You’ve got the bags packed and the itinerary sorted and you’ve even managed to find an accommodation arrangement that actually caters to children. But after the last experience, you’re truly dreading flying with the kids again. Have no fear, because here are seven practical suggestions to help ease the stress of family travel.
Turn the Experience into an Adventure
Ask yourself: What would Dora the Explorer do? To build anticipation, use personalized invitations to literally invite your kids on the journey they are to undertake a week before you fly out. Talk about it regularly with your children, and build hype around the excitement of flying and of exploring a new place. You could also turn it into a bit of an educational exercise, when they learn about planes and air travel, so they have something to think about and distract them from being bored, restless and/or frightened when it comes to fly-time.
Plan Plane-Friendly Activities
Take the time to come up with some ideas for keeping your kids entertained from the seat of their plane, and plan and prepare for it. Depending on the ages of your children, the likes of card games, songs and nursery rhymes, eye-spy games, board games, coloring books and reading books are all great distractions. Throw in a few activities that account for self-sufficient play so they don’t require your constant input. In terms of electronics, portable DVD players or laptops for movies and cartoons, iPads for games and apps, and iPods for music and audiobooks are all very worthwhile.
Pack Comfort Items
Bringing blankets and cuddly soft toys from home that are a part of nap and bedtime routines will help to give your child a sense of security and encourage sleep. If you have the option, try and book flights that coincide with a normal bedtime so they will sleep during long flights. For domestic and shorter flights, flying at naptimes can make the whole experience a lot easier, unless of course your child struggles to sleep on planes, in which case you’re better off flying out in the morning when they are well rested from the previous night’s sleep.
Pack Bribes and Treats
Don’t be ashamed about partaking in a little bribery. Pack treats including lollies and chocolate (although be wary of the dreaded sugar highs), and little toys that will help give you a little power in case of mid-flight meltdowns. However, be careful not to rely solely on bribes; your kids may not even need them! And when the dreaded breakdowns do occur, don’t be embarrassed — just relax and roll with it. The majority of the people sitting around you would have experienced something similar first-hand in their own time!
Being locked up in a small area with a hundred other people is the perfect opportunity to learn valuable lessons about respect and patience. Reinforce the fact that your children must be mindful of the comfort of other passengers, meaning keep the noises down and be polite at all times. Remember to praise them regularly if they are being well behaved.
Take Frequent Breaks From Sitting
A restless kid means a grumpy kid, so break up flight times with movement around the cabin, but for the sake of your fellow passengers, don’t let the kids run wild up and down the aisles. Taking them for a walk or a crawl every 30 minutes to an hour, as well as doing a few simple stretches with older kids, will make a real difference. Children just aren’t built to be sitting on their bums for hours on end, so try and empathize with them.
Incorporate Stopovers for Long Flights
The great thing about travel these days is that it is so flexible. Many long-haul flight carriers will provide you with multiple options for routes; whether that is a direct flight, a two-hour stopover or multiple stopovers, your options are essentially limitless. Breaking up a long flight with a night on the ground will help get rid of excessive energy, maintain somewhat of a routine, and give you the opportunity to feed your kids a decent meal, so their bellies have a break from sugar-loaded, processed plane food. Sometimes even a few hours hanging out at an airport is enough. Speak to your travel or booking agent about your options.