The first time my husband and I took our oldest daughter on a plane, she was 3 months old. It was an overwhelming experience, I was exclusively breastfeeding and I felt there was no way I could fly with an infant on my own without help. But I did. In the years that followed, I flew often between Greece and my home country, and to other destinations too. First with just one baby and then later one with both my girls. Sometimes I had help but most of the trips, I was alone. I soon realized that no trip is the same. Some are smooth, some are more difficult. Every age comes with different equipment and different challenges. I personally found it the most difficult when the second was a baby and the oldest was only 3 years old.
Successful travel much depends on the trip itself; the weather during the flight, the situation at the departure and destination airports (read about the Athens airport here), the season (winter or summer), the crew and passengers on board (especially the ones sitting next to you). The children change too. My oldest always loved flying until we faced some turbulence. She had a fear of flying for a while but it seems to have gone now. Good preparation is another factor for a successful trip.
In a series of articles about Travelling with Kids I will share my personal tips and experience. This first one is about Flying with Children and how to prepare yourself.
If you have flown with children, the tips in Flying with Children may be very well known to you. But if you haven’t, there are some things you can prepare yourself and your family for. Again, preparation is key to a successful trip!
10 Tips before you leave
1. Book a direct flight with a full fare airline
I want to spend as less time as possible on the flight and do not want to change flights with young children at an unknown airport. My experience is that the service and space are better on full fare airlines and so far I have avoided low cost carriers.
2. Flying off seasons is usually more relaxing, less crowded airports and less crowded planes
I do not like to fly the days before Christmas or any holiday for that matter. I rather choose to travel on the evening before, or on Christmas day itself. Even 1 January is very peaceful. On those days, the airports and airplanes are half empty: not much traffic towards the airport, less cues at security check or the bathrooms.
3. Check the baby/child/luggage policies of your airline
The smaller your children are, the more special equipment you will need to carry along: baby-carriers, strollers etc. Also, check the liquids policy in case you need to bring baby milk. When travelling with children, you do not want any surprises.
4. Choose the right flight times
I want to keep the children’s daily schedule as normal as possible. This means in my case, no very early flights or very late arrivals. Flying during the day is the best. I try to keep naps on the same times as much as possible.
I understand that this is a tricky one because usually, children are very excited before travel. The days before the trip I make sure they nap a lot and everyone goes to bed early. The secret to happy kids has rested kids and this is extra important on an airplane.
6. Spread your packing
The day before our trip must be relaxing and calm, no last-minute stress and late packing. I actually pack our bags a couple of days in advance. I leave out the items that we need until we leave. A packing list is also helpful. Please read my 10 packing tips in the article on this blog.
7. Make a checklist for the day of departure
Leaving home calmly and without chaos is manageable with a ‘checklist’. ‘Did I take my phone charger/pacifier?’ ‘Did the kids say goodbye to the cat?’
8. Make sure that you have a healthy light meal before the flight
This is always important before a flight, for children and adults. But this way I also don’t mind if they eat snacks on board and skip the actual food.
9. Make sure there is plenty of time for traveling to the airport
In my case, this means that transport is arranged many days in advance. I make sure that we always arrive at the airport early enough to have some time for unwinding. No rushing or running there!
10. Prepare labels with contact numbers
Every child and every bag carries a label. I also put a permanent marker in my bag. Once we arrive at the airport I write my phone number on my children’s arms.
Have a great flight!