Travelling with Small Children: Tackling the Airport and the Plane

Enduring long flight delays and dull flights can be a nightmare as an adult, let alone as a kid.  Initially, the shiny floors of the airport, the promise of a holiday and the idea of flying above the clouds tint the whole experience in a mystical glow.  But lets be honest, you all had to wake up before 6, the trip to the airport alone felt like enough of an adventure and your kids are bored of the echoey expense of airport after ten minutes.  Food and drinks are insanely expensive and you already spent more than you can afford on the holiday and the exorbitant airport parking.  Your children are restless, or worse still playing up big time because they are tired, hungry and overwhelmed by the vastness of it all.  That made sound like a daunting combination, but with some careful planning and preparation, you can actually make the journey fun too.  I know its taken every last modicum of strength to book the holiday, get time off work, pack everything and make every last arrangement and thats why most parents forget to plan this bit.  Believe me, it really is worth doing.  

Arrive Early
Turning up in the nick of time and just checking in  before the flight desk closes is a luxury that only the childless possess. Yes, arriving early means a lot of waiting around, but there will be so much to distract your children at the airport and youll need to allow for the inopportune moments when they just have to use the toilet.  Itll be well worth your while to get in there early and allow for your kids lack of sense of urgency.  

If there is more than one adult in the party, or any older children then make sure you split tasks and responsibilities before you go.  This will make everything seem less daunting and will help things run smoothly.  

Buggy or no buggy?
Taking a buggy on a flight means more baggage which means more to carry when you get there and could mean extra baggage costs.  However, a buggy is a useful way to zip your child through the airport and can be useful once youre abroad as a place for the child to take a nap or allow you to walk further than they are capable of.  Several luggage companies nowadays make kids travel cases on wheels in fun designs that the child can sit on while being pulled along.  These are great as they double up as storage.  They are also a great size for hand luggage and so can be used right up til boarding and be used to keep all the kids bits together.

Variety is the spice of life
Pack as many small interesting activities as you can to keep your child amused on the flight and in the airport. A number of small gifts that they can unwrap and discover can be great.  Keeping things back until necessary is a good way to break the boredom factor.  Pack new things that will peak their interest and old things that will bring comfort.  Think colouring books, puzzles and things that will take up some time, but nothing with too tiny pieces as the last thing you want to do is be searching under the seats for a lost sequin.  

Meet and Greet
This is a service offered by most airlines.  Especially useful for single parents with multiple offspring. Someone will meet you when you arrive at the airport and help you with your baggage.

Hand luggage restrictions
Remember that youre not permitted to take over 100ml of a particular item, this includes nappy cream, drinks and food.  Before you go decant creams into smaller containers.  Small quantities of baby food are usually allowed on as long as you dont go overboard and its best to make up powdered milk on flight rather than attempt to take a full bottle.  Thinking this through will prevent a lot of unnecessary stress at security.

Make sure that your child has something to suck on as the plane takes off to avoid discomfort in the ear passages.  Babies can be fed or at least suckle during take off, toddlers can be given a drink or lollipop.

Most of all enjoy it. Make the holiday start at the airport. Create a list of things the children have to look out for at the airport and on the plane and give a price to them when they see everything.  Encourage them to work together.  Play games such as eye spy and consider taking some travel versions of family classics with you such as snakes and ladders or frustration for older kids.

If it all feels like its starting to unravel, just keep the end destination in mind and any airport tantrums will certainly be worth it.  

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