My one year old, Khalid, celebrated his 20th flight recently with Virgin Atlantic. He has been traveling internationally since the ripe old age of 4 months and I must admit he is a brilliant traveller!
All kids are different as we know but I strongly believe we, as parents, create the vibe that determines how well our kids travel. If you’re a nervous flyer you might transfer that energy onto your little one. I am probably the most calm person under pressure. No one really knows how badly I am dying inside when I am broken after a long haul flight because I simply get on with it. Getting on with it without complaining takes heaps of practice though, which I am lucky to have had. If you’re heading on your first trip with your little one here are some easy to implement tips that can help.
Fly with an airline that likes kids
Virgin Atlantic was recently awarded as the most family friendly airline in the world and it shows! I found traveling with Khalid so easy as both the ground staff and in-flight staff made me feel as if I was a VIP for flying alone with my child. Willing to not only wash out baby bottles and provide heaps of snacks but also chase my marathon sprinting little boy down the aircraft when he decided he needed to stretch his legs.
Having the in flight crew on your side is a HUGE advantage. If anyone gives you any trouble (think hard eye rolls, complaining about the noise or simply making a snide remark) you can easily have your trusted crew member ensure you are comfortable and respected. I recently had a horrible man kick my chair as I tried to put it down while my son was sleeping in the free seat next to me. He complained to management that I didn’t deserve to have more than one seat. Luckily the crew had my back and defended me to the other passenger, asking him to have some compassion for a mother flying alone with her child. He winked at me and handed me a cup of tea after – now thats service!
Always have snacks
Most airlines, like Virgin Atlantic, have additional snacks and treats upon request that you can give to you little one to keep them quiet while they’re engrossed in a riveting episode of Peppa Pig. However, I suggest always being over prepared in the snack department, especially for the cab ride from the airport to you accommodation which is often forgotten! Some of my fav snacks to take on a flight include yoghurt covered mini rice cakes, bags of quinoa puffed chips, loads of water and dried fruit or biltong.
Night flights are a must
If you’re flying internationally from South Africa or Australia, you’re more than likely to be sitting on a long haul flight for ten hours at least! I highly recommend booking a night flight and keeping your little one awake till you get onto the plane. Give them a very quick mini bath (warm face cloth all over the body, baby lotion, baby powder, fresh diaper etc). Make sure you mimic bath time routine as best you can, brushing teeth gently before the flight and reading your little one a story as you get ready to board. Once you board the air craft and you’re just about taking off the plane lights will be switched off. This is when I whip out my son’s milk and feed him wrapped in a warm blanket. As soon as the milk is finished he is usually fast asleep. This works 95% of the time so I suggest trying it! The last flight we did with Virgin Atlantic was just under ten hours from Heathrow to Joburg and my son slept for 8 of those hours!
Sleep when baby sleeps
This one is pretty serious. Forego the temptation to watch a movie or finally get to that tea you so badly wanted when crew came past with the cart. You can have it all at your destination, for now sleep is gold.
When in doubt iPad
Many parents suggest giving kids a form of sleep medication (sedatives) however this is NOT recommended at all by paediatricians as this may cause heart arrhythmias and ultimately death. The risk is simply not worth it so when in doubt whip out the iPad. My son does not have any interest in an iPad just yet but if you have a little one who likes the iPad make sure you load it up with movies, series and games to keep them entertained.
Lastly, chill out mom!
One of my biggest takeaways from this piece is to encourage parents to chill out and go with the flow. More often than not your little people are super excited to be on a plane and may not want to sleep! That’s okay, it might be tiring, it might be down right exhausting but you will get through it and forget about it sooner than you can say “beach holiday”!
Forget all those around you because they will fall into either the sympathetic category or the judgemental one. You might get eye rolls, sarcastic coughs and people shaking their heads. My best advice is to ignore the flyers around you and do your absolute best to not bother anyone. However you cannot control the situation completely- kids will be kids! I try my best to keep my area really neat. If my son is particularly rowdy I take him to the kitchen area on the flight and have him release some energy there. Ultimately you can only control so much so let go and enjoy your flight as best you can.