We’ve now done quite a lot of flights with small folk in tow. A fair few short haul cheapo city breaks on budget airlines, one long haul trip and a couple of mid length flights with holiday companies.
There are some things that have definitely made things trickier and some that have made things easier. These are the conclusions we’ve come to:
1. Hand Luggage
Giving young kids or toddlers any kind of wheeled luggage is an extra hassle. We’ve tried a Trunki and a small wheeled case. On both occasions they fought over them, wheeled them into people/objects, opened and unpacked them at inopportune moments and within about 30mins the novelty wore off and we ended up carrying the child and their heavy luggage as well as our own hand luggage.
So this time we gave each child a small backpack of a few of their own things, a change of clothes and a hoody. That was it. Drinks, snacks and anything important were kept in my bag so that the items in their bags were all ‘loosable’. Much much better and waaaay less hassle.
Are better off checked in. You can pad around them with extra items like blankets, coats and shoes to take a bit of weight out of your luggage and it reduces the likelihood of them getting scratched and damaged.
Pushchairs in the airport are just a nuisance. You have to fold them up and empty them to go through security and again to get on the plane so you feel like you’re forever opening and closing them. Often there are stairs down to gates or just generally when travelling through the airport. As a result you end up in long ques for lifts. Ugh 😑.
My children never seem to want to sit in them anyway, preferring to get out and explore so then I have a child and a pushchair to manage. For me slings work way better at keeping babies and toddlers securely fastened to you and out of trouble. Even if they decide to scream about being in there at first. They soon get over it, they have a better view of proceedings up there and a wrap can double up as a blanket or scarf as well. Bonus.
I have found that water, crackers, crisps, sandwiches and a little fruit make the best snacks. Absolutely zero sugar. In the past I’ve used little packet of sweets, chocolate or biscuits as ‘bribes’ . Shocking I know but in the short term it worked. The thing I really notice, especially when in a confined space, is that my kids get a very fast sugar high causing them to behave like nutters and then when it wears off and their blood sugar plummets they become all tearful, needy and badly behaved. In contrast, slow release carbs keep them on a nice even keel and the water is enough to keep them hydrated but not so tasty that we spend the entire flight going back and forth to the loos. Maybe it’s just my off spring that decide they’re desperate for the toilet as soon as the seatbelt sign goes on for landing though. Even those kids that usually refuse to drink water will drink it if they’re genuinely thirsty.
My favourites are Water Magic Books and Scratch Art Books. Neither creates a mess and both can be done anywhere. Normal colouring pencils always seem to fall all over the floor or the lead snaps or the ‘perfect colour’ is missing. Pens get all over the place on clothes, faces, seats etc so in my book, less is more. I bought a couple of those Crayola magic colouring packs this year. One child had a Shopkins one and the other Peppa Pig. They caused a disagreement because each pack comes with different colour pens. One child wanted a colour that was in the other child’s pack but she was using it and didn’t want to share. Que toddler meltdown. I reminded myself to stick to the water magic books for the flight home.
I try to save the really big guns of any electronic devices for after they’ve exhausted everything else rather than give them everything at once however, when they were really little and couldn’t really colour then a bit of CBeebies or AniMatch would help us to avoid walking laps of the plane with a crawling/toddling baby. At least for a while anyway.
Big bulky headphones can be uncomfy on little ones and keep falling off but these Cozy Phones are great because they soo comfy that little one can lie down wearing them.
After a few disasters I always head to the flight expecting that the small people won’t sleep. That way if they do it’s a bonus. We made the mistake once of assuming that if we booked a late evening flight that our then 18months old would sleep for the whole flight. Errrrrr no. Bright lights plus lots of announcements and bing bongs resulted in a very awake but over tired and grumpy child. She fell asleep the instant lights went out for landing 🙄.
I’ve found filling them up with carbs and rocking them in a sling are the answers for getting little ones off to sleep. The sling is also invaluable for getting a sleeping child off a plane when you are also carrying your own hand luggage and theirs. When you have a child you really should also grow a storage pouch or an extra arm. I find a Connecta which folds away nicely in a hand bag or a wrap with can double up as a blanket or scarf are must have items, even now that my children are getting bigger.
Planes always seem to be chilly so I always take extra layers and socks for me and the children. Leggings, long sleeved t-shirts and hoodies are my go to options for keeping them warm and comfortable.
I know this is obvious but you really can’t over estimate how much extra time you need when the unpredictability of a small child is thrown in the mix. Always allow way more time than you need. Traffic, forgotten items, toilet/nappy/clothes change stops and feeding /eating makes everything take soooooooo much longer. Having to rush makes everyone stressed and anxious.
Take a few coins for the trollies. Quite few times we’ve needed a two euro coin or something similar and found that we only have notes with us.
7. General child management.
Divide and conquer!! One of you take the kids for last minute wees/nappy change or to find a seat while the other gets in the que or orders food for everyone. It definitely speeds things up and works much better than trying to do everything together.
Don’t take any beloved comforters on the plane. So many teddies get left behind in airport shops and toilets. Stick them in checked luggage or a hand luggage case belonging to Mum or Dad that you don’t really intend to open during the flight.