Whether your next holiday sees you bumper to bumper on the M4 or flying off on a Thomson holiday to Majorca, one thing is certain: the key to surviving a long journey with children, is being prepared. I am heading off to Australia with the girls soon to spend some time with my parents, and while I’m no stranger to flying, or even flying with Ameli, flying with both girls is a new challenge for me. Below are a few of the things I’ve been putting together for our trip – let me know if you think I’ve missed anything or if you have any sure fire winners that can help keep me, and the rest of the passengers, sane!
The way I see it, when travelling with children you need to appeal to all the basic needs – hunger, thirst, sleep, touch, temperature and activity. If you’re prepared for all those things, you stand a chance at a relatively peaceful flight.
Flying with a toddler (she’s logged at least 54 hours of flight time so far) has taught me that toddlers do not get hungry on flight schedules. They do not understand time delays either, so getting served breakfast at what would be 3am at home doesn’t mean anything to them. Neither does dinner at 11pm. Have plenty snacks with you – but don’t go for sticky snacks or for overly sugary treats… you really don’t need to be dealing with a soaring toddler in a flying tin can. Remember that your snacks normally need to be finished before you arrive at your destination, or you’ll have to declare them. Most countries don’t allow you to take in fruit or animal products.
Check with the airline regarding flight liquid restrictions. Most wont let you take anything through to duty free, and some won’t let you take liquids from duty free onto the plane. It’s intensely irritating paying premium prices for two water bottles, just to have to bin it before boarding the plane. Most airlines will let you take a child’s bottle or sippy cup on board with you though, and most planes have a drinking water fountain near the toilets.
We have a Trunki that I will pack full of activities for the girls. Activity packs, small (smaller than A4 sized) puzzles, colouring in books, activity books, sticker books and story books will all help, and I find if there are enough toys or activities to swap them out every 15 minutes or so, it curbs boredom. That may sound like a lot – especially if you’re on a 19 hour journey – but you don’t have to have something new for every 15 minutes, but you should try to swap at least four times an hour. For example, colour a picture, read a story, stick stickers in the sticker book, play with a favourite doll, read a story, build a puzzle and so on.
Bear in mind, there’s no just letting them get on with it. Flying with a toddler has been one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done! If they’re happy to sit and watch something from time to time, then that’s great, but my toddler wont do that for too long without getting very cooped up.
Ear muffs can come in really handy to block out the noise from the plane, as depending where you’re sitting it can be quite noisy. We tried a neck pillow once, but she didn’t like having it around her neck, so a small pillow or a jumper wrapped up will be good. Either way you’ll end up with toddler half over you, but still – if they get a bit of sleep, you have a better chance of surviving the day after. It’s always a good idea to take a favourite blanket or toy with on the flight too. And if it smells like home, all the better.
With a baby it’s useful to have them in your sling – that way you can breastfeed through the night without having to disturb them too much (even if baby is in a bassinet, you have to take them off every time the seatbelt light goes on, which is a pain.) If you’re in the extended legroom area, you can also sometimes get away with having your toddler playing on, and later sleeping on, the floor. This was a godsend for us on a number of flights.
These are my primary thoughts for travelling with children. I think it’s important to realise that you’re in for a long x-hours and there’s no way around it. Adjusting your attitude, however, is essential to making the flight bareable for all of you.
Time was, I’d get on the plane and not open my eyes till we landed, but that’s not an option these days, so now I forget about reading anything, watching anything or doing anything, and just focus on my girl(s) – and if I do get the chance to do anything for me, I relish it! I’ve never been on a flight where people haven’t complimented me on Ameli’s behaviour though, so I must be doing something right!