We tend to have one or two short-haul flights a year, flying across Europe to visit family or friends. I often do these flights on my own with the kids, as Oh-so-lovely-daddy tries to best allocate his holidays and joins us for part of the holiday only.
Don’t shoot me here, but I believe short-haul flights with under 5s are more difficult than long-haul flights. I dare to state this despite not having done a long-haul flight with mine yet However, I have driven 14 hours in one stretch across Europe with them a number of times. In fact, once or twice a year from when they were 6 weeks old. I think that’s a fair comparative.
Short-haul flights are a challenge because you have to do a lot in 1-3 hours of activities, often rushing through some unavoidable parts like customs, security, etc. and the children cannot get engrossed in one activity for long enough and they cannot freely explore either. The whole process is bound by rules.
Thus far we have managed very well: while others kids run riot around us, kicking and annoying the passengers in the seats in front, we have always been complimented about how calm and well-behaved ours are. And I swear mine are no angels normally and are as unruly as any others. However, I do plan hard for these trips. Here are the things that work for me:
My cardinal rule: adjust to the kids’ routines and try to replicate it as far as possible during travel
I always consider my children’s routines- when their meal times and sleep times are, how long I can keep them awake, how early I can wake them. I learnt quickly that leaving early in the morning does not work for us: I hate mornings and Little Miss is more prone to travel sickness if she is tired and she copes with tiredness worse in the mornings.
Observe and learn what works for your child!
I centre our travel plans around my children’s sleep times and hence for us travelling in the afternoon/ evening always works better. I will pay more for a flight just to travel after 6pm.
My magic mantra- sleep power makes the car and the plane go faster!
Here’s a break down of my last trip with my Littlins, which was a 2 and half hour flight to Hungary:
Preparation- packed with kids in the morning. They went out for a long walk, we had a good filling lunch, then instead of letting Little Man go down for his afternoon nap, they were allowed to play. Then had the last 30 minutes before we were due to leave they were given a chance to wind down in front of the telly and me a chance to grab those last minute things.
4.15 pm Leave home
4.30 pm get 2hr coach ride to airport – We started this off with a quick snack and then I played who can fall asleep quicker. By 5 pm Little Man was asleep. I started waking him 30 minutes before we were due to arrive. In the meantime, Little Miss (4.5 yo) and I were chatting and looking around at the scenery around us.
6.30 pm at the Airport.
Everyone had their own bags, for which they were responsible. Mine have Trunkis and they are so proud of these- packing it themselves, pulling them around, etc. Check-in, security all went relatively ok. We had an hour wait in the lounge. During this I had to go pick up some water from Boots and then we ate our dinner- sandwiches I picked up at Boots and some other nibbles packed at home. (Just a bit later than we would’ve at home)
8.30 pm on the plane.
We took our seats. This is when tiredness was showing on Little Man, who had a mini meltdown. We negotiated the tantrum by getting the two of them to swap seats. To occupy the Littlins for the duration of the take-off I gave some snacks, we looked at the magazines, went to the toilet and agreed that as soon as the seatbelt sign was off they needed to sleep, because we would arrive very late to Grandma and Grandpa’s. This worked a treat- after a calm bedtime story and stroking them, they both fell asleep.
11.00 pm I started waking them 30 minutes before landing to make sure we had time to go to the toilet if needed (wasn’t needed) and had some breadsticks and a couple of sips of water to wake them. By the time we landed they were awake and eager to meet grandparents.
Descending the plane, the tiredness showed. Thankfully I had some assistance to help carry their Trunkis down, so I could hold the Littlins’ hands. In the terminal my two sleepyheads could sit on their Trunki and I just pulled them along. Passing through security was quick, we didn’t need to wait long for the luggage and were out in the arms of grandparents quickly. They got us home and sleeping.
It was a great trip!
What do you do to cope better with airtravel with under 5s?