Let’s be honest, young kids don’t have great capacity to entertain themselves quietly. They want to run, jump and shout and being denied these pleasures can quickly lead to a meltdown.
And in the confined space of an airplane, where passengers are expected to remain seated and quiet, it’s a parent’s job to enforce appropriate behaviour. If your kids have never flown before, or if they were little monsters on previous flights, here are some ways to make the next flight more manageable.
Travelling with young children affords you the luxury of boarding first. Grab this offer with both hands. Being first on the plane means you can settle everyone in without worrying about other passengers squeezing past or fighting for space in the hand-luggage bins.
Yes, your hand luggage grows exponentially when your fly with kids, even if you just pack essentials. Using a suitably sized backpack for your onboard items will leave your hands free to deal you’re your offspring.
When you do pack, make sure to add an extra set of clothes, loads of wet wipes, nappies and medication. You might also want to add an extra T-shirt for yourself, in case of an accident.
Tablet and other tech
It’s admirable to limit your child’s screen time – everyone knows it’s important – but even the staunchest supporter will throw a tablet at tantruming kid on a plane. It’s a special occasion after all, not an everyday occurrence, and other passengers will thank you for keeping the peace.
Load the tablet with shows and games your kids love and let them loose. Don’t forget to pack headphones (and get kids used to them if they aren’t already using them before the flight) – no one else wants to listen to Barney or Peppa Pig if they can help it.
Another way to occupy young children is to feed them. If you’re flying with a low cost carrier, you’ll be responsible for your own nourishment in any case, and even if your flight includes meals, your kids probably won’t enjoy the fare.
You can pack things like cheese wedges, grapes, a sandwich and juice bottle into a lunch box and keep juice boxes (if allowed by airport security) and small packets of chips and wine gums in your handbag. This also allows you to control the sugar and preservative content of your child’s food, not to mention avoiding the high prices of onboard catering.
Aside from shows and games on a tablet, pack other activities for your kids. A colouring book and crayons, a puzzle, playing cards, a stuffed animal, a reading book and a plastic toy can take their minds off the fact that they’re still sitting in a plane. For a little while at least.
One idea is to gather these things into a special bag that your child gets only once the plane is airborne. Don’t let them know what’s inside before hand – just tell them when you’ve added something to the bag so that any nerves at flying is turned into excitement and anticipation.
Another idea is to stagger the release of these items. Break up the flight into manageable time slots and make a show of handing over something new every 45 minutes (for example). Unless your child is highly reward motivated, don’t turn this into a ‘behave nicely and I’ll give you a prize’ game. Look at it instead as a way to relieve boredom and keep the peace.