Excited about hitting the beach with your little ones but dreading the flight? You are not alone, says blogger Kelly Eroglu. The 41-year-old mother-of-two has worked as cabin crew for a major airline for more than 20 years and has experienced every type of child-related sky drama.
Whether you’re travelling for the first time with a newborn or controlling your rabble has simply become unbearable, Kelly has some tips for you. Here’s her (almost) foolproof guide to flying with kids.
Chilled parents, chilled kids
“I’ve seen so many people on planes stressed to the nines. It’s the start of the holiday and you’re stuck in a metal tube with the kids, you can’t do anything with them and then for the whole holiday you’re dreading the flight back. If you’re a chilled parent, though, the kids can read you, and they’re so much better behaved.
“Other travellers can be a nightmare if your kids start acting up. I always say to passengers with children as soon as they get on: if your child screams or cries or has a major paddy, you are never going to see these people again, so do not worry.”
“I had some passengers coming back from LA to London last week who had nothing for the kids – no nappies, no baby milk, nothing. Luckily we carry spare nappies and had a sachet of baby milk, but I honestly think people believe we have a warehouse at the back of the plane! We don’t. Stock up on anything you think you will need.
No one likes airline food
“Many parents have this illusion that if they have fussy eaters on the ground, as soon as they get into the air, the children are going to eat everything. Obviously that’s not the case – and if you have kids who are super-excited, who can see their parents are stressed and who are hungry, they play up even more.
“Preparation is key: preorder the children’s meal and also take your own meals and snacks. I recommend Dairylea Lunchables – they are easy to throw in your bag and allow children to build their own meal, making it time-consuming. I also advise making snacks like sausage rolls, which keep well on a longer journey. Crew members will heat up baby bottles for you in a jug of hot water if you ask.”
Befriend cabin crew
“It’s great if parents come and tell us they are nervous, because we then know to reassure them. Often, if there are extra crew members, we can sit with them during take-off and landing to offer an extra pair of hands.
“If you’re a parent travelling alone with your baby and you want to go to the toilet, please ask your crew member if they will hold the baby for you. Ask for help – a lot of people are more willing to do these things than you would imagine.
“If your child is distressed, I tell parents to come into the galley with the baby or advise them to take a walk around the plane. It’s really difficult when fellow passengers complain because I can see both sides, but I do say to passengers who complain that there’s literally nothing we can do. Cabin crew will move complainers if possible.
Have tactics to combat boredom
“When you’re with kids you need to plan entertainment. Firstly, always ask for a window seat as it’s an amazing distraction for children to be able to look out.
“Come prepared with colouring books, pencils, crayons and craft packs. If you’ve got a long journey, pack iPads and tablets. Always make sure you’ve got a USB cable. A lot of aircraft now have ports so you can keep charging.
“Get the kids to draw a picture of the pilot and ask the crew if they can hand it to them at the end of the flight. It’s good for them to have a goal.
“In-flight entertainment is great for kids but if you’ve forgotten to pack child-size headphones, don’t worry. Rolling up a pair of socks and placing them between the head and the headphone band keeps them in place.”
Don’t let time zones catch you out
“I think it’s great to let kids run around before the flight to tire them out so they sleep on the plane but keep time zones in consideration!
“I really messed up once on a trip to Hong Kong when I took my children to Disneyworld. They slept on the flight but at 2am were wide awake and bouncing off the walls. As I was really paranoid about disturbing other guests I took them out to the only two places that were open – a 24-hour supermarket and a 24-hour McDonald’s. The next day at the theme park they were totally exhausted and falling asleep like zombies.
“You see parents doing air punches when their child has slept for the whole flight but I always think, oh my goodness you have no idea what’s coming in the next couple of days.”
Prepare for landing
“When the plane is coming into land air pressure changes, it can play havoc with children’s tiny ear canals and is really painful for them. I would advise parents to see if they can hold off on a baby’s bottle until they start the descent. When the baby is sucking it can help to relieve the pressure. For toddlers and older children sucking on sweets or lollypops helps. I always used to tell my children to ‘be a fish’ and make popping motions with their mouths to relieve the pressure.”
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