A Survival Guide For Parents And Fellow Passengers
Travelling with small children is enough to fill most parents with dread. Long waits in the airport, the roaring sound of the aircraft engines and having to keep them in their seats when they’re full of excitement for their holiday can lead them to act out of sorts and draw disapproving stares from other passengers.
Bearing in mind that there are things you do to make life easier for yourselves and there are things that you do that will make life easier for other travellers. That’s why we’ve compiled a short guide, with tips to help you overcome some of these challenges. Keeping your little darlings well behaved and happy while travelling, means happiness and gratitude from all!
Organisation Is KEY!
Be Prepared! Being really organised makes for a smoother flight experience for everyone. Start packing as early as possible, preferably a week before. It cannot be reiterated enough that parents have a big role to play in reducing boredom and anxiety, that causes bad behaviour, by having and accessing everything you need when you need it. Bringing enough food, change of clothes and entertainment to last until you reach your destination is vital to an “uneventful” smooth journey.
Use large or slim OrgPac organiser cubes or the leakage proof HangPac to keep your hand luggage very organised. Adopt the modular packing system of compartmentalising and segregating food, electronics, clothes, toys; you name it, for easy identification and access. Where necessary prepare and pack modularly according to Plan A, B, Cs as situations deteriorate due to increased anxiety or duration of the journey.
Airport Tips – Pre Boarding
Nobody wants to spend more time than necessary at the airport but there is nothing worse than anxious parents contributing to anxious kids. Give yourself enough time and a bit more to make sure you are not rushed.
Airports are filled to the brim with sugary treats, so try your best to avoid these as you don’t want a spike in your child’s energy levels just before you’re due to take off. Instead, opt for a few pieces of fruit or other healthy snacks instead. And if there is any time you want to let your kids run free, it is just before boarding. Let them use the kiddie’s area in the airport as their gym and playground, exerting as much energy as possible but not too much that they become too tired and grumpy for lift-off.
Early boarding? Absolutely! Take the time to get settled in without hindering other passengers. Get orientated with the seating area and organise your stuff, wiping down armrests, screens, remotes and all wipe-able areas within your seating area. Making friends with the flight attendants and “neighbours” will help get sympathy, just in case.
Creative Entertainment & Management
One of the main reasons children get tetchy when travelling is because they are bored. Airports and planes aren’t much fun after a while so, entertainment packs and “picnics” are great diversions that will keep them out of mischief.
From Famous Five to Pooh, children will love eating in awkward and confined spaces if it feels like an adventure. Use festive paper napkins for that special occasion feeling. Distract with snacks. Go with volume and follow the 80/20 rule. Volume, as in a lot and better in bite sizes (fruit pieces rather than whole fruit or M&Ms rather than chocolate bars) as it takes longer to finish. No salt or butter popcorn is a good bet and so are lollipops. There are plenty of organic or no sugar lollipops in the market to suit with fancy shapes that will take “forever” to finish. You can use always use “sin” foods for the distraction you need most, if/when the time comes.
It’s a great idea to create your own travel activity pack but try to introduce some new games, activities and toys along the way. Something new to unpack goes a long way. Include play together activities like travel bingo or putty where you task each other to sculpt/build something and the winner gets a prize. Hide a backup book or toy for the element of surprise when you need it most. The secret stash can be doled out slowly over the course of the journey.
If you book or check-in early to grab bulkhead seats with extra legroom, this will help give the smaller kids more space to play on without blocking the aisle. By default, them not being on the aisle immediately reduce the magnetic need for them to race down it to the other end.
The noise made by planes can be frightening for very small children, and more and more parents are purchasing noise cancelling headphones or ear defenders so they can listen to soothing music or completely block out strange sounds going on around them. These products have been proven to help tiny children settle and reduce the number of tearful toddlers on flights, so be sure to pick some up before you fly – the other passengers will thank you for it!
When feeling confined, kids get a bit anxious and to soothe themselves they do things like kick the seat in front of them. Whatever the symptoms are, be prepared. Where necessary, practice breathing exercises with them before hand and use enticing names like ‘werewolf breath’ or ‘dragon breathing’. Or create anti-anxiety “magic” pills, suitable for the situation using sweets with names like “mammoth droppings”, “maggot eggs” “rockin’ raisins” etc.
Throw Out The Rule Book & Have “That” Little Chat
Although limiting the amount of screen time children get has been all over the media recently, tablets are a wonderful way of entertaining children during flights. Be flexible with your usual rules and remember that not-the-norm circumstances require not-the-norm processes so adapt to the situation. If being head-stuck on a screen for 10 straight hours with jellybeans in one hand and M&Ms in the other is going to get the job done, than so be it. You will know what appeals to your children, whether snack or entertainment. Rate the “sin” and distraction factor and bring the big guns out as situation demands.
Before you fly, it’s worth having “the” chat with them. Giving them expectations and boundaries often encourages the behaviours you want from them while travelling. It is important to give them enough information including an idea of how long the flight will take. Do not just say the number of hours but use something they can relate to. Walk them through the (flight/airport) journey process, where necessary.