Travelling long (or short) haul with kids this summer?

Yup, it’s that time of year again when we all go momentarily crazy and think putting small kids in a confined space is a good idea. No, I’m not referring to any sort of collective annual ‘lock your kid in a cupboard day’, rather, the summer holidays and aeroplane travel.

For most of us it’s probably a case of short term pain for the longer term gain of a few days in the sun with our families. I was going to write something sarcastic about how actually taking kids out of their comfort zone can be a nightmare rather than a dream but you know what? I changed my mind. Why? Well, mainly because we just got back from six months in Mexico with our small kids (3 and 5) and it was the best damned thing we’ve ever done.

Kids break the ice because they don’t realise there is ice to be broken. They restore joy and (generally) people can’t resist a little one. They express wonder at everything and will run around even the most inappropriate places having a wonderful time even if this makes their adults lives a tad more stressful (I’m specifically thinking of my kids in a Merida museum where there were long halls just made for running but mean guards kept stopping the kids having fun despite there being no one else there).

Over recent years there have been a number of articles about families on aeroplanes; from people leaving pre-apology notes to suggestions of kid-free areas, but I don’t understand either of these options. Why should kids apologise? They’re kids and they’re doing something out of their ordinary. They don’t know the rules yet and we should all give them a break. Of course parents should try and ensure their kids don’t annoy other people but that’s just a general rule for life, right?

That said, here is my tuppence worth of ideas of how to make flying as pleasurable as possible for everyone when you take small kids with you.

1. If you’re flying at night, change kids in to pjs in the airport. My kids think this is bloody brilliant. We took it a step further and let them choose new pjs specifically for the flight on our way home from Mexico. Superheroes, both, by the way.

2. Save buying expensive water in the airport by asking an air steward really nicely to fill up your water bottle as soon as you get on the plane. Usually they’re quite happy to do this and often just give you a bottle of mineral water. Some airports don’t have water fountains where you can fill up bottles.

3. Give your kids a rucksack of their own to carry. When they inevitably whinge about carrying it, strap it through the straps of your own rucksack and embrace the extra weight!

4. Best distraction we have ever found is Galt water colouring books. Basically a little water pen and reusable pages. You sweep the pen over the page to reveal a picture. Our kids used these books for months and never got bored.

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5. Embrace the ipad/tv screen. Face it, most of us just want to while away the hours watching tv, right? Why should the kids be any different? Just in case there is nothing suitable for your little one, download from netflix, bbc iplayer or equivalent prior to embarking. Also invest in good quality kid headphones. Nothing worse than loading up tv only to find that the headphones provided aren’t comfortable for your three year old.

6. Sleep: a well travelled mum set me straight on our last trip. She told me that if you and a child have two of a three of seats, put kid on outside and you in middle for sleeping. That way they don’t bother the extra person. Head on your lap and legs curled up on their seat (if they’re small enough, obviously).

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7. Bring spare clothes for everyone. This is a winner if luggage is lost and if a kid (inevitably) spills something on themselves/you.

8. Learn a simple magic trick, or just pretend to pull stuff out of your own ear. Kept my kids amused for hours even if I nearly died of boredom.

9. New books. Obviously. We took a few loved books and a few new on the plane. Kids were super excited by both options.

10. Kids seem to love the mini toothbrush/toothpaste sets on planes so let them use them. For some reason this is a real treat. If you’re on an airline that doesn’t provide such luxuries, why not invest in a plane toothbrush set?

What else? What amazing tips do other people have that they’d like to share as the holiday season approaches?

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