In September 2012, two parents travelling with their twin baby boys handed out packets of sweets to each and every passenger on a cross country flight to apologise in advance for the inevitable onslaught of in-flight bawling. Their considerate behaviour went viral, probably because everyone can relate to the singular horror of a screeching child in a confined space. There is a special something about the combination of over-oxygenated cabin air and holiday excitement that can transform the most sweet-natured little darling into a screaming, whining, kicking terror.
For the sake of your own sanity, and that of fellow travelers, it’s always good to be prepared for a little turbulence before boarding with these top tips for jetting off with children.
Leave boredom grounded
Whether you have booked your flights to Tenerife or to Timbuktu, any confined holiday trip abroad can feel like a long haul if kids get antsy. Reigning over the hierarchy of entertainment options will always be a tablet pre-loaded with favourite movies and games, followed closely by a smartphone. If this is your strategy to keep little faces mesmerized, don't forget to bring at least one set of headphones for each person in your party, and the crucial headphone splitter if sharing. During take-off and landing, deploy colouring-in books and puzzles or a distracting game everyone in the family can play.
Home comforts help
A favourite teddy bear, blanket or comforter can take the edge off for a first-time flier, so don’t forget to pack something familiar to soothe their anxiety. For younger children, a storybook will help them relax, and if you’re flying close to naptime or bedtime, so much the better if you can lull them to sleep. Soothing music can also help blur out the sounds of an engine during take-off, and if you do have a baby in tow, try to time their feed with take-off or landing; the sucking will ease painful ear pressure. For toddlers and older, lollipops can help with this too.
Flying is hungry work, so pack your carry-on with some surprise snacks. While freshly washed grapes and carrot sticks are good for everyday scenarios, it’s okay to break the rules on holiday, so pull out all the stops. If there’s a food which is usually restricted, this is going to give you serious behavior bargaining power. Mini chocolate bars, bags of popcorn with which to make an occasion of the in-flight movie and gummy bears are the desperate measures you’ll need to make it to touchdown un-frazzled.
Keep these quick tricks in mind and if all else fails, there’s no harm in handing out sweets to keep passengers happy.
Nicole Foley is a frequent transatlantic traveler, showing her two toddlers to best of both worlds (NY and London). She runs a marketing business and enjoys gin.
Image by Aero Icaruse, used under the Creative Commons license.