A FAMILY holiday abroad can be lovely, but usually you have to fly to get there and this can be stressful for parents.
Nearly a quarter of parents with children aged under five say they feel ‘too scared’ to take their children on a flight; the majority of these (77%) had a previous bad experience. Nearly half (45%) feared criticism from other passengers; 16% were frightened of being told off by airline staff; and for 31% it was too stressful to entertain the children.
Debi Green, who runs babygoes2, a website about travelling with children, says she can “completely understand” the trepidation many parents feel about travelling on planes with their children.
“We know, however, from 17 years of arranging family holidays, that it’s definitely possible to minimise the potential stress, and relax and enjoy the whole process of travelling with little ones in tow,” she says. “Preparation and distraction are key.”
Get to the airport early to avoid queues and to be allocated bassinets, if necessary, and take the pushchair up to the gate. Breastfeed babies, or give them drinks, on take-off and landing to minimise earache.
Have a ‘bag within a bag’ for in-flight entertainment — fill a series of little bags with simple toys, games and treats.
“These will keep babies, and small children, amused for hours,” she says.
Older children can be encouraged to pack their own travel bag with books, games, devices, a colouring book and crayons, she says, and they could start a holiday journal as soon as they get to the airport.
As for children being scared of flying, Debi says: “In our experience, children are rarely scared of flying and, on the contrary, find it an exciting adventure.”
Mother-of-two Becky Wiggins writes a parenting blog and has been working with Gatwick Airport to offer passengers advicein combating the stress of travelling with children.
Firstly, she says, leave plenty of time to get to the airport... then add an hour.
“Airports are great places to explore, and an extra hour at the airport is preferable to a meltdown in a traffic jam, worrying about missing your flight.”
She says that while most airlines board children first, it’s not always best to be first: an extra few minutes of freedom, before being cooped up on a plane journey, can be a bonus.
Becky suggests distributing essentials between bags, in case the bag that contains all the important baby or children’s items goes missing, and she says that when travelling with younger children it’s a good idea to pack an emergency bag containing wet wipes, tissues, a change of clothes and a sealable plastic bag in which to dispose of ‘accidents’.
Like Debi, she also suggests packing children’s rucksacks with things that will keep them entertained, including crayons, colouring books, and a favourite book or toy.
“Check if they want to help” with packing, she says, “although my son once packed scissors and a toy gun.
“Save a couple of surprises to be whipped out when things are getting stressful, and go with the flow — treat the journey as an adventure.
“If you don’t get stressed, then the kids won’t pick up on it,” Becky says.
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