Travel with kids is undoubtedly one of the most stressful situations known to man and womankind. Whether you’re doing it with a partner, friend or on your own with the little babes in toe, preparation is the key.
We have travelled quite a bit with our kids, but each time it is different. And even though we have done long international flights before, still doesn’t mean I’m not just as anxious for the next!
I asked a girlfriend of mine, who is also a long-haul flight attendant with one of the world’s biggest airlines, for some tips and advice that might help you get through!
Time Your Flight
Try to plan their sleep so that they sleep on the flight. Night flights are good because it’s their natural sleep time, but sometimes the craziness and unfamiliarity of the airport can lead to overtiredness, so make them as prepared as possible to try and sleep on the flight (even let them run around an empty gate in the terminal to get them pooped!)
NOTE: If you are planning on drugging your child for the flight, which FYI is not frowned upon in any way, just do a practice test at home first. I have seen a Phenergan incident go very wrong on a 13-hour flight when the child reacted with hyperactivity instead of a solid 8-hour sleep ha-ha!
Use a Sleep Aid
Things like ‘fly legs up’ and ‘fly tot’ are great as they essentially turn an economy class seat into a flat lay bed for a small child. It’s very very important to check with your airline if they allow these though.
My airline personally doesn’t allow any that attach to your seat or the seat in front in any way shape or form. But the inflatable cushion type ones are okay. So please, before you go out and spend the money, check first.
Also, if your baby is small enough, you may be able to get a baby bassinet if your airline offers them! Check the age/weight restrictions first and try to book one as early as possible with your airline to avoid disappointment.
Is it your child’s first flight? Prepare them for some things that might happen. It’s all well and good to tell your child that ‘omg being on a big plane is gonna be saaaaaa much fun!’ But let’s get real.
Any flight over say 7 or 8 hours, isn’t gonna be fun for them. They are restricted in a small seat with unfamiliar things and noises happening around them. If they are old enough to understand, start preparing them at home before the flight with some things that could happen.
My biggest tip is seat belts! If your child is over 2, they simply cannot have an infant seat belt and be on your lap. It’s not the mean flight attendants rule, it’s an international rule from the manufactures of the seat belts, so please prepare them as much as you can if you think that they aren’t going to like the seat belt for take-off and landing and any turbulence.
There is honestly nothing worse than when the flight attendants are having to wait because a child isn’t in their belt for take-off… we must tell the captain that everyone is secure before they prepare for take-off/landing, and they don’t appreciate a delay in this communication one.little.bit.
Bring Some Toys
An iPad with games, small travel-sized board games, colouring in, all that jazz. I would discourage things like Lego and anything with small pieces. You do not wanna be crawling around those floors (trust me, they are disgusting) looking for Lego man’s head that is smaller than a pea and has rolled under 39K’s seat.
But bring a good variety of things, because you can’t expect 12 hours of colouring – so make sure you have a few activities. A new toy, book or game is always a nice treat to bring down from the overhead locker halfway through the flight, or when your babe has decided to throw the self on the floor with a tanty. Everyone loves a new toy.
Check with your airline if they offer child meals. My airline does but they must be ordered 48 hours or prior to that. These meals have pasta, cheese pieces, chocolate milk, jelly etc, and are designed to for kids appeal.
But the cabin crew will not have extra (unless you are very lucky) so make sure it’s in your booking if it’s available! But like all always, kids can be fussy! So, bring snacks you know they love and enjoy. That way they won’t be disappointed if the food in front of them is a flop.
Check Your Ticket
Check your seat numbers before you even leave the check-in counter! Ideally, you should all be seated together. But sometimes things happen, and the ground staff make mistakes and you’re not….
Ask them before you leave the counter. Because once you get on board, if it’s a full flight, finding people to swap with you is very much a pain in the butt.
Manners Go A Long Way
If your kids have manners and are polite I can assure you, you’re going to get anything you need from the cabin crew! Encourage them to say hello to the crew. Trust me, we love it! And then when it comes to things like getting some snacks, milk for bottles, extra blankets etc the crew won’t even bat an eyelid.
Keep in mind, with sometimes over 400 people in the economy, we can be busy. So, if you know you are going to need something, like a baby meal heated, for example, come to the galley (our aircraft kitchen) and ask as ahead of time, in case we are a little busy.
If you are travelling alone with a baby or children, please let us know. Sometimes we don’t notice, or we think that maybe your travel partner is seated opposite you or something like that.
If we are aware of it, then we can help you with things such as sitting with your child while you go to the bathroom or helping you hold your baby whilst you stretch your legs for 5 minutes, we are happy to help when we aren’t busy doing service.
If they cry, scream, have a tantrum, don’t worry. It’s okay and it happens all the time. Try not to get frustrated, as your child will sense that, and it probably won’t help the situation.
I personally, as cabin crew, am more than happy to go have a quiet word to anyone who gives a stressed mumma with a baby any form of a nasty comment or dirty stink eye. Passengers around you don’t care as much as you think if they can see you are actively trying to calm down the situation.
There Is A Light
There is an end in sight. Whether it’s the first stopover of a multi-leg journey, or your destination, getting off the plane is always a relief, and you’ve made it to your destination, so enjoy your time with those kiddies. they are just as happy to be off the plane as you are!