Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week he explains how to take the stress out of flying with children.
It’s the middle of July and cabin crew say that means only one thing: it’s Trunki-time when planes fill with over-excited children, over-stressed parents and lots of shiny plastic suitcases.
Play it wrong and parents risk messy meltdowns before their aircraft even takes off. Here’s how to play it right.
It’s the middle of July and cabin crew say that means only one thing: it’s Trunki-time when planes fill with over-excited children
Don’t risk tears at check-in trying to find reference numbers on phones. Print full details of flights, transfers, car rental and accommodation at least 48 hours before you fly.
Then check everything, because bag-drop is not a good place to discover the bargain fare you found in January was actually a hand-baggage-only deal. Or that your kids’ brand-new hand-luggage exceeds the airline’s limits.
TOP TIP: Streamline the airport experience at Birmingham, Manchester or Gatwick. If you’re on some early flights with easyJet, Thomas Cook, TUI or Virgin, you can check in bags at night and go straight to security in the morning.
Children follow the same rules as adults at airport security so toothpaste and liquids have to be under 100ml
Children follow the same rules as adults so toothpaste and liquids have to be under 100ml and fit in the clear plastic bags provided. If you’re travelling with a baby, you can normally take as much baby food, milk and breast milk as you need for the journey.
Put it in clear containers, not flasks, and be ready for checks after the X-ray machine. If you’re flying from Heathrow, consider using ‘Reserve & Collect’ on the airport’s website to get baby supplies after security.
TOP TIP: Put empty water bottles in hand luggage and refill them after security. Stansted has just added four new refill points in departures and all of its restaurants fill bottles for free as well.
Psychologists say young, nervous flyers like to feel in control of their situation and that toy planes they can pretend to fly may help
Find some seats, then take turns to explore and burn off energy. Glasgow has a kids’ fitness zone and East Midlands has soft-play areas.
Consider splashing out on extra snacks, treats and surprises for the flight. Families who travel a lot say flying is the one time they break normal rules on sweets and screen time.
TOP TIP: Psychologists say young, nervous flyers like to feel in control of their situation and that toy planes they can pretend to fly may help. Buy one in the airport to make the day feel special, not scary.
Neil suggests boarding the plane early so you can settle before the crowds arrive
Board early so you can settle before the crowds arrive. Check there are sick bags in each seat pocket and ask crew for spares if not.
Be ready with distractions if your children don’t like seat belts and have sweets at take-off and landing to avoid blocked ears.
TOP TIP: Cabin crew say one toddler is sick on almost every long flight, which is why children need top-to-toe changes of clothes and parents need spare T-shirts. It’s why wet-wipes and plastic bags for smelly clothes are ‘must-carry’ items.
Don’t forget you have to do it all again on the way home, and if you don’t like British airports, wait till you’re delayed in Europe or the US.
Some overseas departure lounges have little more than a vending machine and bar, so buy snacks the day before, charge up your tablets – and hope the kids are exhausted.