Most parents will be only too familiar with the trials and tribulations of flying with young children. In this guest post, Deborah Dickson-Smith of family travel blog Little Nomads shares her top tips for keeping your kids busy, and yourself sane…

My first word of advice to anyone setting off on a flight with their kids is that children, like grown-ups, are all different, and some are easier to fly with than others. So some of these tips may help, but the best advice I could give to anyone is prepare for the worst, be patient, and take deep breaths when it all starts to get too much.

My first flight with my eldest daughter (from Australia to the UK, no less) involved no sleep whatsoever with a 9-month old baby speeding on Phenergan and smiling, chatting and waving to all passengers she could manage to trap into eye-contact.

My son, however, has an “off-switch,” which he can activate during any extended period of boredom, allowing him to fall promptly asleep. My husband is worse than any of our kids, stressing about everything from leaving the gas on, forgetting passports, arriving late and boarding the wrong plane. He really shouldn’t be allowed to travel at all.

  1. Research: Choose your airline carefully – find out about the in-flight entertainment and any services provided for kids. It’s worth paying a bit more for extra leg-room, peace of mind and happy, occupied kids.
  2. Packing: Many people bring much more than they need while on holiday. Pack what you think is essential, then take a break and go back to remove a few items.
  3. Airports: Remember how much longer it takes you to achieve anything with kids in tow, and apply the same formula to travel plans. Smile sweetly and helplessly at everyone and you may get help jumping queues. Ask if your flight is full when checking in. Some assistants will offer you the option of seating next to a vacant seat.
  4. In-flight: Give all the kids a back-pack with a change of clothes, lots of snacks, iPods, Nintendo DS – whatever electronic games they’re into – and a book or two. Don’t pack any games with small parts, and especially not Lego or jigsaws. Give younger kids colouring-in books, and older kids journals. It doesn’t matter if the journal is ignored once you get to your destination – it’s served its purpose on the plane.
  5. Food: This is especially important if you’re travelling with a baby. Pack all his/her favourite foods and don’t rely on the airline, because what they serve up may not be to your baby’s liking. Always ask for food/bottles to be heated up well in advance of when you need them, because cabin crew don’t have access to a microwave and will need to boil some hot water.
  6. Ears: We grown-ups can usually pop our ears to adjust to changes in air pressure, but babies and children really struggle. Try to time feeds for babies so that they coincide with take-off and landing – whether breast or bottle, the sucking action helps. For older kids, try giving them boiled sweets to suck on.
  7. Clothing: Forget about style and focus on comfort, with plenty of layers to cope for changes in temperature – especially if you’re travelling from a British winter, for example, to tropical Thailand.
  8. Nappies: Airplane bathrooms are small, so you need to be prepared before entering with a squirmy, smelly baby. Pack a small bag with one nappy, travel pack of wipes, a nappy sack and rash cream and store it in the pocket in front of you. You can re-stock after your baby is changed.
  9. Sleep: If you’re anything like me, sleep on a plane is only possible if you’re travelling alone in First Class. With sedatives. So let’s be realistic. Get plenty of sleep before you leave so you at least start out refreshed. Make sure your kids do the same. Talk to your doctor about using sedatives for your baby or child. Some children travel well with sedatives, others become even more hyperactive. Test them out before you travel.
  10. Keep your cool: Ignore rude people and don’t stress about irritating others with your screaming child/children. You’re trying your best, and you’re never going to see these people again, so who cares?

This guest post was contributed by Deborah Dickson-Smith of Little Nomads. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheapflights Ltd.

About the author

Oonagh ShielContent Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!

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