Advice on plane journeys with kids

by on 10th February, 2017

Advice on plane journeys with kids

Andean Trails’ Kat Dougal, intrepid traveller and intrepid mother, gives valuable advice on flying with toddlers.

“Embarking on a flight with two little ones under 4 is always an adventure, ” says Kat, mum of two who regularly flies with her two in tow.

She continued: “Just recently I was on a two-hour flight that saw both my children in a permanent state of meltdown.

They were opening and closing window blinds, hopping on and off seats, screeching, screaming, and finally it culminated in the stubborn refusal of my smallest girl to be strapped onto my lap by the shared seat belt for landing.

“She proceeded to throw a bag of biscuits – yes, I had tried to bribe her with it – high into the air and covering pretty much everyone in the row before and behind us. Mortified doesn’t even come close.

Here are some tips I’d like to share to help make those holiday flights a little easier for parent and child.


Timing and spending the extra bit

When flying short distances, avoid flights that clash with nap time if you can. Getting your child to nap on a plane is an art mastered only by the real parenting experts amongst us. Not me.

Allow plenty of time ahead of your flight to arrive at the airport without stress. Nothing worse than rushing through security with toddlers. In fact so many European airports now have little soft play areas that the time you spend at the airport actually flies by.

If you can,  pay for your child to have their own seat even if they are under 2 – especially if they are 1.5 years or older, having a seat for them is often priceless, especially on a longhaul journey.


Bring snacks

As soon as we step foot on a plane my children will ask me for snacks. I have found that taking a selection of different snacks along can be a lifesaver – now I’m not saying fill them with sugar, as that might well prove counterproductive.

Instead have some real treats, but add in healthier snacks, too. My top tip are rice cakes and dried apple rings – which my children consider treats.

Keep water/ drinks handy and make sure they keep hydrated – it’s also a great way to relieve them off earaches during takeoff and landing.

Stay away from sandwiches with grated cheese on them if you want to avoid being killed by airline staff having to hover up the cheese crumbs on their ten-minute turnaround schedule.


Bring toys – think small and light

What I have found works well is an arrangement of small toys they can use for role play – little Playmobile people for example.  A small doll and milk bottle can keep my littlest going for a good while.

Bring little hand puppets along which don’t take up much space and are super light – either ones for the entire hand or finger puppets.

Sticker books are fabulous!

Drawing books can work but be prepared for picking up pencils and crayons for the entire duration of the flight and most definitely don’t use marker pens.

Electronic toys with flashing lights (think toy phones) can keep any small child busy for ages, but sadly often come with loud noises – we managed to tape over the loudspeaker part of them in the past which made the sound so muted that it was barely noticeable in the overall plane noise. A winner.

Toy cars or other things with wheels on them are a big no-no as I learned on our first plane journey – drop them on the floor and they will whizz all the way to the back of the plane if you’re unlucky.



Finally, succumb to technology. Once your toddler is a little older, giving into the magic of a tablet can be life and nerve saving.  Even if, like me, you are wary of too much screen time, I find that when travelling it is ok to make an exception and let your child have a tablet with short films or apps suitable for little ones.

In fact, making exceptions is the best tip in itself.


Stay calm

And just when you think you are all prepared, with bags full of distraction and goodies, of course be prepared for it ALL failing.

So stay calm, avoid eye contact with grumbling seat neighbours, think happy thoughts, remind yourself that you are not mad for setting foot on a plane with small people (well, maybe a little) and find consolation in the fact that every journey finds its end and you will never see your fellow, biscuit-covered passengers again. Ever. I hope.


PS  Send Kat your tips for smooth travelling, please!

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