Helpful tips for a stress-free flight with children

24 August 2017

Imagine you are an hour into a four-hour flight to Rhodes. Your five-year old son has already exhausted the entertainment options in front of them and your three-year old daughter is complaining of hunger despite the allotted flight meal time not being for another hour at least.

Whether this scenario is a reality or a potential concern before you board your flight, there is no escaping the fact that flying abroad with children in tow can be a particularly stressful experience, but it doesn’t need to be that way.

Read our list of helpful tips below to ensure your family holiday is stress free, from the departure lounge to the arrivals hall.

Book your destination with child ages in mind

A long-haul flight to Thailand may be just about bearable as an adult, but a young child or toddler will likely be distressed during a flight timing in at anything more than a few hours, so it’s advisable to restrict flights to short-haul destinations only when travelling with very young children.

It’s important to remember that the alterations in cabin pressure on a flight will also cause pain in a baby’s ears, particularly during take-off and landing, so making sure babies and toddlers are given milk or boiled sweets to suck on during the flight will help.

Choose a flight time matching sleep patterns

It’s a good idea to choose flights which fit in to your families’ sleeping patterns where possible. You can even take this a step further by following all the usual pre-bedtime formalities as you wait to board, such as changing them into pyjamas and making sure they brush their teeth, which should help them feel comfortable enough to dose off during the flight. If you can avoid peak flight times then you may find empty seats for children to lay across as they sleep.

Travel Counsellor Bev has travelled on flights with her young son and explains how important routine can be when travelling with children:

“Babies are a bit different, but keep toddlers in a night routine awake until you are on the plane. You can always do the last-minute nappy change/toilet visit before you take off. I know families are supposed to board first but adding extra time seems counter-intuitive, so we get organised and get on last. To save going up and down to the overhead compartments, pack your nappies and bottles in a separate carrier bag to put in the back of the chair in front.”

Pack their gadgets

In our digital age a child is often as well versed in technology as they are with reciting their times tables. Older kids will likely struggle if they are kept apart from their prized Minecraft creations for too long, so taking an iPad, mobile phone or Nintendo DS will keep them stimulated long after the in-flight entertainment has ceased to entertain.

It’s obviously desirable that device time is kept to a minimum once you reach your destination, but for passing time on a lengthy flight, they are arguably the best way to maintain happiness.

Try adopting a 1:1 adult to child seating policy

Take extra care when choosing your seats, ensuring that young children and toddlers are kept a close eye on by seating a parent directly next to them. This is as much to prevent the distress of surrounding passengers as it is to ensure the safety and contentment of kids. Seat-kicking and leaning on chairs while standing up are often the main offenders to fellow passengers, so an adjacent seat should help keep them occupied and out of trouble.

Pick an airline offering nanny services

While cabin crew are there to service the needs of all passengers, travellers with kids can benefit from dedicated family-friendly facilities on certain airlines. Air Etihad provide an in-flight nanny service which is available on all long-haul flights, while Singapore Airlines and others even have child-free cabins with greater legroom to appease passengers flying without kids requiring a quieter environment.

Keep your buggy until you reach the aircraft

It can be tempting to check a child’s buggy in early, particularly if they are being well behaved before security and you want to be rid of any bulk luggage. If there is a delay to your flight then toddlers will quickly become restless and wish to lie down or sleep, in which case a buggy by your side emerges as your greatest asset. There is also the safety factor that you have peace of mind as parents that your child will not suddenly go wandering off within a crowded departure terminal. 

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