Flying with children can be extremely challenging. The obstacles parents face while traveling with kids run an entire spectrum, from changing a diaper in a tiny airplane bathroom, to being "that person" whose baby won't stop crying. And that's just on a regular flight. What about when you're flying for eight hours or more internationally? Some of us would consider that a downright nightmare, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of ways to prepare for a long-haul flight with kids, and things you can do on the plane to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Lauren Guilfoyle, a cabin crew member with Emirates, recently d her expert tips with Natipernavigare. Here are eight things to try when traveling with kids, according to a flight attendant who has seen it all.
Before the flight...
Plan your trip around their sleep schedule. Surviving a long flight with children starts when you're booking your tickets. When you're choosing which flight to take, try to find one as close as possible to your kids' bedtime. This should help them sleep through a large portion of the flight.
Pick the right seat. According to Guilfoyle, the best place for families to sit is just behind the bulkhead—AKA the wall of the plane separating different types of seating, like first class and coach. There, the window can be used as a headrest, and there's more leg room for parents. Also, if your seat has more leg room, Guilfoyle suggests throwing a blanket on the floor and creating a "play area" where your kids can spread out a little.
Plan an entertainment strategy. When it comes to packing toys to keep your children busy, more is more. If you don't have room to pack too many toys, you can also check with your airline beforehand to see if they offer any extras for children on board. For example, Emirates carries Fly With Me Animals, a line of small stuffed animals and blankets, and Lonely Planet Kids sets, with fold-out world maps, travel journals, plastic drink bottles, cards with world facts, and educational books, to help keep kids occupied throughout the flight. You should also research the airline's in-flight entertainment offerings beforehand. Emirates's entertainment center, ICE, has more than 4,000 channels, including 50 Disney channels, and 100+ video games, so you can be sure there's something for the kids to watch.
Don't forget the sweets. A bottle of milk might be a given, but did you now you should bring sweets for kids to suck on, too? Guilfoyle explains that both of these things help during take-off and descent, as children may have difficulty equalizing their ear pressure and feel uncomfortable.
During the flight...
Check in with the cabin crew. Connecting with the flight attendants on board will make your flight so much smoother. As soon as you get on board, chat with the cabin crew and let them know if you need anything, like bottle-warming services or any other special requests. The sooner you chat with them, the better. "When the Crew knows you’re traveling with a child, they will check in more often to make sure everyone is comfortable," Guilfoyle says. Don't forget to ask about special offerings for kids, like toys, travel kits, or even a kids menu. Some airlines, like Emirates, offer a range of meal options for babies and children.
Mix up the activities. No matter your child's age, you should try to find ways to break up activities during the flight. "Don’t depend solely on games or videos—pack a small puzzle, coloring book, or interactive toy in addition to devices or in-flight entertainment systems, and use time between shows or movies to try something different," Guilfoyle says.
Take walks. When your child is awake, take brief strolls up and down the aisle of the plane. "This will help them stretch and break up the time between activities in their seats, and help prevent a restless-child meltdown," Guilfoyle explains.
Keep a new toy on-hand. This tip is especially important for parents flying with small children. Guilfoyle suggests keeping one new toy aside to give to your child mid-flight to ensure they don't get bored with the ones they already have. "This will provide a fun, distracting surprise, and will keep them occupied longer than one of their old toys," she explains.
Above all else, just remember is that the cabin crew is there to help you—and they want to! "I love having children on-board," Guilfoyle says, adding, "When I have downtime, I check in on the parents. Sometimes they need a helping hand or a short break. I’ll help occupy their children while they get a little rest in!"
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