I’ll just say it straight out. Your days of kicking back with a book and your headphones on a flight are over – for now at least. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great holiday now that you have a young family. They’ll be different for sure – maybe a bit slower and a bit more refined. You can still grab a cocktail on a roof top bar, you’ll just need to head back to your apartment at 19.00. Still fun, just different!
This might seem like a no brainer, but consider the length of flight before booking, especially if it’s your first time to fly with your kids. Anything up to 3 hours is manageable, but after that, even some adults start getting restless. The shorter the better – at least for the first couple of flights. This allows your kids to get used to the concept of flying and everything that goes with it, and it also allows the parents to adjust to doing things differently.
You can’t expect a child of any age to step on to a plane and know what’s going on, and the same goes for the airport security rigmarole. If they’ve never seen the process, they don’t know what to expect. Start prepping them before hand. When talking about your upcoming holiday, explain that to get there, you need to go the the airport as this is the only place big enough to park a plane. Explain that all of their things, including their coats and teddy bears are going to have to go through the really cool x-ray machine, and that then they will hold Mommy or Daddy’s hand to go through the scanner (don’t worry, they’ll let you hold your little babies, but stroller and all has to go through the scanner).
Explain that you will either board via a tunnel or some big steps. These seem like little details, but kids usually freeze when they see the steps up to the flight. Knowing about it in advance takes away the shock and makes it seem less scary. Show them some pictures online if you can. Explain how it’s pretty loud on the plane, even when it’s not moving. Show them pictures of the big engines which are like Mom’s hairdryer but louder. Tell them their ears might even hurt a little (if they’re big enough to explain this to) and tell them it’s normal and will only last until they land. Then tell them how much fun it is to be up in the sky. Let them have the window seat. You can keep them busy during boarding by showing them the other planes taxiing, or the ground crew loading the suitcases on the plane. Also, forewarn them about the ‘bump’ when you land. What is unexpected seems scary to them, but when they know it’s coming, there’s usually no problem.
I love to fly, but many are nervous. You don’t want to project this onto your kids, so maybe let your partner sit beside them if you’re an anxious traveller.
A bag with new toys that they haven’t seen before can be a great distraction once the novelty of being up in the air has worn off. These don’t need to be expensive, some figurines and travel colouring books from Dealz or Euro 2 can work wonders in keeping your little people entertained. When the novelty wears off (and it will, way quicker than you expected…) break out the snacks. Raisins, cheerios, Ella’s Kitchen Bars all work well here for toddlers. A bottle will almost always sooth an infant into a nap too.
This one may not win me any fans but I’ll say it anyway. If you allow your kids to behave like wild animals at home, then don’t expect that they’re going to miraculously turn into little angles the minute they get to the airport.
That’s not to say kids shouldn’t be kids, they absolutely should. But if you let them talk back to you or ignore what you say at home, you can expect exactly the same when you travel.
So do things that they like to do. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend every single second making sandcastles at the beach, but do try to find a balance between the things you really want to do and things that are fun for kids. If you bring them to a museum, limit your time there to about an hour.
Bring (clean & easy) snacks like raisins or cheerios, and keep them sweet with the promise of a trip to the playground afterwards. Tell them when they’re being good and that that’s why we’ll go to the playground afterwards. Other sweetners include trips to zoos and aquariums. They don’t need to know that these are also for the grown ups..
Promise a hot chocolate if they make it all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower and back while being good.
Turn things like a trip on the on the Metro into a really fun adventure (although this probably won’t work if you live in a city with brilliant public transport links and this is part of your every day).
My kids also love to eat out, so this is usually a good treat to. They’ll usually quite happily accept a walk into the centre of town (or wherever we’re going for eats) knowing that the end result is dinner. On the flip side, we’ll often get a taxi back knowing that they’re getting tired and need to get to bed.