How to Survive (and Enjoy) Long Plane Trips with Kids

The thought of lengthy plane trips with kids is unpleasant to most. For many parents, the simple prospect of being trapped in an impossibly small seat while a squirmy baby or hyperactive toddler screams from ear pain is enough to cause us to break out in a sweat. And although we can’t completely prevent onboard meltdowns, there are some tricks help make flying with kids less, ahem, turbulent…


Remember: Flying is fun
For most of us, flying has become a necessary evil endured solely to carry us from point A to point B. But to a child, flying holds a world of wonders. Make flying fun for your child by allowing them to pack their own carry-on bag and roll it through the airport. Book a window seat and let them watch as the plane ascends through the clouds, then point out the tiny trees and houses below.


Help ease ear pain
Air pressure can trigger ear pain, which can cause crying, especially during takeoff and landing. Parents can mitigate ear pain by encouraging older kids to chew gum or suck on lollypops and younger kids to breastfeed, suck on a pacifier, or drink from a bottle. Keep in mind, however, that many airlines do not have the ability to heat baby bottles, though you can request hot water or ice to keep a bottle hot or pumped breast milk cold.


Come armed with entertainment
Limiting screen time is important, but consider relaxing that rule during plane travel. Pack an iPad or tablet loaded with children’s movies, songs, and games and make sure you have headphones that will fit small heads (the headphones provided in-flight will likely be too big). Pack coloring books and crayons, favourite books, and stickers, or play games like tic-tac-toe and I spy. Your child’s attention span may be short, so have an arsenal of games and toys on hand.


Bribe them
At the end of the day, it’s up to parents to let their child know what’s expected of them on the flight. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t resort to some good old-fashioned bribing. Buy a few inexpensive toys and give them to your child periodically throughout the flight as a reward for good behaviour.


Plan your flight around their sleep schedule
If possible, schedule flights at times when your child normally sleeps. Most airlines offer bassinets for babies free of charge, though rules and regulations vary. If your child will be sleeping on the flight, let them travel in their pajamas, and pack a travel pillow. Remember that flights are usually too hot or too cold, so plan accordingly.


Let them eat junk food
A little bit of junk food can go a long way towards keeping your child happy mid-air, but remember to avoid messy treats like chocolate, and definitely avoid high-sugar foods to curb hyperactivity. If food will be served on the flight, request a children’s meal when you book your ticket. Make sure you pre-order, though, otherwise it won’t be available during your flight.


Let them blow off steam
If you have a layover, allow your child to burn off energy in the airport terminal. Some airports even have play areas for kids, so do your research beforehand. Onboard, walk up and down the aisle with your child every hour. This activity will help you avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and give your child a chance to burn off some pent-up energy.


Remember why you fly
Flying with children may be a challenge, but when all else fails, remember why you’re flying in the first place. Whether it’s to visit family or take your tot to foreign lands, the benefits of travelling with a child far outweigh the hassles.


Preparing for a trip with your family? Don’t forget your travel insurance.

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