If you’re planning on flying with small kids, right from the start, get them to invest and make the flight the exciting part. Talk about planes in the sky, get them to choose their bag, and if they're over two, help with packing their hand luggage. A child who is excited to get on the plane will improve the whole experience 100%.
When flying with littles, preparation is key. First off, try to book flights that fit in with your child’s routine. That way they can either be super awake and enjoy the experience in the day, or take a nap. What you don’t want is to be dragging them out of bed or be up way past bedtime and have tired cranky kids on a flight.
Get them to help packing their own hand luggage. Once they hit two and you pay for their flight, they can have a bag for themselves. When ours was little we got a Trunky. Kids love them, but be prepared for having to pull your kid round the airport or carry your kid and the Trunky. Pain in the arse.
Fill it with stuff they are excited about. We start collecting bits a week or so before, chucking the odd colouring/sticker book in with the big shop. This builds excitement about the flight itself as they just want to get their hands on the tat. (although you may have a job stopping them taking it beforehand!).
We tend to take a few colouring pens (be prepared to lose lids/pens on the floor instantly) colouring books, sticker books – they can keep you going for hours, particularly the ones where you have to stick stickers into picture pages) a new small toy to open (playmobil figures have been a winner) and snacks. DON'T FORGET SNACKS! My little one is never going to eat plane food. We also had one experience where they RAN OUT of vegetarian options and didn’t actually have a meal for us. Thank god we’d packed plenty of snacks. Snacks also keep little mouths busy. More snacks = less crying / talking / asking questions / singing. My advice - leave out the sugar both before and during the flight ;)
Be aware planes don’t carry any formula/milk/nappies. That might sound obvious, but it also might not. So when you get on and realise you haven’t got any milk and you ask for it, take it from my experience, they will hand you four of those tiny round milks you get to put in your coffee, and it WON’T settle your child and you will rue the day you didn’t bring your own milk. Equally take it from me – the one flight you manage to accidentally pack all of the nappies in your hold luggage and forget a single one in hand luggage, is the day your kid will do a mega poo and you’ll have to send your husband on a walk of shame down the aisle begging for nappies. (nb booze is accepted as payment by most other parents). So yeah, don't forget all the milk/bottles/snacks/nappies you'll need.
If your little is baby/toddler age packing in pods methodically will help. Just know where everything is so you’re not rooting around. You want clothes, nappies, milk, dummies, plastic bag for dirty clothes and a couple of toys to amuse the baby. Packing cubes are brill and you can get them on Amazon pretty cheap.
I’d recommend taking good kids headphones, as plane ones can be poor. We recently invested in some bluetooth ones and they really kept her busy the entire flight. Depending on their age, an iPad is also your friend. Yes you may have vowed to never be ‘that parent’ who appeases their kids with tech, but on the plane it just works and you can leave parental guilt at check in. For the kids it turns it into the ‘best day ever’ (mine still hasn’t got over her nine hour iPad marathon to America and probably preferred it to the holiday – the iPad then ‘broke’ for the rest of the stay).
If your child is likely to sleep, a little cushion or blanket wouldn’t go amiss. We had a toy that converted from toy into neck cushion and found that really useful.
For information on taking formula through customs for formula-fed babies:
You are allowed it beyond the 100ml liquid limits, which I didn’t know for my first couple of flights.
Make sure your kid is in comfy clothes. We’ve flown with her in pyjamas before, but comfy leggings and t-shirt are standard. Take spares, littles can throw up/wet themselves, biggers can spill and there’s nothing more annoying than four hours of them moaning about it. On that note, take a couple of plastic bags for wet clothes to be shoved back in your hand luggage. Oh, and take a spare outfit for YOU, babies can leak.
When I travel with my daughter I keep my own hand luggage to an absolute minimum so I’m not carting too much shite around with me. I have a rucksack with my purse/phone/passport easily accessible in the front, and my usuals – socks/jumper/magazine in the main part. That way I don’t feel like too much of a pack horse in the airport.
My MAIN TIP though, is don’t stress about it. It’s just a flight,. Just a journey, and you’ll get through it even if baby cries/kid pukes. Don’t apologise to anyone, you’ve paid for your ticket, you wouldn’t apologise on a bus, and everyone on there ‘was a baby once’. Decent people will smile at you and other parents will help you out if the shiz does hit the fan, but I’m sure it won’t.
Written by Amy Clowes
Amy is Seatkickers' editor, she lives in Manchester with her daughters aged six and seven months, her husband and her rescue dog Lebowski. She loves travelling and discovering new places. Her favourite place in the world is Biarritz in France.