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Children waiting in airport

Family holidays are memorable, exciting and a perfect way to spend time together. However, travelling with young children always seems to come with a warning sign, especially when getting to your destination involves a lengthy airplane ride—we have all been on those seven hour flights with a non-stop screaming infant, or the 12 hour ride when the kid behind you never stops kicking your seat. But do not let these bad memories ruin your chances of taking your kids to faraway destinations, here are some travel tips for keeping your children quiet and pleasant, even on a long-haul flight.

Teach them the wonder of flying

At one time, flying was once wondrous and there was an element of luxury in getting from place to place in an airplane. For many adults nowadays this marvellousness and extravagance is replaced with anxiety and dread, however for kids, flying is still an incredible spectacle. Especially for the children who have never been in an airplane before, the entire concept of flying in the air is new for them, so they will be quite excited about going up in the sky. Keep your kids feeling astonished and in awe by pointing out the tiny houses, and the clouds surrounding the plane. Doing so will keep them feeling excited, curious and in very good moods.

Fly when they sleep

Most kids are able to fall asleep almost anywhere, and this is especially true once they are worn out after all the excitement of getting onto the plane. Considering booking overnight flights, where there is a better chance of your kids falling asleep. Flying at night will also help your children’s sleeping cycles keep intact so you do not arrive at your destination ready to hit the beach, only to be stuck with grumpy, tired children who need a nap. Booking an overnight flight is also a plus for parents, who get a chance to catch some shut eye themselves, or at least enjoy some quiet time.

Pre-order the kids’ meals

For most long haul flights, which is typically a journey of more than eight hours, a meal will be served. While the free aspect is great, that is about the end to any good news involving airplane foods. While airplane food definitely has improved in recent years, good luck serving that to your average five-year-old. Since children are notorious for being picky-eaters, definitely look into pre-ordering your children’s meals when you book the flight. This is important because they usually only bring as many meals as ordered, so extra kids meals are rare. The kid options normally include macaroni and cheese, ravioli with tomato sauce, and chicken fingers—unfortunately, these dishes often sound better than what the adults are offered.

Take advantage of early boarding

We know the wait for the plane can be a hectic one—trying to keep an eye on all your luggage, making sure you have the boarding passes, and checking to see your kids have not run off, is enough to keep your hands full. However, if possible, try your best to listen to the intercom for these magic words, ‘we now invite passengers with small children to begin boarding at this time’. While not all airlines offer family boarding, it cannot hurt to listen for it. Having a few extra minutes to get your kids settled as they fight over the window seat will be worth the extra time spent in close quarters. Trying to seat your children in the midst of the wave of passengers looking to get by you to find their row is close to impossible and can add unnecessary stress—definitely not the way you want to kick of a long flight. Another tip is to book your seats when you make your reservation. Even if you have to pay for your seat reservation, it is worth knowing you will all be sitting together.

A bit of junk food is OK

Yes, we said—junk food is okay. Well, at least on a long-haul flight. Remind yourself that you and your family are on holiday, so if there is a time for extra treats now would be it. Pack a few extra goodies you only allow your children to have on rare occasion, along with their usual healthy snacks. Just try to avoid any treats that’s could turn messy like chocolate or anything with enormous amounts of sugar, since this is definitely not the time for your kid to be bouncing off the walls. Another plus, the chewing makes the air pressure changes easier on their ears.

Gadgets good, ear buds bad

The rule about junk food also goes for gadgets and electronics. Now is not the best time to adhere to the ‘no more than 30 minutes of television a day’ rule, because the in-flight entertainment system will turn out to be your best friend. With a variety of kid-friendly movies and TV shows, as the excitement of being in the air dies down and your children are getting restless, let them pick out a movie or two and they will soon be calm and relaxed. While most flights nowadays have personal televisions in front of each seat, the last thing you want is to run the risk that one of your kid’s screens does not work, and your left with an upset child. Be prepared by loading a smartphone or electronic device with kid-friendly apps your children have never tried before, they will be excited about having a new game to play. It is also wise to buy proper headphones that will fit on your kids’ heads, airline headsets, especially the annoying ear buds, are not built for little ears and are very uncomfortable.

The element of surprise

Along with packing snacks and games and other meltdown prevent essentials, also throw in a few surprises. A long flight can go by very slowly if your children are bored with their treats and electronics in the first hour. It is useful to buy a few little surprises to reveal every so often that could keep them occupied. Think about noise-free goodies like stickers, new crayons, colouring books, or puzzles. Another tip, while sharing is caring, sometimes it is not so easy for young children so rather than hoping to instil a life lesson in your six year-old, buy two or three of each, one for each of your kids to enjoy.

Take care of the essentials

It is very important to stock up on snacks and treats for your children, however sometimes that may not be enough. Many children have a special blanket or stuffed toy that they sleep with or like to carry around. If this is the case for your kid, while bringing along their favourite companion may seem like a good idea, try not to pack it on the carry on. Rather, either buy a second or see if they could snuggle with a different teddy bear just for the flight, and pack the real deal in their suitcase so they have it on holiday. As important as these blankets and bears seem to your child, we all know kids can be very forgetful and it is not hard to lose a cherished companion in transit. Between the snacks, gadgets and everything else in your carry-on, it is easy to forget about their favourite blanket until after you have left the plane and remember it folded under the seat.

Travelling as a family is an exciting adventure for everyone, but in order to keep things running smoothly, not only use our tips for an easy, long flight, but make sure you purchase travel insurance for the whole gang so you can enjoy your holiday with the peace of mind that you are all protected.

Image courtesy of Flickr user liz west; cropped from original