The ‘how to survive a flying with children with some sense of sanity intact’ guide…
My advice is to plan from day 1. The flights on the days we needed were from an airport slightly further away so we opted to stay in a hotel nearby. This way we weren’t doing too much travelling and sitting around in one day. J (who was 18months old at that point) is an active boy who likes to be on the go. We made sure that we didn’t get to airport too early and found where the kids play area was pretty quick (most airports have them so look them up!) so he could burn off some energy.
Next, think about the timing of the flight. Our plan was for J to be tired out so he slept on the plane (it half worked-he slept for about 20 minutes of the 4 hour flight). We figured out whether he’d need food/snacks, due his usual poop etc. This way we knew how much and what to pack in hand luggage (children under 2 don’t get their own allowance…advice here is to make use of anyone else travelling with you and everyone take something of little ones or yours in their hand luggage).
Google your airlines flight ‘rules’ about what can and cant be taken through security. Make up feeds ‘on the other side’ and/or take an empty flask and then fill up after security. There’s usually a Boots or something that you can pop in for some apple juice or water…or pop to one of the cafes and ask for tap water if you want to save some pennies. You can also order baby products on Boots online and collect them from certain airports once you’re through security.
This was J’s first flight so I didn’t know what he would be like. J also has ‘special needs’ so I was apprehensive about the idea of buttons he’d get obsessed by, doors he’d see and insist on opening (pretty sure he wouldn’t be allowed to open the cabin door over the Channel) or wanting to run up and down the plane shouting. So, my plan was to make sure J was sat either in the middle or window seat. This meant he couldn’t see the doors or the aisle so avoided temptation. J could look out the window and amuse himself opening and closing the trays instead.
We packed a Trunkie (which you can take as carry on luggage) with a fully charged Kindle loaded with videos, colouring in and crayons, chunky threading toy, book and small cars. These were enough to entertain him, especially key moments such as take off where children have to be secured to you. Also, snacks! We took lots of snacks with us so that kept him quiet and still for short periods. Obviously he got stroppy at times. He’s a toddler and meltdowns are inevitable. At first I was really anxious about what others would think or how they’d react. To be honest, I soon forgot this and thought ‘this is a short moment in your life, you’ll get over it’ so figured people could just huff to themselves if need be but otherwise tough really!
Traveling with a little person involves packing up half a house. So here’s some hints:
-put medication in clear bag with labels and prescription if possible (doctors will do a print out).
-buy pack of nappies and keep in packet. These are more ‘vacuumed’ so will take less space than if you were to take individually. You’ll use them up so by end of the holiday you’ll the have spare room for more ‘stuff’ you buy there.
-take lots of wipes. I had a pack in every bag. It’s amazing how messy these little creatures can get and wipes can take up a lot of space!
-buy (or borrow from a friend) an umbrella style buggy/stroller if suitable for age of your child. They fold down easier and are lighter so much easier to navigate around the airport and the transfer bus. The stroller became J’s cot, chill out space and shade as well as transport. Having the stroller meant we could take him to the evening entertainment and he would lay in stroller and doze so we could have fun. It also meant he was easier to keep track of when rushing to the boarding gate!
-Luggage tags! Wow, getting luggage from the carousel is not fun. It takes forever and little man was fed up from the flight so it was stressful. I am so glad I use bright tags so it was obvious when our luggage came out (maybe consider a clip of teddy or scarf). Word of warning…find out where the stroller will be unloaded. We took the stroller right up to the gate and then it was loaded on. When you get off some airlines leave by the exit and some have a separate carousel for them…as we found out after waiting ages and it not appearing with our luggage. Luckily we had google translate so could ask the staff, haha.
-we took some of J’s home comforts such as his pillow, his soft toy, blanket and night light. These helped him settle better and he actually slept really well on the holiday. We took his blanket and soft toy onto the plane to help him nap and feel comfortable. Warning-little one may get comfortable but you won’t (haha). Go for a wee whenever you get opportunity as you may end up with a lead weight asleep on you and your bladder.
Take off and landing
For some, take off, landing, and the leveling out can be uncomfortable. I made sure that I had J’s drink ready for him to suck at these times (either straw or teated bottle works well). Sweets are recommended by some, but that would depend on age of your little one. We used raisins instead. J actually LOVED take off and landing…I didn’t! If your little one doesn’t take to it as well, then try singing their favourite song or anything you will soothe them.
Find the family area
We found there was a separate security check in for families with buggies/young children. The staff where friendly and they would actually talk to the children and made it relaxed. When flying back from Fuerteventura the families security area was very much child friendly. Queue was shorter, the scanner was decorated and had a fenced off bit so kiddies couldn’t run off once in the other side of it.
My last piece of advise is to enjoy it. It’s a hassle, I won’t lie, but it leads to an amazing holiday or adventure once you’re the other side. We had a poo-nami shortly after the flight that resulted in a full wash and change in the airport toilet. It was a major stress at the time but now we laugh about the ridiculousness of it (and the smell left behind). I enjoyed a small glass of wine, ate a whole pack of sweets and enjoyed sitting on my backside for a few hours.
If you are soon to be flying with children, have fun, and good luck!
Thank you to Becky from Mummy est. 2014 for these great tips!