazon for under £20, and are useful for gently adjusting your child’s routine during the holiday.