Flying with Children: How to Survive the Experience

Expat Globe

Jo Chipchase is the Editor of Budget Airline Watch and will be bringing the Expat & Offshore community news, views and helpful information about budget travel.

With many expats flying home for the Christmas period Jo provides this must have guide to surviving the experience when travelling with children.

As parents who have flown with small children will know, expecting lively toddlers to remain seated and deport themselves quietly in the confined space of an aircraft seat for several hours isn’t the easiest of undertakings.

The very nature of small children – and their natural curiosity – means they want to climb on the arm rests, bang the food tray, crawl under seats and ‘explore’ what’s in the aisle (or, if you’re especially unlucky, the cockpit!). Of course, as none of these activities are deemed acceptable, the parent must find ‘solutions’ to the unwanted issue of in-flight child movement and over-excitability.

So, then, are there any tried-and-tested methods for keeping ‘los ninos’ entertained and under control on a flight? What if they do go out of control? And what else does the flying parent of babies and toddlers need to bear in mind?

1) Take playthings to entertain your kids

At the departure gate for flight boarded by Boggles and family, a nearby member of airport crew made a slightly snide comment about “haven’t you brought them any toys”. What-ho! With Jet2′s miserly cabin baggage practices, the family couldn’t have fitted too many plastic ‘extras’ into its cases!

However, the crew member did have a valid point: it’s always good to have something ‘up your sleeve’ to entertain the little ones. Paying heed to weight restrictions, workable items to take on to a plane might include: colouring books; plane and airport colouring pages printed from the internet; a Nintendo DS or Game Boy (ensure it’s fully charged before departure); a netbook / laptop loaded with kids’ movies (remember to keep the volume low to avoid complaints from surrounding passengers who don’t wish to hear Scooby Doo at full blast).

Lorena DLH Jarvis, a member of cabin crew for British Airways, advises: ”It’s good to bring little presents for the kids so they have a couple of ‘surprises’ to open during the flight.”

2) Ensure you pack adequate snacks

If you’re seated in the middle of the plane, in particular, it can take ages for the food and drinks trolley to arrive at your row of seats. Meanwhile, after viewing the trolley at a distance for 30mins or so, little Jack and Jill will invariably be yelling that they want a snack box / packet of crisps / chocolate bar right now.

This unfortunate scenario can be avoided by packing your own snacks into your cabin bag before departure. You can save money this way too: the snacks you buy from the in-flight trolley service are sure to be more expensive than those procured in your local grocery store.

3) Don’t give the kids too much sugar

If you don’t want your kids to be completely ‘loco’, avoid filling them with too much sugar before departure or in-flight. They’ll have nowhere to expend that ‘sugar rush’ energy. You, the parent, will end up suffering and the surrounding passengers will be unimpressed.

Give the kids a bottle of water, rather than a fizzy drink. This is a good idea anyway as the dry atmosphere in a plane cabin can be slightly dehydrating. Lorena DLH Jarvis of British Airways crew advises: ”Don’t give your kids Coca Cola or similar, as it will make them go crazy. I always offer children water or milk. Only if their parents insist, will I offer juice or similar. However, I always try to water it down.”

4) Enlist help from cabin crew

If your child is proving a real nightmare and is determined to crawl into the aisle and under other people’s seats, or is generally going out of control, try enlisting the help of a friendly member of cabin crew. Just the sight of an “authority figure” can, on its own, be enough to calm down a naughty child. Lorena says: “With naughty children, the crew can do lots.

If there are two kids, for example, I always ask the ‘big brother’ for help with the little one. I will ask their name and say ‘Tommy, you seem very grown up – will you help mummy and me to take care of little James, as naughty children aren’t allowed in the plane’. I can always offer a flight deck visit after the landing if they behave well, and they love that!”

5) Prepare for popping / sore ears when landing

If your child hasn’t flown before, their little ears might start hurting or ‘popping’ when the plane descends for landing, because of the changing pressure in the plane’s cabin. Once their ears have become accustomed to the change in pressure, the problem will diminish (i.e. they’ll be better on future flights).

It is a good idea to take boiled sweets for the child to suck as this can help alleviate the ear-popping effect, although it won’t stop it entirely. Babies can be given their dummy or a feed because the sucking effect helps with the problem.

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