Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and through the terminal. The chances are your child will chose the most inappropriate time to decide that they need to go to the toilet, demand feeding or do something totally unexpected. Dealing with this need not be stressful if you have allowed enough of a buffer in your timings to stop and respond to the demand before continuing. This will be much easier than needing to push on and battle an unhappy child.
2. PLAN A DIVISION OF LABOUR
If you have the luxury of travelling with more than one adult, then divide the jobs between you before you start. Prioritise who will deal with the kids and who is responsible for passports, paperwork and directions. This means that you won’t be trying to explain which pocket of the rucksack the passports are in whilst simultaneously being pestered with endless questions about planes from an excited child or soothing a screaming, overtired toddler.
3. IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Contrary to popular opinion, I always think longhaul travel is easier because the kids have a TV to watch, and most kids will be only too pleased to sit and watch movie after movie for hours on end. To transfer this ease to short haul download as many episodes of Peppa Pig/Mike the Knight etc onto your phone/ipad/Laptop in advance and you should have a trouble free flight. (Remember to pack some child-friendly headphones to save you from having to listen!).
Other distractions which work well are sticker books, a small tub of Play-Doh, and activity books. I always try to buy new books and produce them on the plane to maximise the novelty. With younger children I tend to avoid colouring books as the pens will inevitably be dropped on the floor and searching around your feet and under seats for missing pens will quickly lose its appeal.
4. TAKE AN EMPTY WATER BOTTLE
The rules for liquids sometimes do not permit taking water through security. The amount this is enforced on your inbound flight will depend on where you are flying from, but certainly if you are flying out of a UK airport you will not be able to take water through security. In order to avoid having to train a small child to drink from a cup for the first time whilst on board, it’s best to take an empty sippy cup / favourite water bottle in your hand luggage and then fill it up once airside either from a food outlet in the terminal or by asking the cabin crew on board. This should avoid unnecessary spillages and a flight spent in wet clothes. Talking of which…..
5. TAKE A CHANGE OF CLOTHES, FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD!
There are few experiences less pleasant than to be on the receiving end of an unwelcome expulsion of bodily fluid from your child at the start of a long flight and having to endure the smell/sensation for the remainder of the flight. A change of clothes for your child is always a good idea, but if possible, also take a spare T shirt which will fit whichever adult is on the receiving end of whatever your child produces. I have a friend whose child was sick on him whilst taxiing out to take off for an 8 hour flight. He would happily have given a kidney for a clean T shirt at that moment but instead had to sit for 8 hours in a vomit-soaked top!