My first long distance flight was atrip to Europe. I was 7. The experience remains vivid my mind – the sights, sounds and smells. My own kids first experience of long distance travel was when they were less than year old. Both are seasoned travellers as we live in Asia but travel back to the UK regularly to see family and friends.
I am writing this as we travel at 34 000 feet, over Afghanistan. Travelling on a plane is an amazing experience for a child. For me, it has been a journey of discoverying how to survive 14 hours of being stuck in an airplane.
1 to 6 years
Kids at this age are naturally curious. It can be challenging keeping them entertained as well as safe, but not impossible. Planning ahead will make things a pleasant journey for all as well as fellow travellers.
♡ Safety awareness
Fundamentally, this is paramount. One of the best advice I had was from a fellow expat with older children. A doctor had told her “Once your child is seated on the plane, put the seat belt on and do not let him /her sit without the seat belt on.” She went on to tell me that it is best to not let the kids walk along the aisle, providing additional inflight entertainment unattended.
I have heeded this advice. We told our kids when they were toddlers they needed to remain seated with a seatbelt unless they needed to use the toilet. In which case either one of us would walk with them, holding their hand. They have travelled often enough to have encountered turbulence. We have also travelled often enough to see children hurt or i potentially dangerous positions.
Being in a plane is restritive and boring for a child. To help them pass the time I have packed small toys like plastic animals or a mini notebook when they were little. I wrapped them up once. It added a dimension of surprise. I would not recommend toys with wheels or toys with small parts as they easily get lost in between the seats.
7 to 10
This is dependent on the airline. We have seen the evolution of inflight entertainment over the years. Depending on family preferences regarding screen time and movies you are happy for your child to watch especially on a long haul flight.
♡Card / Travel games / Sticker Books
Having some card games and travel games with magnetic boards and pieces helps pass the time away. Sticker books can be fun too. We have used a few by Usbourne in the past.
♡ A Doodle or sketch book
Pack some markers and sharpened pencils along with a notebook or even a colouring book. Mine loves this series by Usbourne.
Travelling on planes makes ones throats dry. Children need to be reminded to keep up the fluids. With security checks at airports fluids are not allowed. Pack an empty water bottle which can be refilled during the flight.
10 and above
♡Ipods and TabletS
Include podcasts, TED Talks and audio books on your packing list. Just remember to charge the gadgets adequately too.
♡Geography on the go
If you are taking a day flight, even for a short distance, do some research on your flight path and look out of the window to note the different places seen. It makes all the topics covered in physical geography come alive as you fly through clouds and view rivers from above.
While travelling is exciting, there can also be an element of uncertainty in this day an age with more countries stepping up their security checks. This takes extra time as belts with metal at certain airports have to be taken off. Laptops, tablets have to put on a tray etc. It may help to explain to young children that it is just part of the regulations and to give yourselves extra time. If anything it gives time to check out the Duty Free Shops