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Fuss-free flying with children

The lowdown on the family-friendliness of airlines


Posted: 1 August 2012
by Catherine O'Dolan

Someone once said that happiness is the journey, not the destination. Ok, so perhaps that wise sage wasn’t necessarily making his journey with a screaming baby whose ears are popping from altitude changes or a restless toddler who doesn’t want to be strapped into his seat, but a little philosophical pragmatism can go a long way when flying with young children. Think yourself into a positive can-do frame of mind, get organized as much as possible – forewarned is forearmed and all that – and your holiday really can get off to a flying start.

Take that pragmatic approach, however, and there are measures you can take to give yourself the best chance of a pleasurable flight. Find out what facilities – priority boarding, buggy storage – are likely to be available when making your booking. Reserve a bassinet (and bulkhead seats) if you have a baby and make sure you confirm before boarding, and book children’s meals to avoid the wrath of a toddler who spies a fellow tiny traveller tucking into mini Pringles and jelly while he’s subjected to a dreary salad and chicken fricassée.

If you’re travelling on a low-cost airline, it will certainly be very much a no-frills approach, and probably ditto on a packed schedule flight during the peak season (ie, school holidays). On any flight, it’s a good idea to pack your own snacks, drinks (buy them once you’ve been through security – if you have a baby bottle, you’ll be asked to take a sip) and a selection of your child’s favourite toys and games as diversions and to alleviate boredom. Airlines may have a supply of nappies, formula milk and baby food on board, but it’s best not to chance it and pack your bags as you normally would for any long day out.

On long-haul flights, most airlines provide on-board goody bags with a mix of comics, games, sunglasses and toys, which usually go down well, as well as family movies and children’s channels on the in-flight entertainment. Consider buying a seat for a child under two rather than have her on your lap for the duration. If you can afford to upgrade to business, it can be well worth it: you’ll get more space and quicker attention from the air stewards – all of which equates to everyone feeling more calm and relaxed.

And if the worst happens? Remember that the majority of airline staff are keen to keep everyone happy and will hopefully step in to assist you if your child is having an almighty paddy. And if that doesn’t help, try a little calming visualization and think of the glorious time you’re going to have when you get to your final destination.


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