By: Mara Sampson
Flying with kids is never easy. Even the most tolerant toddlers and placid pre-teens can easily become irritable with the long waits and even longer queues. Not to mention the inevitable discomfort that comes with flying.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways that solo parents can reduce the stress and make flying with a family fun, or at the very least, not an absolute nightmare.
Let’s have a look at what you can do to minimize the mayhem and successfully single-parent your way through the skies.
1. Prep The Kids Beforehand
The unknown is scary, so if your children have never flown before, make sure they know what’s going to happen.
Keep the kids in the loop and explain the trip to them, and the reasons for the trip. Airports can be overwhelming for a child, so explain to them about crowds, the vast spaces, and why they need to stick together and stay close to you.
If you can find a few kid-friendly videos about airports and aeroplanes, you can show them what will happen and make the experience more enjoyable and exciting.
2. Pack Essential Supplies In Your Carry-On
Snacks, hydration, coloring books, crayons, books, sanitary wipes, and waterless sanitizer are just a few essentials that will make flying less stressful. Depending on your kid’s ages you may need diapers and a change of clothes too.
Don’t underestimate the supplies you’ll need. It’s always a good idea to bring more than you think you will require.
3. Get Your Devices Charged and Ready
Kids will need their phones, iPad or other devices to entertain them during the long waiting periods at the airport and during the flight. So, make sure their devices are fully charged. It may also be a good idea to have a few power banks handy to charge up phones and devices.
Don’t forget to download movies and kid’s shows in advance just in case they can’t stream them. You can also download a few kid-friendly games that will keep them amused, or even an audiobook or two.
4. Bring The Baby Carrier
If you’re traveling with an infant, a baby carrier is crucial. It will keep your little one close to you and provide comfort, and it will free up your hands for other tasks. If you’re thinking of leaving your carrier at home—don’t! It will make your flight and navigating the airport so much easier.
Baby carriers often have pockets too, so you can keep essentials within easy reach and don’t have to dig through a bag to find them.
5. Timing Your Flights
If you can book flights during off-peak seasons when the lines and waiting times are reduced, that’s a bonus. But this is not always possible, particularly during school holidays and other peak breaks.
Try to time a long-haul flight around the kids’ napping times, if at all possible. Naturally, stop-overs should be avoided, as these are disruptive. It’s always best to look for non-stop or direct flights if you’re doing a long haul.
If a stop-over cannot be avoided and you have some time, let the kids work off their energy at the airport, either in a quiet corner near your departure gate or in a play area. Rather, do this in the airport than have them climbing the cabin walls at 40,000 feet.
6. Getting Through Security
Those long security lines are almost impossible to avoid, and this is obviously one of the most trying hurdles for parents flying solo with kids. If you or your children are prone to anxiety, the long lines, crowds, and fraying tempers can feel a bit overwhelming. Ensure that everyone has something to do to keep them entertained and distracted until you reach the front.
Being ready to go through security together is also important. Getting asked to remove your shoes is a regular occurrence and can be trying with kids in tow. Try turning it into a game, and have some slip-on socks handy for everyone.
7. Pick The Right Seats
Window seats are great for kids as they allow them to look out and see the world flying by. However, if you have a fussy baby or toddler that needs to be walked a bit to calm down, opt for an aisle seat so that you can easily get up. Your fellow passengers will be forever grateful.
Always try for a seat at the back of the plane. It may just be psychological, but the back of the plane always seems more child-friendly and private.
8. Consider Your Boarding Time
Always consider all your options when choosing a boarding time. Often airlines like to get mothers and kids on the plane first, but this is not always a savvy option. It can add up to 30—45 minutes to the flight time and plane cabins on the runway can be stuffy and boring for kids. Rather, ask the boarding gate staff if you can board the plane last with your kids.
When you’re flying solo with your family, don’t be afraid to ask flight staff for help. They’ll readily assist with stowing your carry-on luggage and settling you in.
9. Know How To Deal With Earache
As planes take off and land, the cabin experiences rapid changes in air pressure, which can cause earache.
Have a supply of lollipops or candy that everyone can suck on to help ease ear aches and pains. Crunchy and chewy snacks encourage lots of chewing and swallowing, which helps to normalise ear pressure, so this is an option too. You can also play a yawning game to “pop” their ears if they’re not old enough to know how to do this on their own.
Flying alone with kids is a challenge, but it’s so worthwhile. There’s no age limit on adventure and even the youngest children can enjoy the benefits of traveling if it’s stress free. Use these tips to prepare for a solo flight with your family and everyone will arrive in a far better mood—including you!
Featured image via Unsplash.