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Travelling with children can be a stressful business at the best of times, but flying can add a whole new dimension to the experience! Travelling the world solo is a breeze compared to catching a night flight with a grumpy three year old, but here are a few tips I have found really useful that will ease the cabin pressure.

  • It may sound obvious, but allow plenty of time to get to the airport. Not only will you still make your flight if there traffic delays, but getting to the front of the check-in queue is a really good idea. Sometimes there aren’t that many check-in desks open, and the queue can be a long and tedious one for children so they can be bored and grumpy before you even get airside; there is also have more chance of getting the seats you want if you haven’t reserved them online.
  • Ensure that your name and address are also pinned inside your hold luggage, just in case your external luggage tags get ripped off. 
  • Pack your lovely new sparkly holiday bag in the suitcase, and take a daysack as your hand luggage instead. You can then organize all your clobber into the individual pockets so you can find things easily, but it also leaves your hands free for dealing with the kids. It will be invaluable on day trips and most importantly, husbands and significant others are more likely to carry a rucksack around an airport with good grace than a new twinkly Accessorize number.
  • A Trunki suitcase might seem like a delightful and charming idea, but the KTC Rule of Travel #124 says that the further away the departure gate, the less likely your child is going to want to drag their own bag, or indeed ride on it. Chances are you will end up carrying your own baggage, your child and the damn Trunki. 
  • Dress your child in bright colours so that you can track them down more easily if they do wander off in the airport shops.
  • Ask for seats near the exit so you can get them off in an emergency quickly, and go for aisle seats so the kids can get up and stretch/go to the loo without having to climb over strangers.
  • If motion sickness is a problem, go for seats near the wing.
  • Don’t be in too much of a hurry to join the queue to board the plane. Let your little darlings run free as long as possible before getting on, as once you are in your seats there will be nothing to keep them occupied and you won’t be able to use electronic  equipment until the flight is well underway.
  • Try and acclimatize to your new time zone as soon as you get on the plane. Dehydration exacerbates the symptoms of jetlag so make sure everyone drinks plenty of fluid.
  • I have been on a number of short-haul flights where there have been no sandwiches and a very limited range of snacks available, so pack plenty of mess-free snacks. Crackers, raisins and grapes work well, and apples are an excellent choice as they take some concentration to eat and should keep a child occupied for a few precious minutes.  You will be able to get sandwiches etc. at the airport after you have checked in. Buy a couple of big bottles of water airside (you won’t be able to take liquids through security unless they are in a baby’s drink bottle, and then staff will probably make you drink some).
  • Don’t take chocolate! I speak with some authority and the harsh voice of experience on this topic, haven given a hot 2 year old a four finger Kit Kat at 33,000 feet and then not been able to find the babywipes. A living nightmare.
  • I always make sure we have a few lollipops with us; they last longer than sweets and by their very nature the child has to remain quiet to consume them and will hopefully give you a few moments of peace. They are brilliant for take-off and landing as the sucking action seems to help childrens’ ears equalize (otherwise give your child a drink, bottle or a dummy if they have one).
  • Get organized before you get on the plane. I pack two bags, one to go under the seat in front containing one of everything  we will need onboard, then back-up supplies in the bag in the overhead locker, along with a spare change of clothing. This will solve the problem of your son wanting a book/sweet/having a runny nose when your bag is in a locker fifteen feet away when the Keep Your Seatbelt Fastened sign is on.
  • Also essential are extra nappies, wipes, and a little blanket and pillow if you can fit one in. Many airlines don’t give out blankets any more, but kids often like to snuggle down with a blanket for a bit of quiet time. 
  • Ask the cabin crew to warm bottles or food before you need it, as they might be busy with other tasks when your little one decides it is time to be hungry and that now is the time to let the whole plane know about it.
  • If you or your children need medication, make sure it is securely packed in your hand luggage, just in case your hold baggage is lost. Also make sure you pack a clean pair of knickers for the whole family for the same reason.
  • Take some camomilla homeopathic remedy, a great way of calming down grumpy, fractious children (also excellent for teething babies). A couple of calpol sachets are also a good idea.
  • Little gift-wrapped pocket money toys are a fantastic way to keep children occupied (leave one end unstuck just in case security staff want to check the contents). It might seem like a pain in the neck the night before you travel when you have to wrap ten little parcels instead of having a calming gin and tonic, but you will reap the rewards when each little surprise gives you ten minutes of peace onboard (so you can have a gin and tonic!). Sticker books, little Lego kits, a new comic and cheap jigsaw puzzles have been the most successful, but don’t spend too much money on any one item as invariably an important piece will end up on the floor three rows away underneath a disapproving elderly couple from Cobham.
  • Got an i-pod? Fill it with videos and games they have never seen before so the novelty will keep them occupied. A portable DVD player is also a great idea as inflight entertainment isn’t always up to much, and little children might not be tall enough to see the ceiling monitors on short-haul flights. If you’ve got more than one child, invest in a pair of dual earphones so they can both watch a family favourite together. Don’t forget the AC adaptor and a few extra DVDs, so that if you need some hotel room chill-out time, the kids can watch something decent rather than a local TV programme about ice-sculpture in the Urals.
  • If they are old enough,  a packet of coloured pipe cleaners can be used for all sorts of games such as Guess What I Have Made?, Darling Where Did you Just Stick That?, and that old family favourite, Has Anybody Got a Plaster?
  • Ziplock bags are a must on the plane as well, for dirty or wet clothes, snacks, rubbish and broken toy components.

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