So, when you were single and waiting to check-in at the airport for a long haul flight, and you noticed a family with a baby or young kids in front of you, did you prepare yourself for a painful flight? You knew at some point you’d be using your headphones to try to block out the sounds of screaming children, and you would hope that your seat would be far away from any child. Well, guess what? Now you’re a mother now, and it’s your turn to try to keep your children and a whole plane full of adults happy.  How on earth are you going to manage that?

Flights with a baby or young child may be at least mildly unpleasant for someone, but that person doesn’t necessarily need to be you. Your mission is purely to get your family through to the end of the flight intact. You can try to reduce the collateral damage, but your sanity is more important, so try to stop worrying about what other people will think. Here are some tips and strategies for flying with small children.


Doing What’s Best For Your Family

How often do you actually fly together as a family? Rarely, I suspect. So, because it’s a special occasion, do what it takes to make the trip easier for you, fun for your kids, and a more tolerable experience for everyone on board – even if this means changing routines, indulging a bit, and breaking rules that are otherwise set in stone.

If booking a flight past bedtime actually guarantees a quiet night for you – your child is so tired they sleep through most of the night – do it. If the meals come at odd times for your kids and they’re pronounced ‘yucky’ (think about finding out from the airline what they will be before you fly), have a big bag of your kid’s favourite snacks to hand and allow them to eat whatever and whenever they want – so long as you know they’re not going to get hyper or throw up!

Hide behind a pashmina or move to a window seat to breastfeed your baby whenever they’re hungry – ask to sit beside a woman if you think that will help avoid the stares. On take-off and landing, give your child something age-appropriate to suck on – regardless of whether you normally use a pacifier, a bottle, or allow lollipops – as this will unblock little ears and prevent certain people from shouting the house down.

Keeping your Kids Entertained On a Flight

Let’s face it, flying is exciting for kids, and then you have to deal with eventual boredom that will set in. Packing an activity bag is all well and good, but you’d be surprised at how few of the toys or games will be played with. It’s a better idea to put a few ‘new’ items aside to whip out at difficult moments. The airline may provide a ‘kid’s pack’ too. Stickers, bubble wrap, and toy catalogues are good, cheap, non-bulky distractions for toddlers; older babies will be perfectly happy with one new toy that doesn’t make noise! And this is definitively one occasion when you should let children watch as much TV as they want. If your airline doesn’t have individual screens, bring a tablet or a portable DVD player. Anything to get through the flight without tears!

Rules and Regulations

There are fairly strict rules about your child should be seated during a flight, and individual airlines have their own rules regarding the use of car seats, harnesses and bassinets, and about how you can deal with strollers or prams. It’s vital you check these details before you book a flight to ensure you end up with the most practical situation for you. Budget airlines will, of course, have the fewest options and their onboard luggage restrictions are certainly not going to help you either!

Things to Remember to Pack for the Flight

Don’t forget to pack a change of clothes for you and your child, regardless of the time of your flight: despite all your luggage, you’re unlikely to have a bottle of detergent and a washing machine to hand when that spill inevitably takes place!And since the air conditioning in airplanes can be quite high, throw in a baby bonnet and a lightweight blanket that smells of home to help everyone get snuggly when it’s time to go to sleep.