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Flying with kids

Tiny Tots Away

Danielle Wright
31 March 2011

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How do the words “airplane flight” and “children” make you feel? If you’re like most other parents and feel a bit worried at the prospect, take a look at our top tips on how to survive, and thrive, the airplane flight challenge.

  • Make sure your child is well before flying and have their ears tested by a doctor in case of any infections that could be painful while flying. It’s also a good time to make sure immunisations are up-to-date and to talk about possible vaccinations.
  • Talk to your airline and find out what they offer for young children. You can pre-request a baby bassinet but they don’t have many available so be quick. It’s a lot better than having a baby on your knee for a long flight – not very sleep-inducive.
  • Also ask about what meals are available. If the airline are planning to offer something on board you know your child won’t eat, bring alternative food. In any case, make sure you bring snacks for in-between meals and hard lollies (or milk for babies) to suck for take-off and landing.
  • If you’ve paid for a seat for your under-two, take a carseat if you can so they feel secure and comfortable with a familiar seat.
  • Book flights overnight if possible, or at other regular sleep times. It’s a lot better to have a tired toddler ready for bed than one ready for action at the beginning of a flight.
  • Long-haul flights should be broken up so you stay overnight and have a full day’s activity and then get back on a connecting flight the following evening – that’s if you want to enjoy some of the flights yourself.
  • Your carry-on bag needs all the things you’d usually need in a day out – bottles (talk to the airline about whether you can take formula or boiled water on the plane), nappies, change of clothes, toys etc.
  • If you run out of toys, kids love the ‘sick bag puppet’ or an empty bottle filled with ‘bits’ – like the coffee stirring spoon, a shoelace, anything you can find onboard that will fit – lots to tip out and put back into the container. Another great addition to your carry-on bag is play dough – put a few drops of lavender oil in and it’s very calming and lasts well because when little warm hands play with it the smell comes alive again.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of water so they don’t dehydrate and ask your flight attendant about a trip to the flight deck, this will keep them busy for a bit. Looking out the window and making up games about the shapes of clouds – they always seem to look like something interesting – is also another boredom buster.
  • Ask friends and travel agents about the best airlines for children – some are better than others.
  • Get the kids to carry their own little bags, it will make them feel grown-up and more likely to act more responsibly.

Lastly, prepare for anything. Even the best-laid plans can go wrong on the day of travel. For example, we pre-booked the right seats for a JetStar flight so we could all sit together, only to find our three-year-old had been allocated to a seat all the way at the front, while we were at the back. So much for planning! But it all worked out in the end and as soon as you touch down at your holiday destination, a bad flight is instantaneously forgotten.
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