As the end of term draws near to an end, most of us are getting ready to flee Dubai for cooler climates this summer, and here at Sassy Mama we are certainly slightly apprehensive about the trip ahead. Travelling home or on holiday can be quite nerve racking right? Whether you have had good experiences in the past or not, every mama would be happy to admit that flying with kids of any age is like playing Russian roulette, it can either go one way or the other. Whilst this is true, planning a trip and following some Sassy Mama tips can undoubtedly help you to avoid or cope with any disaster that might lurk around the corner…
The first tip we can offer is an obvious one – be organized and plan, plan, plan! The virgo in me loves this – I’m emphatically the most crazy list maker you can imagine, but it works and although I may seem a bit frantic to some, I always feel much more in control once that list is made and checked off. Planning is actually relevant from when you book your flight all the way through to your actual departure. I schedule flights with the least disruptions to my child’s routine and always non-stop flights. Day flights are my preference for trips to the UK for example as the flight is so short. Choosing a child friendly airline is quite a good idea. Nowadays some offer pushchairs which is fabulous, but if they don’t then it might be worth asking if you can take yours to the gate and check in from there. Secondly, reserve your seats in advance. If you need a bassinet for a baby then it is imperative you do this for sure, but even with older kids it’s good practice. Its great to have extra space and leg room for all the kids paraphernalia that you take onboard and also to avoid death stares from the nearby passenger who you have hurdled 3 times in an hour already. Children with motion sickness are better off seated near the wings to minimize turbulence and ensure a smoother ride, and of course keep those sick bags at hand all the time. Who said motherhood was glamorous?
Packing for a flight can be quite difficult. Most mothers complain that they end up with everything but the kitchen sink in their bags. The key is to be sensible, be prepared but don’t over do it! Always pack a change of clothes for you and your children. These, you hope, you aren’t going to need but are just in case of an emergency, so pack near the bottom of the bag. Also take a couple of plastic bags for putting dirty clothes into (just in case things get messy). Position things you will need throughout the journey somewhere accessible – passports, wipes, hand sanitizer (all of us at Sassy Mama HQ cant live without it!!), tissues, and children’s beakers to fill with water once you’re through security. Then keep a handy stash of snacks nearby… and pack your onboard food in a travel friendly Tupperware or with an ice pack to keep it cool. Dress appropriately. Remember that flights can get cold and do check the weather on arrival too. Do the same for your children and ensure those in nappies are in outfits that make changing easy. Nothing worse than a jumpsuit with no buttons!
I have to admit to be slightly on the fence about Trunki suitcases for kids. I have heard such mixed reviews. They give your child the independence of having their own bag and its great that they can pull it themselves and ride it if they get tired, but I personally would advise against buying these for younger children. Not only do they usually manage to open and spray the contents all over the airport or plane, but they also do get tired and when the novelty wears off you will find that poor mama will be the one dragging 2 kids and multiple bags through the airport… Just beware!
When planning your journey do give yourself lots of time to get to the airport, check in your bags and make it through security. Give yourself extra time for nappy changes and bathroom trips too. If you think you may have problems with all your bags and children at the other end, do some investigating. Some airlines offer help from the airplane to the baggage check out, free of charge, which can really relieve some pressure.
Food, glorious food! Most airlines allow you to pre-book a kids meal if necessary. This is a good idea for those wanting their kids to be fed onboard. I personally always carry a pack lunch for my little one. The timings for the meals never seem to suit when she wants to eat so I prefer to be ready with something easy which wont cause mess or stress! A simple sandwich for lunch with some cucumber and carrot sticks is easy, and a fruit dessert will not drip all over your station for the next 6 hours. Make the food look exciting and colourful, even use a cookie shape cutter for your sandwiches to make it more fun. I usually bring the same for myself – more often than not, lets be honest, you do not have the time to eat, and even if you manage to grab 15 minutes, do you really want a tray on your lap whilst trying to control 2 kids?? Remember to bring plenty of healthy snacks for your child and a few extra to ensure that if there are any delays you won’t have hungry and frustrated little ones. The most important rule of flying? Hydration! Make sure you and your kids drink plenty of water.
You’ve made it onboard, yay! Now you just have to work out how to get through the next 7 hours. Entertainment is key to occupy your little ones. For older kids, download ipad games and apps (see our favourite choices here) in advance, and invest in sticker books and colouring sets which go down a treat. Usborne do amazing sticker books for boys and girls at affordable prices, which your children are sure to love, and Melissa & Doug’s magnet dress up games are great for travelling too. Don’t be tempted to bring messy games for your child. Playdoh is just about ok but I wouldn’t go any further than that – your hands will already be full changing nappies and cleaning up your little ones after their lunch. You don’t need to exacerbate the situation!
A friend once told me to wrap a “plane friendly” toy and take it with you. I tried it on my last flight and actually it worked quite well. When my darling girl started to get itchy feet half way through the flight, I told her she could have the present if she sat quietly and watched TV for 15 minutes. It calmed her down and was great incentive for her, whilst giving me the time to breastfeed my baby. Who said bribery was a bad thing? Its survival of the fittest, right?
What to do onboard? Keep calm, keep positive and keep smiling! Remember that kids really feel tension and stress. During take off and landing give your child a drink or pacifier to help equalize their ears. Changes in altitude can create horrible pressure and major discomfort on little ear drums and this is the main reason why young children can scream hysterically at this time.
Oh and lastly, don’t think I forgot about you mamas! What to take for you? Apart from your change of clothes, nothing, sorry! I don’t really think you will fit anything into your carry on for you anyway, but even if there is a glimpse of space, don’t bother, I doubt you will use it. I certainly wouldn’t expect to be watching any movies onboard either. Being a mama is hard work, we know! Now breathe….you can do it!
– Don’t plan to potty train your child a week before you fly (sounds obvious but I promise some mothers do it!)
– Avoid giving your child sweets before or on the flight – they can make your little one so hyperactive and the sugar come down really can result in a moody, overtired or irritable child.
– Don’t bring toys with you that have millions of pieces – chances are you will either spend 10 minutes more at the end of the flight trying to find them under the seat, or not bother altogether which would be a waste.
– Don’t forget if you are pregnant to have a check up with your doctor and carry with you that all-important signed letter to say you are fit to fly. There is nothing worse than trying to convince the airhostess that you have weeks/months to go, with a semi impatient toddler hanging off your side.
– Don’t forget if you have a baby with you to bring extra formula if you are bottle-feeding – you never know if a flight is delayed and this is something no one will be able to help you with.
– Don’t drink! (alcohol that is!)
– Don’t forget to ask for help.
Good luck Mamas and happy holidays!