I'm a freelance writer living on the Sunshine Coast.
Published August 29th 2015
Planning Ahead Makes All the Difference
There's no doubt a plane trip is exciting for young kids, but when things start to go wrong, it can also be a nightmare for parents. As a family of five, we often travel interstate to visit family and friends. Planning and preparation is key. Knowing how to avoid potential triggers for each family member is a must. The following guide outlines my top ten things to do before you board a plane with kids.
1. Exercise. Whether your flight is a short or long one you want your kids to be able to sit for the duration of the flight. To this end give them ample opportunities to exercise during the day. Alternatively if you are travelling at night, walk them round the airport lounge a few times. My kids will also play chasings and other physical games while waiting to board a flight.
2. Toilet time. Ten to twenty minutes before your expected departure time, make sure all your kids have been to the toilet (even if they say they don't have to go). This will give you one less thing to worry about when you board the plane.
3. Pre-plan seating arrangements. Arrange it so that your whole family are sitting in the same row if possible. If two kids are prone to fighting then don't let them sit together. Let the most well behaved kid have the window seat. Make sure an adult sits in the aisle seat so that there are no accidents with trolleys etc.
Low sugar snacks are the best option.
4. Take a food and drink bag. Often kids become hungry during a flight so you will need to keep snacks in a carry bag. If you child gets blocked ears, you will also need to carry water bottles etc. to help them swallow during the ascent and descent. You can also ask the hostess for water or ice if need be.
5. Prepare an activity bag. Young kids want to be entertained while they are awake. So bring a bunch of gaming devices fully charged plus whatever else your kids are into (reading, drawing etc). Remember to switch your gaming devices to aeroplane mode before boarding the plane.
6. Dress your kids in comfortable clothing. If your kids are sensitive, make sure they are wearing items that are soft and loose. As altitude increases , the temperature becomes cooler. So even if it is summer, make sure they have two layers (top and hoodie/cardigan or singlet) so they don't complain about being cold.
Fully charged gaming devices, books and toys will keep the kids entertained.
7. Carry the minimum luggage possible. If you only have carry-on luggage, then take the absolute minimum for each person as carrying luggage and helping young kids down the exit stairs can be tricky. Backpacks are good for this purpose.
8. Put some bright ribbon around the handles of your luggage (or other form of differentiation) so that you can easily identify your luggage in the overhead compartments. This saves time if you need to find something quickly.
9. Feed your kids at least one to two hours before boarding. If your kids get hungry early on in the flight they will likely feast on all the snacks in your bag. Carbohydrates (bread, chips, crackers) will make them sleepy. Sweet foods (lollies, biscuits)will energise them so it's best to avoid these altogether. The only drink they should be drinking before and during the flight is water. Avoid soft drinks and juices. The plane cabin air is dehydrating enough.
10. Talk to your kids about your impending journey, the plane trip and your expectations of their behaviour a few days before you leave as well as the day/night before. Get them involved in the planning and preparation of the trip so that they can learn these skills in their daily lives which will help them become more organised at school. Ask some of your kids to write their own list of things they want to bring on the trip. Remember that the success of the flight is a team effort and everyone has their role to play. All the strategising in the world will not be enough to foresee some of the circumstances you will encounter, but at least you know that you did your best.