Plan ahead and allow extra time
Be sensible when booking your flight. If possible pick a flight that matches up with your child’s sleeping schedule, it will help your chances of having a quiet flight.
If planning an itinerary with multiple connections, consider breaking up the trip with a night in a hotel. If you can’t avoid a trip with connections, make sure you allow more time to make those connections than you think you’re going to need.
Select your preferred seat ahead of time and organise a child’s meal if possible.
Prepare your child for the airport
If your child hasn’t flown before, talk to them and explain what’s going to happen on the day you travel. Explain that they will need to go through security and they may need to part with their favourite toy so it can go through security as well. Make sure they understand that they will need to stay close to you in the airport so they don’t get lost, and chat with them about your expectations for their behaviour. This might be as simple as reminding them to use an “inside voice” when on the plane and not kicking the seat of the person in front. It’s much better to have this discussion ahead of time than in the middle of a tantrum at 35 thousand feet.
It’s best to be prepared for any surprises that may come up, so make sure you have a bag packed with all the essentials. Spare clothes (for you and your child) are an absolute necessity as accidents can happen. Make sure you have a few comfort items for your child like a favourite cuddly toy or blanket and pack favourite snacks you know your child will eat. Try and avoid too much sugar if possible; the last thing you want is a hyper child on a plane. Baby wipes and hand sanitiser are your friend; they’re good for quick clean ups and will sanitise tray tables and arm rests in a flash.
Have a plan in place in case your child gets lost
Airports are busy places. Consider writing your name and phone number on your child’s hand in case they get lost. Dressing your child in a bright colour will also make them easy to spot in a crowd. If you’re travelling with more than one child make sure the adults among you know who is looking out for who.
Take advantage of pre-boarding
Stay close to your gate and listen out for the pre-boarding announcements for families and young children. The flight attendants will be able to help you get settled and you’ll have more time to organise your things before a crowd gathers. At the end of the flight it’s best to wait until everyone else has left the plane; this will allow you to take your time and find any stray toys that may go missing mid-flight.
Pack the right toys
Toys that have multiple pieces or small parts that can go missing are a nightmare when crammed into a small seat. Try games designed for travel, colouring books and toys that don’t make any noise.
Load up a tablet with kid friendly apps or movies and give your child a pair of headphones. This will give you some peace and quiet and your fellow passengers will thank you for it.
Stick to a routine
If possible, plan your days at your destination around your child’s existing schedule. Continue with afternoon naps if that’s what your child is used to and try and keep meal times regular. Do some research ahead of time to find restaurants that have child friendly meals, and plan out your itinerary each day to ensure you’re back near your accommodation for nap time.