Flying with kids: 33 expert tips

Flying with children

By Amanda Statham, Editor

Worried about taking a flight with your kids? How will you cope with the little monsters kicking and screaming at 36,000 feet? I’ve been flying with my twins since they were babies. Here are my 33 tips for parents with young children on how to ensure the journey goes smoothly.

At the time of booking

1. Budget for children under two paying 10% of the adult fare. Remember that they have to sit on your lap and do not usually have a food or baggage allowance.

2. Reserve seats so you can all sit together. If you are travelling with a baby, request bulkhead seats where sky cots can be fitted. Remember to obtain approval from the airline if you want to use your child’s car seat on the flight.

3. Pre-order children’s meals.

4. Check whether you can take your stroller to the boarding gate.

5. Find out what other special children’s facilities may be available, such as goodie bags, seat-back entertainment systems etc.

6. If possible, choose a daytime flight to minimize disturbance to sleeping routines.

7. Arrange a meet-and-greet service with an airport parking operator such as Purple Parking. You simply drop your car off at departures, someone parks it for you and then has it waiting at arrivals when you return.

Packing for the journey

8. Take all baby essentials in your hand luggage.

9. Pack a supply of healthy snacks.

10. Don’t forget to take sachets of infants’ paracetamol.

11. Pack trainer cups with non-spill lids for toddlers.

12. Have a few boiled sweets handy to help ears pop during the final descent.

13. Pack a familiar pillow or soft toy to comfort and help children sleep.

14. Help children to pack their own inflight backpack.

The day before flying

15. Try to keep things calm and normal.

16. Eat light, bland meals.

17. Choose loose-fitting clothes for the flight.

At the airport

18. Get there in plenty of time so you’re not stressed out or stuck at the back of a long check-in queue.

19. Fit reins on toddlers to give them freedom – safely.

20. Find out if there’s a children’s play area.

21. Before boarding, always check the floor where you’ve been sitting – a favourite teddy or toy is bound to have been dropped there.

22. Make use of priority boarding for families with young children.

During the flight

23. Feed your baby on take-off and landing to reduce discomfort caused by changes in cabin pressure.

24. Don’t be afraid to ask flight attendants for help, warming baby food etc.

25. Ensure your children drink little and often to ward off dehydration.

26. Don’t drug your child with medicines, such as Piriton, unless you’ve tried them before flying. Although they can help some children sleep, other side effects include irritability or short-lived deep sleep followed by hyperactivity.

27. Do try natural relaxants, such as lavender oil or camomile tea.

28. If the cabin’s dry air causes discomfort to your child’s nose, lips or sinuses, try getting them to breathe through a handkerchief soaked in water.

29. Don’t expect a toddler to be absorbed with one activity for the duration of the entire flight – bring lots of toys, books and snacks to distract and amuse them.

30. Take kids to the toilet well before the seatbelt signs come on for the final descent.

31. Respect the comfort of other passengers by dealing firmly with unacceptable behaviour (such as children kicking the seat in front), but be prepared for some people to give you the ‘raised eyebrow’ treatment merely at the sight of your little darlings.

32. Remember, the more you tell kids not to press the attendant call button the more they will do it.

Coping with jetlag

33. Trans-continental, overnight flights will leave your children flagging, but try to keep them going during your first day. Help their body clocks readjust by getting outside, doing some moderate exercise and drinking plenty of water. A few gentle hours in a local park is ideal. There’s nothing wrong with them grabbing a short nap, but try to get them to bed at the same time as they would back home. Then just pray that they sleep through.

Before you book

Travel guidelines and advice are still subject to change. Check the latest travel restrictions for UK residents.