Posted on June 23, 2011

Guest Post – Kids on Planes

Guest post/ travelling with kids

The lovely Jacq from Mymumdom is here today to share with us her experience of flying with kids – she first posted this on her blog back in April but has updated it slightly for us to feature here! Thanks hon x

Kids On Planes

If there is a phrase more likely to bring parents out in a cold sweat, I’d like to hear it.

We’ve flown different distances, with varying numbers of children, over the years and our mantra pre boarding has always been ‘How bad can it be?’ Our in-flight mantra is often a little different.

As I originate from NZ, we’ve flown from LHR to AKL a few times now. It takes at least 21 hours depending on  your stopover. Don’t fly through LA unless you have no choice. This airport must be the world’s least welcoming transit lounge and there is absolutely nothing for kids ( or adults) to do while you wait. Changi, in Singapore, on the other hand is brilliant and gets a big thumbs up from the Mumdom.

We’ve had some horrific times on these ultra-longhaul flights.

Once, when the two older DD’s were  1 and 3, I flew home by myself with them. DH joined us later. We were in a the financial position to fly business class and the looks on my fellow traveller’s faces as we turned left is something I will dine on for the rest of my life.  Fantastic! But that was as good as it got. The rest of the flight was pretty bad.

One problem was, the seats didn’t lie right back. They went flat enough so the girls could get to sleep, but the slight incline meant that as they slept, they slowly slid down the slope and finally ended up on the floor. Then they cried, waking me and their sister up so I  had to spend the next half hour hushing both of them back to sleep.

When they were awake, they were too young to be interested in the personal TVs and all they wanted to do was climb out of their seats and run around. I’ve never been a fan of letting kids walk up and down the aisle in planes; there is not really enough room, turbulence is always a possibility and it’s annoying for other passengers. I had to work very hard to keep them both sitting down.

But DD1 had recently been toilet trained and soon realised that a call of nature was a cast iron excuse for being allowed out of her seat. One of the advantages of not being in cattle class is the stewards will sit with your other child(ren) if you have to leave them, so I didn’t have to squeeze 3 human beings into a  toilet cubicle.

After a few trips back and forth, she actually managed to produce something, meaning I had to flush the toilet and that’s when things went wrong.

DD1 went ballistic at the scary noise and started screaming and screaming, she wouldn’t stop.  I got her out of the loo but she wouldn’t move from the aisle and at that point DD2, back in her seat, started crying too. Heads were turning and eyes were rolling by now.
DD2 seemed genuinely distressed, while DD1 was having a tantrum, so the steward went and stood gamely by a furious DD1 while I tried to calm her younger sister down.  While DD2 quietened down with a cuddle, DD1 seemed to be  getting louder, then I heard the steward call my name.  My eldest had the unfortunate tendency to disrobe in the throes of a tantrum, so I looked around to see a butt-naked 3-year-old slip under the curtain between business and 1st class and heard her screams travel forward as she moved to the front of the plane.

She was soon returned by a grim-faced stewardess but I gather she’d managed to give most of the first class passengers quite a fright before they caught her.

A fractious baby may cry for a large percentage of the flight but mostly they sleep and feed. Older kids are usually thrilled to have their own personal TV and if they also have their DS or PSP, then it’s likely you’ll not hear from them until the plane lands.

Preschoolers, on the other hand, will probably need a little extra amusement, so board the plane prepared. Pack snacks, small toys, puzzles, colouring and sticker books,  load up your iThing with toddler friendly apps and bring out something new every half hour or so. Have a couple of changes of clothes to hand, twice as many nappies/ pants as you think you’ll need and some wet wipes. Cabin Crew definitely prefer clean, badly behaved children to the other sort.

Just make sure your bag containing these essential things doesn’t end up in the hold by mistake.

And just because your kids are older, it doesn’t mean your flight will be trouble-free. It’s not a bad idea to have a change of clothing for everyone in the cabin as things get spilt and tummies can get upset at 33,000ft.  There are often queues for toilets, so children should be encouraged to go to the loo regularly, as if they leave it until the last minute, it may be too late.

We’ve learned many other lessons from our previous flights: check there is on board entertainment and catering before you board a plane with nothing but toiletries in your bag, antihistamines cause some children to become hyperactive rather than drowsy ( do a trial run first), take plenty of batteries for any hand held devices you might want to use and children don’t necessarily sleep just because it’s a night flight. We now prefer to fly during the day and stop over for the night times, so we can get some sleep in a proper bed.

Since writing this we have survived a holiday to Sri Lanka/ the Maldives and back, and can confirm air travel with children is like a fine wine. It improves with age.

But I would like add a warning about the cartons of juice that they hand out at 33 000ft. They expand due to the pressurized cabin, and take on the appearance of small, fluid filled balloons. The children will think this is amazing, but if the drink is sat on, they will go POP, and create the appearance of you having lost control of your bladder at some point during the flight.

Which brings me back to the point about ensuring you have a change of clothes for EVERYONE…

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