How to do air travel with kids (and no stress)
Many parents dread the thought of flying with young children. But it doesn’t need to send shivers down your spine. With a bit of planning and preparation, everyone can enjoy a stress-free flight.
A change of scenery, whether in your own country or abroad, can provide some well-deserved R&R for the whole family.
But when it comes to planning a trip with children in tow, many parents are hesitant to fly. The thought of changing nappies in a tiny bathroom, non-stop screaming, or their little ones irritating other passengers by kicking the back of their seats is too much to bear.
It’s not worth it, right? That’s not necessarily true…
We’ve put together ten top tips for flying with kids, to help you avoid the tuts and sighs (and the chaos of popping ears upon landing) and leave you feeling ready to kick off your holiday fun.
Tip: Don’t forget, Norwegian offers a range of flexible ticket options, so if your little one gets sick and you need to change your flights, you can quickly and easily make changes to your booking – for free!
Wondering where to take the kids? Check out our exciting European travel destinations here.
1. Pack smart!
When packing for a plane trip with kids, you need to think smart and practical.
Kids that are past the baby stage can carry their own hand luggage. Many travel stores sell mini suitcases on wheels, so your little ones can hop on and scoot themselves to the boarding gate.
Make sure you pack a book or two, toys, their favourite stuffed animal and a few surprises for the journey. Bring things that can be used to make the time pass more quickly like games you can play together or a colouring book.
Downloading a few films on a laptop, phone or tablet is also a great idea. They will entertain restless kids for hours on end.
When it comes to babies, we recommend packing everything you’ll need during the flight in your hand luggage so it can be accessed easily. For example, nappies, wet wipes, a comfort toy, a dummy, a small blanket, and a saline nasal spray should all be close at hand. Bags with lots of different compartments are ideal.
An emergency change of clothes is also a good idea. Even children that have been potty trained for a while can have accidents. With a spare set of clothes, you won’t have to worry if the seat belt light is on for longer than usual.
Also, don’t forget to make sure you have everything you need. The last thing you want is to remember to pack your toddler’s third favourite Lego figure but not your own passport!
2. Try to follow the usual evening and bedtime routines
This is especially important if the flight is more than a few hours. Children tend to behave better and be more relaxed if you don’t make too many changes to their normal routine.
This is particularly true when it comes to bedtime. If it’s a night flight, bring pyjamas for your child to change into, and take them to the toilet to get washed and brush their teeth, as you would at home.
If your child is used to a bedtime story, bring their favourite book in your hand luggage to read on board. The familiarity will help them wind down.
3. Create space and comfort
Planes are cramped, so we recommend doing everything possible to create some extra space for your little ones. Once the seat belt sign is off, raise the armrest between your seats, to make the space feel bigger.
Roomy clothes and a blanket are a good idea for long-haul flights. Tight clothes are uncomfortable, and let’s face it – if your child is uncomfortable, you will be too!
4. Keep calm and carry on
If you’re stressed, your kids will get stressed. So try and resist the urge to panic if your child starts screaming and won’t stop. Wait until it blows over and remember that the majority of your fellow passengers will be sympathetic to your situation. After all, we were all crying babies once!
5. Bring plastic bags
There’s always waste when travelling, so it’s a good idea to bring a few plastic bags, (such as Ziploc bags) in your hand luggage, especially when travelling with small children. Putting all your waste in a bag will make it easier for the cabin crew to clean up.
6. Go for a walk
When travelling by plane, it’s important to ensure children move around every so often. Sitting still for long periods of time is unhealthy and will lead to boredom.
Walk up and down the aisle with your child, but don’t let them wander off alone, out of consideration for passengers who may be sleeping.
7. Choose the right seat
There’s an art to choosing your seats when it comes to flying with kids:
Firstly, make sure you’re not assigned a seat over the emergency exits as children are not allowed to sit there.
If you have a baby, some bulkhead seats can accommodate Moses baskets – if unsure, ask a member of staff.
If you do choose a bulkhead seat, bear in mind you won’t have a seat in front to place your bag under, so you’ll have to remove your bag from the overhead compartment whenever you need something.
Another good option when flying with children is to choose seats at the back of the plane, which are conveniently located in front of the toilets and galley.
It’s not a good idea to have small children in aisle seats, as the trolleys can bump into them. Give them a window seat instead.
It’s worth knowing that airlines require at least one adult per row with children due to oxygen mask use.
8. Bring distractions
Bored children are difficult children. So, if you’re travelling with young kids, you might want to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Super blogger and mother of two Joanna Goddard (‘A Cup of Jo’) has a few great tips:
Take a large handbag or backpack
Fill it with everything you know you’ll need, and think you might need. We’re talking wet wipes, nappies, snacks (flights are not the best time to be strict about treats), small toys, crayons, a notebook, and a surprise.
Bring a new book
Most children love to be read to. A new book is a wonderful gift and can keep your child engaged for a long time. For older kids, activity books will make the time fly by.
If your child is older still, bring a heavy-duty puzzle book. This will hold their interest and keep their minds active when the flight starts to become tedious.
Bring finger food
Raisins, dry cereal, cut-up fruit … the sky’s the limit!
Tablets are small and packable. They’re ideal to watch a new film on, or a favourite for the 100th time! If they get bored of films, there are plenty of apps and games they can access.
9. Play games
Here are a few games to keep the magic of flying alive:
- If you’re allowed to board before other passengers, ask if your child can visit the cockpit.
- If the skies are clear, ask them to point out houses, rivers, lakes, and more on the ground.
- Play ‘Kim’s Game’ by having your child study six objects on the tray in front of them. Ask them to close their eyes while you remove an object. See if they can work out which object has been removed. Then it’s your turn to guess.
- When the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign is switched off, give your child a few extra pillows to sit on for added height. This will give them a better view of the plane and everyone on board.
- Have a look at the map in the airline magazine and show your children the route you are flying.
10. Essential items to pack in your carry-on bag:
- Eye mask
- Chewing gum or chewy sweets (for un-popping ears)
- Wet wipes (for spills, sticky fingers, and everything else)
- Antibacterial gel
- Audiobook or music
- Small bottles of moisturiser and face mist (skin dries out easily on planes)
- Snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, and water
- Tablet or smartphone
- Stickers and crayons
- Pen (to fill out entry forms, do crosswords, etc.)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste for night-time flights