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Flying for the first time with your toddler? Here’s what to do

A guide to making your family’s flight a smooth ride
Photos: Shutterstock.com

Taking children on their first plane flight can be an exciting adventure, however, it can turn out to be quite a stressful affair unless you are well prepared.

The following tips aim to help make the most out the travelling experience, so everyone can have a safe and fun-filled journey.

Make a checklist and plan ahead

Have a checklist of everything you absolutely must have in your handbag before you leave the house. This should include your passports, tickets, travel insurance and any medicine that you or your children might need on the flight. Make sure that none of these items go in your checked luggage as there is a chance that this might go missing for a day or two.

If you have space in your hand luggage, take a lightweight change of clothing for each member of the family.

Allow yourself plenty of time at the airport. Grumpy children who refuse to walk to the check-in desk, need the toilet or simply throw a tantrum in the middle of the airport concourse will have your stress levels fit to burst before you’ve even seen an aeroplane.

Prepare for sickness

If this is the first flight for your child, it is a good idea to have some junior travel sickness tablets handy. All airlines have air-sickness bags in the seat pocket in front of you, but it is good advice to take a lightweight spare set of clothing for them, just in case.

If your child has a cold before you are due to fly, get them checked out by your doctor. If it’s a severe cold and your child ruptures an eardrum, it will be the end of your holiday. Some infant nasal saline spray can come in handy for blocked noses while travelling, so make sure you keep some in your handbag. If you are travelling with really young children, try to put them to the breast or bottle on take-off or landing as the act of swallowing will help eardrums to ‘pop’ and equalise the aircraft pressurisation.

If you are heading to the tropics make sure you have contacted your GP beforehand and know the necessary inoculations you will be required to take. Some malaria tablets need to be taken three weeks before the start of your holiday and some injections require a time period of six months before travel.

Pack a goody bag

Airlines are not as good as they used to be when handing out toys and some airlines do not hand out any toys whatsoever.

Be prepared and pack your own goody bag for your child. You can put colouring books, crayons, stickers, snacks and little toys in a rucksack which they can carry themselves and it will give you hours of peace and quiet on your flight.

The days of children being allowed to visit the cockpit of an aeroplane are, unfortunately, long gone. The only real entertainment some aeroplanes provide is in-flight TV and parents travelling with small children should make the most of it. This is not the time to limit viewing hours and if it keeps your child amused for a few hours, you may even manage to get some sleep yourself! Games on  tablets also work wonders.

Eating and drinking

Eating on board the aircraft can be difficult with children, especially if they are sitting on your lap. If the airline serves meals, the best thing is to ask the flight attendants if you can have the children’s meals first and then your own. That way you will have much quieter children and you may be even able to eat some of your own meal in relative peace and quiet.

While you cannot carry water with you through the departure gate, you would be well advised to buy some in the airport departure lounge or fill your empty bottles with water from the water fountains found in most airports, including the Malta International Airport. Flying is very dehydrating due to the aeroplane air-conditioning systems, so buy yourself and the children plenty of water in advance.

Sleeping onboard

Long-haul travel can be gruelling for parents with children, so try to book a night flight where your child is virtually guaranteed to sleep on at least one leg.

If you have young infants, ask your airline operator if they have baby bassinets on board; many companies do and infants sleep like a dream in them.

If you have toddlers under the age of two, they will sleep on your lap unless you book an extra seat (at extra cost) for them. This can be a nightmare if you want to settle them to sleep but an infant baby seat in the shape of a hammock is a great invention which hooks over the parent’s seat in front and forms a makeshift bed for your little one. You can find these online.

If you are taking your car seat on the flight for your child to sit in, make sure the airline you are travelling with approves of it first. Some airlines have specific guidelines regarding width, height and brand which your seat has to adhere to before they will let you use it.

If you have any queries regarding your flight, call your airline first to make sure problems do not arise later when they cannot be resolved. Travelling with children does not have to be difficult and stressful, as long as you remember to do your research and are well prepared.

For more parenting tips, click here. For more Child articles, follow this link.

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