My family and I are off to Portugal next week and aside from counting down our sleeps we’re all getting ready for the plane ride and then settling in to our self-contained villa. This may all seem like quite a charming image where we stroll happily arm in arm out of the airport and onwards to our idyllic destination however, it wasn’t always like that.
The first time we went abroad with the kids it was an absolute nightmare and from sickness and tears to boredom and sleep deprivation, whatever could have gone wrong certainly didn’t hold back.
But after experiencing looking after kids who were under 3-years-old on journeys to Australia and to America I feel slightly more knowledgeable and confident that we can handle the 2 hour flight to Europe without too much bother.
Without meaning to show-off I feel pretty assured that the things to do below will no doubt keep your young ‘uns happy and entertained no matter what distance you’re travelling and let it be said, forewarned is forearmed so take heed brave traveller and read on before you depart.
As every good parent knows, snacks are essential for alleviating tantrums and bribing children to be good for at least a few more moments. Even though customs are getting ever stricter in what they allow on a plane it is still possible to take on-board most food stuffs that are considered to be child-friendly. Try to avoid things that will get too messy i.e. yoghurts, cakes and jam-sandwiches and if you can bring as many fruits and vegetables as possible you’ll be doing your best to counteract any undue sugar rushes and, the inevitable, melt-down crashes.
These days i-pads, lap-tops and mobiles have pretty much got it sussed for the savvy parent and by downloading some of your kid’s favourites you can rest assured that you won’t hear a peep out of them until touch-down. In the event of non-internet connections or, worse still, a flat battery, make sure you’re equipped with a good selection of books and sticker albums. You can get some great kids’ magazines too and CBeebies do a brilliant edition which is packed-full of games and things to do as well as comic strips containing familiar characters.
Getting everyone comfortable prior to take off or at least during the flight has to be one of your utmost important priorities and if you can smuggle on pyjamas, duvets and pillows then you’re almost home and dry. Kids love familiarity and recognising smells gives them a feeling of security so they can more readily relax and rest. Don’t rely on airplane staff to help you, although they will usually supply blankets and pillows; make sure you’re responsible for building your own special nest. Also, get some rest while you can too. If your kids are asleep then use the time to eat or sleep yourself because there won’t be much of a chance when they’re awake!
Having everything to hand is essential for a successful and stress-free trip. If you have a bag with lots of pockets then empty it out and pack according to how long you’re going to be travelling for and what you’re youngest are going to need en-route. Nappies, creams, snacks, milk, games and sleep attire should all be close to the surface of your bag’s pockets and if they’re old enough to carry their own stuff then all the better. You may be left looking for something in confined conditions or even in the dark so make sure you pack accordingly and don’t just think that ferreting around will be as easy as it is at home.
Don’t sweat it
Don’t worry if things don’t go exactly according to plan and try not to sweat it if it feels like the entire cabin crew and passengers are staring at you with open-mouths. You’re doing your best under exceptional circumstances and you should be applauded for trying to do what’s right for you and your family – yeah, you go super parent! I can guarantee that if you’re getting dirty looks from other passengers then they’re not worth worrying about and if, in your heart of hearts, you know that you’ve done everything you can to have a safe and relatively happy trip then good on you because, as we all know, flying with kids deserves a medal but it can be done!
No matter where you choose to go: the beaches of Croatia, the Great Wall of China or your USA holidays, the chances are that flying will be the quickest and easiest method of transport. It may be tempting to stay local and feel that you’re being more than brave by boarding the ferry to the Isle of Wight but think again, you can do this. Put a pin in a map or just go to somewhere that you’ve always wanted to because life’s too short to be scared and the sooner you take the plunge into the great unknown then the sooner you’ll come out the other side covered in rice milk and smelling of talcum powder – more power to you!