Flying with Children

I was flying home from a business trip recently. One of those best-soon-forgotten flights of queues, delays, and bad tempers all round. Finally seated and belted, and that’s when a child started crying loudly, and was inconsolable for most of the flight. It seemed that neither parents nor crew could settle the child, and it was a great relief to get to my destination, hoping that a solution was found and the child got over whatever it was that was so upsetting, when back on the ground and in familiar territory. To help parents navigate what can sometimes be a nightmare when travelling with children, Sainsbury’s Bank has recently published “Flying with Children”, a very useful and comprehensive guide.

The guide covers everything from passports to insurance, seating arrangements to entertainment, tips on how to deal with travel illnesses and avoid lost children, and also includes handy lists of essential items for the trip and for the holiday itself.

Flying with children can be a tricky proposition, especially if you are already nervous about flying yourself. And if you are nervous, it’s quite possible that your child will pick up on that and be nervous too. Even if flying holds no fears for you, your child may still be apprehensive. So here are some pointers to help you, and your child, fly happy.

1. Talk to your child about what to expect beforehand. If your child expresses fear, ask them what they are afraid of and discuss that with them. Their fears are valid and important, even if they seem trivial or silly to you. There are many books about aeroplanes, airports and flying available for children, to demystify the process. If your child remains really scared, consider asking for some professional help from an appropriately qualified professional, such as a psychologist. If you have fears about flying yourself, now is the time to seek help.

2. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids beforehand. Aeroplanes are very dehydrating because the humidity is so low, and dehydration can cause headaches and crankiness among other things. Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults, so keep up the fluid intake during the flight.

3. Taking off and landing causes pressure changes in the ears, which can be very distressing for children who don’t understand what is happening. Small children can be given a bottle or something to suck on, while older children can be taught the Valsalva Manoeuvre (hold the nostrils closed and try to blow through them). Yawning can help as well.

4. Keep boredom at bay by having lots of different activities available. Colouring, stickers, books (whether audio, electronic or paper), video games and music all help to keep children occupied and entertained. Don’t forget the headphones! Younger children may need the comfort of a favourite soft toy or a familiar blanket as well.

The guide “Flying with Children” is available to download free from Sainsbury’s Bank.