So in October, the kids and I headed off to Cape Town for two weeks to visit my in-laws.
We were all super excited about the trip; all the sight seeing as well as the kids getting to spend some time with their grandparents whom they hadn’t seen for a couple of months.
Our flight was booked about two weeks before the time, and as excited as I was about finally seeing Cape Town (I started packing the day after the flights were booked), another thought started formulating in my mind…
I needed to survive the plane ride with two kids.
Even though the flight was only two hours long, two hours can feel like a lifetime when you’re in a closed space, surrounded by people and you have two small busy bodies with you.
With Monster easily overwhelmed in situations with crowds and loud noises, I was already picturing the meltdowns and him trying to escape off the plane before we even took off. After a couple of sleepless nights, lying awake picturing everything that could go wrong with both kids, I realised that the only way to get through this would be to prepare them as much as I could, and accept that there was a lot that I just wouldn’t have control over.
Hubby Byren couldn’t come with us on the trip due to work commitments so I had to prepare for the flight on my own and make sure that I had my crap together so we could get to the other side without minimal hiccups. And I knew that I would have extra hands to help again once we landed in Cape Town.
So there I was; two kids, two hour flight and around three months pregnant. Again, I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t have control over every aspect on the day and during the flight , but I could at least prepare the kids as much as possible to ease them into the experience.
….And I’m happy to say that the first flight with the boys went by so smoothly without any hiccups, it made me question why I stressed out so much. Of course, the stress was normal. You’re a parent, it comes with the territory.
Yet I felt so proud of the boys on how they handled the whole experience, and besides that, they actually enjoyed the flight.
So here’s the thing, I have a couple of tips to share with you if you’re planning on taking your first plane ride with your young ones and you’re stressing out on how you’ll be handling it. Not only is it necessary to prepare them before hand, but there are certain things you can do on the day to make the flight more pleasant and help you save on some sanity points.
I’ve broken the tips into categories to make the preparation easier: preparing for the flight before the flight, what to do on the day of the flight as well as what to do during the flight.
PREPARING FOR THE FLIGHT BEFORE THE FLIGHT
Talk about what will happen
If your kids love rockets and planes then it makes things a little easier as they have a visual understanding of what they will be seeing on the day.
Both the boys love rockets and space so we watched a few documentaries about the flights, and whenever we saw a plane, we explained to them that we would be travelling in one. We also explained that we would need to sit still while flying and will need to wear seat belts as we do when driving in the car.
Let them help you pack, especially when packing their bags. I gave them each their own backpack that they would have with them during the flight and they chose their own books and favourite toys to pack in them.
Make sure to pack only the essentials into your carry on so you’re not dragging around extra weight while trying to get to your boarding gate. If you can, instead of a handbag, use a backpack so you can keep your hands free.
Snacks and drinks
You can buy snacks and drinks on the plane during the flight, but speaking from personal experience, it’s a little pricey and the selection is very limited. If you know your kids love certain snacks and drinks, rather pack them into your carry on or into their backpacks. Having something to chew on will also be helpful during lift off, touch down and during the flight if you experience any turbulence.
Allowing the kids to chew on something, like wine gums, will help with the pressure they might feel in their ears.
All airlines offer a service to assist disabled and elderly people, and you can make use of this service if you’re travelling with kids if you want. Waiting in line with kids can be difficult as they become impatient, whiny and irritated. By making use of this service, an official from the airline will escort you through a separate boarding gate and assist you with boarding so you can concentrate on keeping your kids from running around and possibly forgetting any of your belongings somewhere along the way.
Check in online
Trust me when I say, make use of this! Airlines open this service 24 hours before your flight and you can do your check in from the comfort of your home, book your seats and have your boarding passes sent to you.
This beats getting to the airport an hour earlier to check in your bags, check in the passengers and get your boarding passes. All of that is time consuming and your kids might not be as patient with the process as you are.
With the online check in, all you need to do is arrive at the airport, check in any luggage if needed and head for your boarding gate.
ON THE DAY OF THE FLIGHT
Get to the airport early
Even if you’ve done your check in online, get to the airport early. You don’t know if you’ll hit traffic en route to the airport, or you’ll need to walk through the whole airport to get to your gate, or one of your kids might need the bathroom. You don’t want to be running around, trying to reach your boarding gate with kids trailing behind you or on you if you end up carrying one of them in your arms.
Toilet before boarding
The toilet in the plane can be a little scary for small kids so make sure you take them to the bathroom before boarding the plane.
If you have kids in nappies, change them before boarding as well so you can avoid doing it during the flight unless its completely necessary because planes don’t exactly have facilities to change your kid in peace and a little comfort.
Board first or last
Again, you don’t really want to be stuck waiting in line to board the plane, so you can either make sure you board first before the other passengers do or wait until everyone has boarded and then board the plane. Personally, I chose to board last as I was worried the longer wait with the noise and moving crowd might agitate the kids and I might sit with crying kids and tantrums. So we checked in with our boarding passes and then waited behind watching other planes lifting off, explaining to the boys that we will be flying in a plane like that, until we were ready to board the plane.
DURING THE FLIGHT
Make up a game
The speed of the plane accelerating to lift off could be overwhelming for the little ones so to distract the boys, I made up a game for the boys to play. As they loved rockets so much, as soon as the plane was in position on the runway, I told the boys to do a countdown from 10 and as soon as the plane started rising, they would need to say “Lift off”. It took them three counts of 10 before we finally left the ground but it kept them busy and distracted from feeling overwhelmed.
Use those backpacks
Kids will get bored pretty quickly because who likes sitting still for an hour or two and doing nothing? Give them their backpacks and let them play with the toys they packed in, and if you brought with any activity books with, whip them out and let them draw and colour in. It might not keep them busy for the whole flight, but it will cut out some of the flight time.
Should your kid have a meltdown during the flight, ignore the sighs and whispers around you. It will be difficult, I know, it happened on our flight back where Gremlin cried for a good 30 minutes as he was tired and he couldn’t lie down for a nap. People sighed around us, and one made a comment about misbehaving kids, and honestly, I couldn’t care less.
They can’t throw you off the plane because your kid is crying and someone behind you is rolling their eyes so hard you can hear it. It’s a kid and tears are normal. Ignore those around you and focus on calming your kid.
At the end of the day, you won’t be able to control every little aspect. Things happen, you can’t plan for everything. All you can do is prepare yourself and your kids as best you can and let everything else just fall into place.
I hope these tips will help you and your family prepare for your upcoming trip, and make the experience as pleasant as possible.