If you have a young child (or children), the prospect of a long-haul flight can be daunting. But the idea is to keep everyone calm, cool and rested while getting to your destination. To prevent any meltdowns, we asked parenting columnist Brandie Weikle, founder of The New Family, for her tips to make the time in the air a breeze.
NIP SICKNESS IN THE BUD
Curb the risk of flus, colds and sniffles by packing some disinfectant wipes to use on armrests, tray tables and any remote-control panels. You might think this is overdoing it, but some germs and bacteria can live on surfaces for up to seven days.
Pro tip: Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer handy, especially when it’s time to eat, to save yourselves the hassle of lining up for the bathroom for pre-meal hand washing.
KEEP HUNGER AT BAY
Most airlines will allow you to bring nibbles on board, like granola bars, nut-free trail mix or a few treats packed in resealable plastic containers. (Double-check your airline’s policy before you pack any snacks.) Once you’ve cleared customs and security, Weikle suggests buying fresh snacks like apples, or a container of cut carrots and celery sticks.
Weikle also swears by a box of Smarties. “It’s the perfect little treat to dole out one at a time. A little goes a long way,” the mother of two explains, adding that the idea here is to offer a small treat, not to spark a sugar high.
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Pro tip: Bring refillable water bottles and fill them post–security clearance or once on board. An open plastic cup from the inflight service is a major spill hazard.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH IN-FLIGHT SCREEN TIME
“It’s gotten easier to keep kids entertained thanks to individual screens on the back of seats,” says Weikle. And while she’s all for limiting screen time at home, on a long-haul flight, breaking that rule is OK. “This is entertainment that’s appropriate for the situation,” she adds. Check ahead if your carrier offers this amenity; if they don’t, pack a portable tablet or device with kid-friendly earphones.
Pro tip: Before departing, download new episodes of your kids’ favourite TV show or a movie they haven’t seen yet.
BRING ALONG SOME NOVELTY ITEMS
“I like to pack a little bag full of surprises,” says Weikle. She suggests picking up a couple of small toys at your local toy store to present throughout the flight. “Wrapping them,” she says, “makes the toys seem all the more special.” Little Lego people, a fidget spinner, a new colouring book and pencil crayons (packed in a resealable plastic bag to keep everything together), or a tin of Thinking Putty are all good options.
Pro tip: Choose smaller toys and activities that can be enjoyed on top of a child’s pull-down tray.
HELP LITTLE ONES FALL ASLEEP ON THE PLANE
To keep toddlers cozy—and hopefully encourage them to nap—Weikle advises you bring their favourite stuffy or blanket. For children five and older, pack a comforting neck pillow and cover them with a provided blanket or a shawl you’ve brought along to help them sleep on an overnight flight.
Pro tip: Lift the armrest between you and your child’s seat. This way they can either lean on your shoulder or sleep on your lap.
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Before you leave on your vacation, make sure to invest in travel insurance so you can enjoy the trip worry-free.