Let’s just say it — flying with kids can be an absolute nightmare.
When you’re managing a child’s behaviour, fears, boredom, and unhappiness onboard an airplane full of non-sympathetic fellow travellers, travel is never “fun.” There are, however, plenty of ways you can increase your chances of having a good (dare I say great) flight with your kids.
From tech to timing, here are some suggestions that should help you do just that …
Bring all the snacks (seriously, all of them)
It might sound obvious, but expecting your kid to enjoy anything off an in-flight menu may be asking too much. The pre-packaged meals they serve onboard are often too fussy for little kids, the pizza may have green bits (herbs) and the innocuous sounding ham-and-cheese sandwich may have the wrong kind of cheese.
Set yourself up for success by bringing things they’ll actually want to snack on, and all the better if they are treats your kids don’t always get at home. Candies to suck on during take-off and landing (or gum to chew if your child is of an appropriate age) is also a really good idea as it will help with their ears popping.
Tech is your friend
Nobody wants to hear your kid playing Minecraft or listening to back-to-back episodes of Paw Patrol. Buying a pair of kid-sized headphones is a major help if you plan on using the in-flight entertainment system or your own devices to keep them occupied. If you don’t pick these up in advance (or they get lost), most airports will have a store selling them.
Check in advance that the airline you’re flying with still has in-flight entertainment systems, as many now do this through apps on your phone or tablet that you can’t always download when onboard. Your safest bet is to download a bunch of Netflix shows or Disney movies onto their device (or your phone, if they don’t have a device of their own yet) to make sure you have some portable entertainment with you.
Surprise them with new books and toys
Some parents swear by taking a bag full of new, cheap toys onboard and releasing them to their child over the course of the flight. These don’t have to be anything fancy and could even be toys from the Dollar Store — just something interesting enough to distract your kid for a while. Activity books and search and find books are always good for flights, as well as mess-free colouring books (that use a clear “magic” marker that reveals a picture as you scribble with it).
Baby flight prep
Flying with babies can be especially hard, and a crapshoot as you never know if they’ll sleep the whole flight through (heaven!) or scream bloody murder across the Atlantic (er … hell!).
Make sure you have a well-stocked diaper bag that includes a change of clothes for them (and one for you, because a poop-splosion at 30,000 feet is an absolute horror show). Arm yourself with enough clean bottles to get you through your flight, extra soothers, and whatever else makes your baby happy.
If you’re traveling solo with your baby, don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for help. Most will be happy to hold your baby for a minute while you use the washroom or stretch your legs.
Time your flights
If you have the option, taking the red-eye with kids can be a great idea — especially if you’re able to follow their routine somewhat. Let them wear their pyjamas on the plane, bring a pillow and their favourite blanket, then encourage them to sleep at their usual bed time.
Ignore the haters
When a fellow passenger is giving you the stink eye because your child is being noisy, don’t engage with them or let their lack of human decency and sympathy get to you. So long as you are trying your best to look after your child, they have no right to judge and they don’t deserve a moment of space in your brain.
As any parent knows, kids are anything but predictable — so what does and doesn’t work for a flight can change each time you board a plane. That said, preparation gives you the best chance of a successful flight, so hopefully these hacks will help you to have a much smoother experience when traveling with children. We wish you lots of luck, and our fingers are crossed that they sleep through the whole flight for you!