10 Top tips for flying with children
For many travellers the holiday spirit kicks in as soon as we get to the airport – a stroll around duty free, a bite to eat, a glass of wine even. However, for many parents the whole airport experience fills then with utter dread.
The thought of juggling small children in the hustle and bustle of a busy airport and a long flight is a parent’s worst nightmare. If this sounds all too familiar, take a moment to read our top tips when flying with children - the tips are from a real mum with real experience of flying with toddlers and small children!
- First Flight of the Day
When booking your holiday consider opting for the first flight of the day – usually flying out about 6am. While you have to get up early to get to the airport by about 4am, the benefits outweigh the early morning. Here’s why:
- Your children will be fast asleep, and with a bit of luck you can load them into the car at the very last minute and drive to the airport. Chances are they won’t wake up, and if they do, the motion of the car will send them off to sleep again. And because they are young, you don’t have to worry about them still being in their PJs.
- Once at the airport, they'll still be sleepy so check-in is much easier – and even easier if you have checked in the day before – see the Pre-check in section below.
- You can even give them their milk while they are in their pushchair, or a breakfast snack.
- Once you’re in the Departure Lounge, find yourself a spot and get them changed – there are plenty of Mother & Baby change areas for you to use, which have washbasins for face washing and teeth brushing.
- Now you’re in the Departure Lounge, the children can let off a bit of steam and use up some energy.
- Small children, once you have boarded the plane, are about ready for a nap – perfect timing.
- The best thing about the first flight of the day is that there is very little chance of being delayed. Any planes in the wrong places have been brought back during the night, whereas daytime flights are far more prone to delays.
- Pre-Check In
If you live relatively close by to the airport you’re flying from consider the pre-flight check-in. This service enables just one person from your travelling party to check in all people and their cases the day before. You are handed your boarding cards so on the day of travel you are able to make your way directly through security, so no queues for check-in. If you live some distance from the airport, consider staying overnight in an airport hotel.
Most parents travel with snacks so don’t make your airport run any different. Pack the things you know they love. While there’s a good choice at UK airports, including Gatwick, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. Plus, the queues for food and a table in a restaurant can be lengthy, particularly at peak meal times.
By having plenty of snacks stashed in your hand luggage (take way more than you think you might need), you can keep little ones from getting too restless – we all know that a little snack does wonders to keep little ones quiet. Chances are you won’t be provided with an in-flight meal, unless you have specifically booked one. You can buy snacks onboard the airplane but the choice is limited and prices high, so consider packing a small packed lunch for your little ones.
- Toilet Stop
Before you board the plane make a last-minute dash for the loo. Once you’re on the plane you will not be able to take your child to the toilet until after the plane has taken off and the seat belt signs have been switched off.
- Painful Ear Popping
Take off and landing can cause painful ear popping, so pack a drink or give them something to eat to help your children keep swallowing to ease pressure in the ears. If you’re travelling with a baby, time their milk feed to coincide with these times. Providing the drinks are sealed, security will let your take these onto a plane, otherwise, baby’s milk will be tested at security.
- In-flight Entertainment
Few airplanes offer in-flight entertainment now so make sure your hand luggage is packed with things to keep them entertained.
- Pack sticker books, magazines, pens and paper, all great for use in the confines of a small aircraft seat. What’s more, they are cheap to buy, light, can be quite educational and fit easily into hand luggage.
- Another good idea when travelling with children is to wrap up some presents in your hand luggage - creating a little ‘aeroplane party bag’ – just like you’d expect to get at a children’s party. Fill a little bag with lots of fun bits and bobs. The kids will love it and again, a small notepad, a pencil inside will keep them amused for a good while.
- Don't forget iPods & MP3 Players too. Did you know you can load films on to your iPod? Load your children’s favourite DVDs onto your PC and then transfer them onto your iPod. Don’t forget to take headphones with you too. For smaller children, look into buying the headphones that have the frame that goes over the head, rather than the small ear pieces as they don’t fit!
- Travel Games
Everyone likes playing games and being seated on a plane offers a great opportunity to play one. Check out the wide range of travel games available, such as Guess Who? Snap, Happy families and Uno – all are ideal for playing in small spaces.
- First Aid Kit
When travelling with children, make sure you have a stack of nappies, wipes and even a change of clothes, but don’t forget to pack some medicines too – Calpol can help with painful ears.
If your child has a comforter, don’t forget to pack it in your hand luggage. If they get distressed on the plane their dummy or comforter will help calm them down. Also bear in mind, it can get chilly on a plane so it’s worth packing a small, soft blanket to help them to sleep. You can ask the cabin crew for blankets, but on most short-haul flights you will have to purchase them.
- Meet & Greet Airport Parking
Don’t forget, if you’re flying from Gatwick, book our meet and greet parking - the only way to park if you're travelling with a family because it is utterly stress free.
Drive straight up to the airport terminal, unload your children and luggage and make your way into check-in while we park your car for you.