Air travel with children - Preparation before a long haul flight is essential when travelling with children, particularly toddlers and babies.
You will be out of your usual comfort zone for many hours, in extremely close proximity with your nearest and dearest, so it's a good idea to do some ground work to ensure that your trip goes smoothly.
For many parents, the cost of a long haul flight with children means that only economy class is viable, and so the following is written with those families in mind.
For the first timer, it's difficult to cover every eventuality, particularly if you yourself have not done many long haul flights previously. The best thing is to talk to friends who have travelled long haul with children and get their advice.
In addition, I actually took my 8 month old son to a baby movie session at the cinema before going on a flight from Melbourne to London, and sat right in the middle of a row of cinema seats, simply to get an idea of what was involved in being with a baby in a confined space for a lengthy period.
Below are a few more things you'll need to consider:
Myths about air travel with children - I had heard how airline staff are only too delighted to hold your cherubs from time to time. I have not witnessed this.
Whilst many airline staff are attentive when time allows, often they are busy handing out drinks or meals or clearing them up to devote any particular time to any baby or toddler.
Query whether this is also a liability issue if a member of the cabin crew accidentally drops a child.
Saying that, I have come across a number of passengers who have been more than happy to entertain my children for a little while here or there.
My neighbouring passenger on a flight from KL to Melbourne went beyond the call of duty and was more than happy to sing endless nursery rhymes to my toddler daughter with me.
Indeed, after a few hours, she and I had achieved some pretty good harmonies to such ditties as Baa Baa Black Sheep. She also read to my daughter and shared her dinner with her.
You may also find that, if you are seated near other families with children, there is an amicable sharing around of lollies, crayons, wetwipes etc.
And if you do have an incident, you will often sense some camaraderie with other neighbouring parents who are either going through the same issue or have been in a similar situation on another flight.
When you're planning air travel with children it makes sense to be as organised as possible when travelling with children – particularly very young children - not only for your own sake and the sake of your children, but also for the sake of your neighbouring passengers.
Sometimes you will find that you are seated with other families (who are generally more tolerant of the quirks of young children).
Even passengers who are without children can be quite understanding and helpful. However, there can be awkward moments when your young child is perhaps making him or herself too evident to other passengers – either by making too much noise, or encroaching on their (extremely limited) personal space.
It's hard to provide any stock standard advice in this situation. However, try and stay calm and in control and, particularly with toddlers, distract any way you can.
Take a walk with your child around the plane. (It may not stop the offending behaviour, but at least it gives your neighbours some respite!).
Alternatively keep an extra toy for dire emergencies. But whatever your child is doing, don't ignore it or put your headphones on (except to count to 10!).
From what I have seen, and from speaking to friends who have travelled by air in close proximity to young children, the one thing that seems to annoy passengers most is the parent who is oblivious to the annoying behaviour and who fails to try and address it.
Most passengers it seems will do their upmost to be tolerant if they see a parent trying to stop the offending behaviour. They may breathe a very heavy sigh of relief when you and your loved ones finally disembark (as will you!) but no goodwill will have been lost.
Not only do you need to consider air travel with children but what happens when you reach your destination. Expect to be more jetlagged than usual, unless you are contemplating a number of lengthy stop overs en route.
If you have a baby or a very young toddler you will probably have had to consider what additional appliances you will need on arrival at your destination.
If you are staying in one or two fixed places with friends or family, of course ask them in advance to help you as much as they can to provide what your child needs.
You might find it useful to search through eBay for relevant second hand appliances at your final destination – particularly if you have a friend or family member who can pick them up in advance – eg car seats, cots, high chairs.
As regards cots, if you are in need of a very light portacot, have a look at the Kinderkot. It's perhaps more like a little tent than a typical portacot, but it is extremely light, and would not make great inroads into your luggage allowance on the aircraft. Plus it comes in a little carry bag.
It is impossible to cover all the facets of long haul flying with children.
Much will depend on the length of the journey, the destination and interim stop overs, the airline, and the temperament of the child (and parents!). However, attached is a short checklist of general pointers of things to consider.
As with all things child related, doing it the first time can be quite daunting. However, with a little careful preparation, long haul travel with children can be perfectly manageable, and you'll be an expert in no time.
Even if you do have a few stressful moments on the flight, just think about how your little ones' faces will be lighting up with excitement at all the new experiences they are going to have at their final destination.