Flying with Children

Posted by:

12/03/14 10:45

Sitting in Departures the other day at Gate 207 in Dublin airport and the call goes out inviting parents traveling with children to come forward for boarding.

Our fellow travellers, some in suits grumble while they wait and fret, wonder if they will end up sitting near the parents pride and joy. Taking your child on a flight has many challenges; one among them is the requirement to develop a thick skin for the dirty looks from other passengers. Assuming that the other 168 passengers on your next flight are not all single, childless world travelers without children of their own their impatience is somewhat unfair. Ignore rude people, especially those whose job it is to help. Only you can know the right way to handle your child.

Sitting in Departures the other day at Gate 207 in Dublin airport and the call goes out inviting parents traveling with children to come forward for boarding. Our fellow travellers, some in suits grumble while they wait and fret, wonder if they will end up sitting near the parents pride and joy. Taking your child on a flight has many challenges; one among them is the requirement to develop a thick skin for the dirty looks from other passengers. Assuming that the other 168 passengers on your next flight are not all single, childless world travelers without children of their own their impatience is somewhat unfair. Ignore rude people, especially those whose job it is to help. Only you can know the right way to handle your child.

There are however a number of ways you can make travel with babies and toddlers easier on you and your partner. By the time you actually get to your destination you will have endured the trip to the airport, the security check, the boarding process and the child seatbelt (the ultimate form of torture), cabin pressure on your child’s ears and the potential of delays and lost luggage. Did someone say travel was glamorous?

Travel with children is all down to planning and preparation. If your child is going to sit on your lap then you need to practice having them sit on your lap for up to 10 minutes with a belt on you and a belt on them…make this a game at home and associate it with fun and at a time when you and your child are relaxed. Introducing them to the lap belt for the first time on the actual aircraft will result in a tantrum from even the calmest child. Most cabin crew are experienced with this tricky negotiation and should help.

Small babies and younger toddles will also experience the change in cabin pressure on their ears and will cry. Strangely enough this crying is the cure! Don’t worry, if your baby is asleep during take-off or landing you don’t have to wake them to protect their ears. Check with your Doctor before flying with a child with an ear infection or blocked nose. It’s a myth that babies are lulled to sleep by the plane’s engine noise. Try to stick as much as possible to your baby’s ‘go to sleep’ routine.

Bring lots of distractions; don’t assume that the airline will provide them. At least 10 things the child has not seen before for a long haul flight, as boredom thresholds are short when your child cannot move about easily. Another tip for a long haul flight is to sit separately from your partner and then share minding your child; the disadvantage is the swap over process! Some parents love to sit in the very back. They like being close to the galley and toilets and figured their children’s noise is less likely to disturb others. Added plus, you can often stand up in the back without disturbing others when the seatbelt sign is off.

The galley is not always located in the back, although the toilets usually are. If you are not traveling with a partner then your skills at befriending for seat partner will get a test.

On most airlines the requirement is that one adult cannot be responsible for more than two infants. Where one adult is travelling with two infants at least one of the infants must be over 6 months old. The infant over 6 months must travel in a car seat provided by the adult, as only one infant is permitted to sit on an adults lap. Car Seats used must have a sticker advising “Approved for Aircraft Use”.

On long haul flights feeding babies and younger toddlers can be a challenge, the temptation of sweets and fizzy drinks are everywhere and again only you know how you child reacts to a sugar buzz. Always test the temperature of food heated in the aircraft galley before you give it to your child.  If is often way too hot! Take your own baby food, bowl and utensils for an infant. Some airlines do have tins of baby food on board – but most likely not what your baby likes best! Disposable bibs are a great idea for infant mealtimes on board an airplane. Ask for bottles and meals to be warmed well in advance of when you need them. Cabin crew don’t have a microwave and have to heat using hot water in the galley. This takes time.

Make flying an adventure, if the child is old enough then picture books of aircraft or a “How planes Fly” book will help them understand the experience. Children are rarely anxious flyers, most of the time they get their anxiety from you. Don’t expect to have a break until you land – you are the entertainment…

Please don’t be tempted to place children on the floor. Don’t even place them on the floor with the logic that you would pick them up if it gets rough. Turbulence can hit quickly without warning. If your children fall asleep in their seats, put the seatbelt around them so it can be seen. If you all are sleeping (we can always hope) and the seatbelt sign goes on, the Cabin Crew will come down the aisle to check. If they can clearly see that everyone’s strapped in, they wont have to wake you up.

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About the Author:

Michael Comyn is a coach, trainer and lecturer with international experience of over 28 years of informing, entertaining and energising individuals and groups.