Taking that first flight with your child can be great fun, but it comes with many apprehensions. How will he cope with being tied down to a seat? Will she get sick on the flight? What if she starts crying on the flight? How will I keep her entertained?
You’re not the first!
Remember though that, while you might feel like it, you aren’t the first family to take to the air; the crew will be used to dealing with families with babies and young children.
As for fellow passengers, there’s no telling how they’ll react. Most people grunt and groan when a child gets on their flight, but hey, such is life. Don’t get embarrassed or stressed about keeping everyone happy. Focus on keeping your child happy and entertained, and all should go well.
Before the flight
Pack wisely and for all events:
- Bring plenty of small snacks, drinks and some treats for emergencies
- Pack one or even two changes of clothes for the baby and for yourself
- Don’t forget your child’s comforter – blankie or soother
- A bag of favorite toys and books; coloring and puzzle books are great for older children
- Some new small toys and books
Booking the flight
- Ask if the airline provides any extras for children – travel packs etc.
- If going on a long flight try to book a bulkhead seat – these seats are available on the bigger aircraft and are at the head of the aisle, so you will have a little extra room in front.
- Some airlines also carry special cots that can be assembled and fit into this space.
- Ask if you can pre-book allocated seats. At boarding this means you can wait and board the plane last, giving your little one more time to run around at the boarding gate.
On the day
- Be sure to wear comfortable loose clothing, even though it may be very warm on the ground
- Sometimes the temperature on planes can feel a bit chilly so be sure to bring warm clothes for you and your child
- Change your child’s nappy just before you board the plane
- If your seats are pre-allocated, leave boarding the plane until the last minute, this gives your child a chance to run around for longer and also lessens the time they have to spend onboard
- Be sure to give your child something to suck on at take off and landing – this will help to stop their ears from popping
- Only produce the toys and books you have packed one at a time
- Save the best sweets or your child’s favourite toys for moments of ‘high tension’, when a major distraction is needed
- Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids throughout the flight as dehydration makes for a cranky child
- If you are two adults traveling, ask if you can be served your meals separately, to allow you to take turns minding your child while you each get a chance to eat. (Some airlines may not do this but many do.)
- Walking the aisle is a great distraction, but try to put off doing it, or you could end up spending the whole flight running up and down chasing your child.
Chances are that the flight will not be the nightmare you are dreading. Often, even children who do not sleep very well will sleep through a flight; this is probably because of the constant drone of the engines. The airplane itself will be a great distraction; the different activities and people may well entertain your child during the flight.
If your child becomes upset or distressed during the flight, try to react calmly. Chances are there will be other parents in the same position as you, and in general, people are understanding about it.