With the school holidays now upon us many families will be excitedly awaiting a summer jaunt to distant shores, seeking a relaxing break from work, school and the daily grind. Alongside dreams of white sands and exotic cocktails, many parents will also be anticipating a potentially problematic aspect of family holidaymaking; air travel with young children.
Queuing, restricted seating, sleep deprivation and unfamiliar surroundings can test the patience of even the most mature of mummies, add to that the short temperament of a toddler and it is not surprising that travel related tantrums are a common occurrence.
Although flying with young families can certainly be a daunting prospect, the key to a stress free sojourn is all in the preparation. Senior British Airways cabin crew member and father-of-two, Justin Cox advises, "After my 12 years as BA cabin crew I have found that flying can be made more comfortable and even fun for kids by following a few simple pointers." Incorporating this invaluable expert advice, read on for Juniors definitive guide to hassle free family travel.
Check regulations and restrictions If you are planning to bring your own car seat for the flight, make sure it fits the airline's criteria as this can vary – likewise with any pushchairs or buggies you plan to bring on as hand luggage. If you fly regularly with your family, think about investing in a light, compact travel pushchair, a godsend for tired little legs in a large airport.
Create a familiar enviroment The unfamiliar surroundings of an airport or plane can be confusing and upsetting to young children. Before your child’s first flight, set up airline-style seating at home on your sofa, with a pillow between you as the armrest. Explain to your child what it will be like on board the plane and drum up her enthusiasm for the adventure ahead. It is also a good idea to bring along a few home comforts to help your child to relax and sleep easily on the flight, perhaps a cherished comfort blanket or favourite teddy.
Stimulate their imagination Flying can be a fascinating and magical experience for a young child, particularly if they are made to feel like a VIP passenger. It is usually possible for children to pay a visit to the flight deck after landing, providing an excellent distraction while you wait to disembark. BA senior first officer and mother-of-two, Carley Lear confirms, “Many pilots, including myself, fell in love with flying at a very young age so we are usually pleased to share our enthusiasm with kids who want to learn more. Children of all ages are very welcome to come to the flight deck to meet the pilots.”
If all else fails, create a distraction If tempers are beginning to fray and you can sense an imminent eruption then it is time to bring out your bag of tricks. Have a secret supply of sweets and games on hand for emergency situations, make use of the in flight entertainment system or bring an iPod pre-loaded with favourite songs. Many airlines, including BA, offer entertainment packs on longhaul flights as well as a child- friendly menu for choosy young palates.
See more top tips for flying with children