For years I had my daily schlep within the baby and children’s product industry, advising parents on various topics and the such, and one of the things I would hear every single time a customer needed help with their holiday purchases would be ‘Oh god what do I do on the plane?’. I mean let’s be fair, the thought of being in a small space and pretty much shackled to your toddler with no escape for anything between 2 and 14 hours in pretty horrifying. At least at home you can move about right?
Despite that, plane journeys are not that scary when it comes to having your toddlers or even young children with you. There are so many things on a plane that can entertain a child, and so many things you can do to ward off the old temper tantrum, and you know what, even if they are hellish, you can’t do anything about it, you’re 35,000ft in the air so you just have to plough through and so does everyone else. I remember being so nervous breastfeeding Edith on a plane because I was sat next to an older gentleman, and when he realised what I was doing he saw me look embarrassed and hastened to tell me he had 3 daughters and a wife, that babies need to be fed and just to imagine he wasn’t there. It was such a relief. We also had similar with the boys, whilst I was busy feeling stressed and thinking that they were disturbing the whole plane, we were told afterwards that they were amazing. It’s just a case of trying to relax a little bit more and accept that they might not be perfect but you are doing the best you can.
With that in mind, I have put together a few suggestions for how to entertain the kids on a plane.
Here are my 10 top tips for flying with children:
- Take the electronic device – what are you, a martyr? Geez, dude, if they use an electronic device TAKE IT. Unless you intend to spend however many hours without looking at a book/social media/playing games on your own electronic device, then don’t assume they should. Just take it. Forget what people think. If your kid’s aren’t used to it then that’s a different matter but honestly, if they use a tablet or hand held gaming device like a Nintendo DS at home, TAKE IT. Also take headphones because no one wants to listen to angry birds. If you don’t have a device then don’t dismiss the inflight entertainment systems. Gone are the days of one or two films on repeat, now you have brilliant entertainment systems for adults and kids.
- Pre-download everything – you can now pay for wifi on planes but if you think that you are going to be streaming anything like youtube or you are going to be able to download new apps then you are WRONGGGG. It’s not fast enough to stream, or download so do it before you set off.
- Sticker books – are great for any age, although I wouldn’t take colouring books for toddlers unless you know they will stick to the book. Too often have I heard a mama shout on the plane ‘No don’t draw on that!!’ be safe and go for sticker books if you aren’t sure… the stickers will peel off the back of the seat. We often take Melissa & Doug reusable sticker pads – they are ingenious. We have used them on planes before and I can’t sing their praises enough, the only downside is that they are big.
- The old unwrap a gift trick – take blind bags, small toys like schleich animals or mini toy cars, and wrap them in gift wrap for the kids to unwrap at intervals on the journey (this is especially fun if you have a long plane journey). We work to one every hour and at 9hrs for Florida at £1-2 per toy, we spent around £35-40 on little toys. Yep, totally cash you don’t have to spend, BUT do you value your sanity at around £30? I doooo!
- Utilise the info packs and things that are in the back of the seats on the plane – Kids love to investigate new things, they love to take in new information, be it pictures or words for older kids. Try something like a find it game, or I spy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – On your own but need too eat? C’mon, ask! People aren’t that awful and if I saw a mama (or Dad) struggling I’d offer up the parental paw of solitude and try to help.
- Pocket games are SO fun – Dobble is a great one! Probably my fave but there are so many – pocket top trumps, pocket who’s who. so. many. I would grab a couple and just keep them set aside for when they are bored out of their brains.
- Don’t take everything with you on the plane and show them it – Have you ever been stuck in a shop between 3 or 4 pairs of shoes? Too much choice is a killer. It’s the same principle on a plane for kids, too much choice is overwhelming and they will have everything out at once. If you keep anything you bring set aside until they start to get bored you are onto a winner. We’ve got iPads, sticker books and a toy to unwrap every hour. We have games too but again, these stay in my handbag so it’s not up to them when they come out.
- Watch the movies if you have older kids – Make sure you take ear phones for them, it will save you having to buy them on the plane.The boys have some from Primark and they LOVE them.
- Take a blanket, or if you are on long haul flights these are given out, because your kids will probably fall asleep, especially if they are under 4. Both my boys used to sleep for about an hour on the plane – it’s great (though they are never synchronised!).
That’s it really! It’s honestly not as daunting as you might think. Can it be hellish? Sure, but your attitude can have a huge impact. I remember being so angry and frustrated with Reuben’s bad behaviour coming back from Florida that I lost my shit on more than one occasion, which in turn just fuelled him. There is nothing worse than everyone being aggravated, deep breaths. This will pass and it’s such a small part of the holiday.