At the start of the last school holidays I blogged about how to have a successful school holiday break. I mentioned that flying with children deserved its own blog post and here it is now. If you are flying internationally or domestically with your children this school holiday I have some ideas to make things go smoothly. With the school holidays less than two weeks away I suspect anyone planning on getting away is thinking about getting ready. This will be a two part blog. Today part one and next week part two.
In this area I have a bit of personal experience to back-up my psychological knowledge. For 10 years I lived in the Midwest of the United States. In other words a long, long way from New Zealand. Along with my husband and two children we made a lot of international and domestic flights to visit family and friends in New Zealand and within the USA. My husband’s brother lived at different times in Singapore and France and we were lucky enough to visit him too. I’ve experienced delays, rerouted flights involving overnight stops in unexpected places, a baby with ear problems, grumpy and fabulous flight attendants, and I still think flying with children is at worst bearable and at best great fun and entertainment.
To begin with it’s important to be realistic about what the experience of flying with children might be like. In the good old days you might have jumped aboard a plane, magazine or book in hand, enjoyed a quiet cup of tea or coffee/wine and then watched a few movies you had missed out on. Flying with children, more likely, means you board the plane with a bag full of baby/children’s gear, grab as much water as you can and watch bits and pieces of movies in between interruptions from children. Having said that I have some great memories of flying with my children. In our busy worlds having one to one time with our children without other distractions can feel like a real treat.
The key is preparation. As you plan your trip, involve your children as much as possible. This can be as simple as talking about the plans. Depending on the age of your children getting them involved in making some choices and researching activities is a great idea. Talk to your children in advance about what might be expected of them as they travel. Some things just can’t be avoided such as security checks, waits to board planes and customs and immigration procedures. Children cope best if they know in advance what might happen and are given the opportunity to ask questions.
If you are travelling domestically, having small snacks available with you is a great idea. A container of carrot or celery sticks, sliced fruit or easy peel mandarins make snacks that travel well and are easy to eat. Babies and small children who experience ear pain on take off and landing may find that sucking on a bottle or sippy cup can relieve the pain. You may want to board the plane equipped with these in your carry on bag. If you are travelling internationally you may not bring liquids through security screening but you can purchase them once you are through security and flight attendants can provide water on board.
If you are travelling internationally check out what food will be acceptable to bring into the destination country. Generally processed and packaged foods are OK and this might be the time to pop a few muesli bars and packets of crackers into your carry on for emergency snacks. Airlines will often provide particular meals for young children and babies if requested. It’s good to have some kind of back up though just in case the airline doesn’t load your requested food or your child doesn’t like the food offered.
More on this topic next week.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.