Are you flying off on holiday with your children this summer? Most children find the idea of going on an airplane wildly exciting, while it is something which fills many parents with dread.
One mother, Jackie Cosh, states baldly:"Don't fly with a child aged one to 2.5. Just don't do it. It is a nightmare." But another, Lynley Oram disagrees: "Anyone who balks at taking an 18 month old on a four hour flight is a wuss! When my son was a year old we flew to New Zealand. True, the flight was spent walking him up and down the aisle but really it wasn't that bad."
Flying successfully with children is partly about preparation, and partly about expectations.
Here are some tips for stress-free flights with children.
1. If you are flying long-haul with a small baby, request a bulkhead seat and bassinet as early as you can. Bassinets can be used for children up to 18 months old but are most suitable for babies under eight months old.
2. If you are over 24 weeks pregnant, get a note from your doctor or midwife stating that you are fit to fly.
3. Leave plenty of time to get to the airport. There's nothing more stressful than having to race through security dragging luggage and children.
4. Don't expect to be able to read the paper or snooze as you might have done when you travelled child-free. If you do get the chance, see it as a bonus.
5. Remember you cannot any containers of liquids greater than 100 ml through security and pack accordingly. Baby milk and baby food is allowed through but you may be asked to taste it.
6. If you are travelling with a baby, take a sling as well as a lightweight buggy – you will not always get your buggy back at the plane door.
7. Check luggage and hand baggage allowances on your airline's website – these vary widely and frantically trying to repack to meet them at the airport really isn't fun.
8. Take more nappies than you could possibly need – the change in air pressure can do strange things to babies' stomachs!
"Nappy changing in cramped plane loo can be a bit of a nightmare," says Liat Hughes Joshi, author of What to Buy for Your Baby, (White Ladder Press, £9.99). "Your best bet is to ensure you have your changing gear well organised in a separate bag so you can grab things easily. Take two changes of baby clothes for longer journeys and a spare top for yourself if you are travelling with a baby or toddler on your knee."
9. Feed your baby on take off and landing to prevent painful ears. Give older children boiled sweets to suck or get them to yawn.
10. Take small, non-precious toys with no parts to lose. Colouring or puzzle books work well, and consider a portable DVD player. For older children, let them play their computer games for as long as they like – it's not going to hurt just this once!
11. Airline food is not usually child-friendly and if you have to buy it, is expensive. Take plenty on non-sticky snacks such as carrot sticks, raisins or Babybel. Do not take drinks cartons – they squirt everywhere and cannot be closed again once opened.
12. If you are taking small children on a long flight, get them changed into their pyjamas for night time. Don't worry too much about jet lag – children suffer much less than adults.
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Catherine Cooper is a freelance journalist and author of Travelling with Children: The Essential Guide due to be published by Forward Press in January 2011.