Wednesday 28 September 2016

18 Tips for Flying with Older Kids

Having recently taken our first flight with our three children (aged 9, 9 and 12) I thought it would be useful for me to share some of the things I learnt on this journey. You don't want to make the mistakes I did and end up with no sleep in an overpriced hotel when I could have secured cheap airport parking and driven after a good nights sleep!

1.  Plan your flight times - OK of course it is cheaper to fly at 1.00 am but can your child cope with that? You want your first day on holiday to be as much fun as all the others, so book wisely.
2.    Book your seats in advance - we made this mistake this year, having not taken a package holiday for over a decade, I assumed very few people would pay the extra to book their seats. I was wrong. Luckily I found this out and was able to book our seats, if I hadn't the five of us would have been in completely different areas and what child wants to fly alone for the first time next to two strangers?
3.    How will you get to the airport? - this year we opted to travel by train and stay in a hotel at the airport. Yes the train fare was really cheap as we booked a long time in advance but we had so much angst due to the strikes and reduced timetables on Southern Railways. Then we also got no sleep at the airport as it was too exciting for the kids and too hot in the room. Next time we will definitely drive our own car so we are in control of our timings and don't have to struggle with big cases.

4.    Shop around for airport parking - Don't just be tempted to allow your travel agent to book it for you, shop around as there are good cheap airport parking deals to be had. Check out Parking at Airports for instance.
5.  Check in online as soon as you can - don't assume all will be OK because you have booked your seats in advance. Check-in the day it opens and be sure to get what you have paid for. Don't forget to print your boarding passes and have them in your flight bag along with your passports and other essential documentation.
6.    Plan your flight - If you have a long flight then break it into smaller time segments when you are planning. You know your child best, will they be happy to watch a 90 minute movie in one sitting? If not, break it up with a game of cards, sticker activities or a snack. You really can't plan too much, it certainly gives me a sense of calm when I travel.
7.    Pack some activities for the kids - Our flight was just a short two hour one and thus the kids didn't really have time to be bored. I had packed a tablet for them each to play on and made sure it was loaded with some favourite games and I had downloaded programmes and films from BBC iPlayer and also Disney life, which has a massive choice to download for 30 days, all within the monthly subscription cost. Miss E also chose to take her sketch pad and pencils and Miss M her reading book. Just make sure you have whatever your child enjoys ready to hand.
8.  Pack the snacks - With older kids and just a two hour flight we didn't really need any snacks but depending on the time of day and the length of the flight it is a very useful distraction to give your child something to eat. Crackers, raisins, grapes, veggie sticks, nuts, fruit string etc are all relatively healthy and will take a while to munch on.
9.    Brief your child - If this is your child's first flight, make sure you give them a run-through of what to expect at the airport and on the plane. It may sound silly but my Miss E was terrified we would rush her through the airport as that is what she had seen on films, so we made sure we arrived early and took our time so flying could become an enjoyable activity for her.
10.  Help your child choose appropriate flight clothes - Soft and comfy clothes are best and we always layer as you never know if it will be too hot or cold on a flight.  I also advise comfy slip-off shoes and socks so your child (and you) can be really comfy. Forget the fashion when flying and choose comfort.
11.    Pack light - I couldn't believe how little clothes we wore on holiday and next time I'll definitely take less. We were smart with our hand luggage though and hardly took anything through customs, this saved loads of time as we didn't have any liquids or tricky items for scanning.
12.    Have travel sickness tablets at the ready - Miss M is nearly always sick on long car journeys and she was very worried she would be sick on the plane, so we made sure she had a travel sickness tablet in advance and also showed her where the sick bag was and talked through what we would do if it was needed, it is good to alleviate their fears in advance. Oh and do take some spare clothes and wet wipes if this might be an issue.
13.  Take boiled sweets/ water - I recall years back that you used to be offered a sweet before take off but not so anymore so do take some so your child can suck during take-off and landing and avoid the awful earache that can come with a change in pressure. Of course gulps of water and yawning work well too but a sweet is a nice treat that they will enjoy.
14.  Let them take a pillow - Especially if the flight is a long one, then you really want them to be comfy and many travel ones now have a clip to put it on the side of their flight bag for ease of carrying.
15.  Have regular toilet stops - I don't know about yours but my kids can go from being fine to needing to pee right now in the blink of an eye. Therefore make sure they all have a loo stop before you board the flight even if they say they don't need to. Then keep their liquid intake down until you are in the air and sure that there are no delays.
16.  Be positive - Remember that your kids are super excited and whilst you might be worrying about the weight of your luggage or where the nearest toilet is, they are just interested in the experience. So once you are in the air, take the time to look out the window together and find joy in flying.
17.  Give your child a notebook and Camera - Ask them to make a travel journal. This won't be for all kids but mine love taking photos and recording what they have seen and heard.
18.  Get organised as soon as you find your seat - Make sure you have out all the things that will be needed during the journey. The pockets on the back of the seat stretch for their tablets, water, books and little toys. Keep their backpacks under the seat in front for easy access too.

I definitely feel more confident next time we fly as a family and I am so glad this first is
have any great tips for flying with older kids then please do leave a comment.

Thanks, Mich x

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