"Who cares if you piss off a few strangers you’re highly unlikely to see again?" says Molly Whitehead-Jones
Any parent who’s ventured away with their brood will confirm that holidays fall into two distinct categories: the ones before babies (leisurely meals, long lie-ins, sunbathing, sightseeing), and the ones after babies (dinner at 5.30pm, wake-up at 5.30am, shade skulking, child wrangling).
My little family recently returned from our first foray abroad together. Even though I’d already gotten a glimpse of the post-kiddo difference as we’d had a few ‘staycations’, heading abroad still felt like a giant leap into a potential shit-storm (hopefully not literally…).
In the lead up to our departure, I spent way too much time and energy winding myself up about any and everything that could go wrong. But of all the unknowns we were facing, the element I was most fretful about was definitely the travelling portion of our trip.
If you’re due to hop/trudge on board an aeroplane with your pre-schooler this summer, you might well be feeling the same way. So here are some top tips – from both me and the Manchester mum community – for surviving a flight with a toddler in tow.
- If you’re going on a long-haul flight:
“I would pay for them to have their own seat; it is absolutely worth it,” says Sue, formerly of Salford, who’s survived several flights back and forth from her new home of Canada with her two children (hero).
- Put the ground work in to prepare them for their adventure.
We got our little boy excited with a trip to the Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park and a storybook about everything you see and all the stuff that happens when you’re going through the terminal.
- Check in your car seat
“A good tip for escaping excess luggage is that you can always check a car seat in for free,” says Rachel from Chorlton, “and in the 30+ flights we’ve' been on, no one has ever asked to look inside the car seat bag. Mine always fits spare blankets, coats and enough wipes and nappies for a week or two.”
Someone told me they packed treats for the other passengers to hand out at the beginning of the flight
- Prevent an earache with Calpol
Giving Calpol just before you board/start descending can help fend off earache from take-off and landing. Invest in the handy sachets and you won’t have any problems with liquid restrictions.
- Find the kiddie zone
If you’re travelling from Terminal 2 of Manchester Airport… “Find the kiddie zone,” says Natalie from Urmston. “CBeebies is on, there are soft play blocks and no-one is bothered if your kid is having a meltdown. My son is 'done' by the time he's gone through luggage drop off queues and security.”
- Pre-pack an apology for the other passengers
“Someone told me they packed treats for the other passengers to hand out at the beginning of the flight,” says Taylor from Bolton, “almost a pre-apology if your baby gets noisy.”
- Snacks, all the snacks
Pack your hand luggage with snacks, snacks and more snacks (this one cropped up time and time again with the mums I quizzed). “My daughter Matilda has done fourteen flights in her just less than two years of life and I can honestly say Cheerios have been my saviour,” says Dawn from Cheshire, “that and the twist cap yoghurts that she could suck on between meals and when we had turbulence and couldn't get the cutlery out.” “I always buy £1 snack packs (crackers, ham, cheese) from the supermarket as similar things cost a fortune on planes and toddlers love making 'sandwiches'," says Siobhan from Heywood.
who cares if you piss off a few strangers you’re highly unlikely to see again?
- Keep them preoccupied with gifts
“We wrapped up small gifts and gave them to my son throughout the flight. As soon as he got bored we got another one out,” says Samantha from Heald Green. Rachel agrees that new novelties are invaluable: “Take small cheap toys for on the plane – the kind you get in party bags and pound shops. Easy entertainment and it doesn't matter if they get lost or left behind.”
- They're not going to sit still - accept it
Know that there’s no way they’re going to want to sit still for an entire flight and that you’re going to be doing a lot of chasing them up and down the aisle, smiling apologetically. But who cares if you piss off a few strangers you’re highly unlikely to see again? They’d definitely prefer you were doing that than have to listen to your disgruntled child throwing a hissy fit because you won’t let them get up and stretch their legs
- Staggered aeroplane meals
Another great tip from Rachel: “If you're travelling with a partner, ask the airline to stagger your meals (usually they can bring one adult meal when they serve all the vegetarians before they serve everyone else's). Nothing worse than both adults being served hot trays of food –and full glasses of wine – whilst trying to manage toddler tantrums. Staggering means each adult gets to eat in peace while the other looks after the littles.”
You don’t want to be trapped 1000ft up with no clean clothes to hand if that shit-storm does occur
You don’t want to be trapped 1000ft up with no clean clothes to hand if that shit-storm does occur… Pack way more nappies than you think you’ll need, a spare outfit for them and at least a change of top for yourself (also handy if their mealtime gets messy).
- Bring a small child carrier
“Even if you are taking an umbrella fold pram right up to the plane, you usually only get it back once you’ve passed security – take some kind of small child carrier, just in case you end up standing in a 40-minute passport control queue having to hold a fast asleep 18-month-old,” says Lynda from Urmston (I sense you’re speaking from personal experience there, Lynda).
- Consider booking a private transfer
If you’ve gone for a package holiday, consider booking a private transfer. If you have a stressful flight, you’ll be glad to clamber into an air-conditioned taxi that’ll whisk you straight to your hotel rather than pile on to a sweaty coach that has a dozen stops scheduled before yours.
Follow this advice and you’ll hopefully get your family break off to a fun – or at the very least tolerable – start.