Travelling abroad with little ones can be challenging; they’re excited for the holiday, buzzing with energy and perhaps a little overtired from an early start. Maria Pettersson, London Stansted-based pilot and a mum shares her top five hacks for keeping children happy and occupied, ensuring the journey is stress and tear free for everyone.
1. Don’t forget in-flight entertainment
When travelling with kids, it's essential keep them occupied, and to choose their activity wisely. One fantastic option that has worked wonders for me is popping into WHSmith to pick up a kid’s magazine for my daughter that includes reusable vinyl stickers.
The beauty of reusable vinyl stickers is that they only stick to the sticker book they come with. So, you don't have to worry about your toddler putting them on surfaces where they shouldn't be. Plus, they are lightweight and take up very little space in your bag, making them an excellent choice for travel.
We also have a great time in the Lego store in the departures lounge before taking off, which is the ideal entertainment to bring for your child while travelling. Kids can use the tray on the seat in front to build and stay engaged for an extended period. The added bonus is that Lego is enjoyable for parents too!
2. Think Fast Track, avoid queues and meltdowns
This game-changing tip has made travelling with toddlers much smoother for me, and it's my top recommendation to follow. We all know that waiting in queues can be challenging for little ones, so adding FastTrack to your travel plans can make a significant difference.
It means you and your family get to bypass the regular queues, saving precious time and avoiding potential meltdowns. Not only does it help during departure, but you can also make the most of FastTrack when arriving back at the airport to skip the long family passport queue. It turns a potentially stressful experience into a breeze, allowing you to focus on creating enjoyable memories with your kids throughout the journey.
3. Plan your journey around nap-time
Consider scheduling your flights around their nap times for a smoother journey. To ensure they fall asleep during the flight, avoid letting them sleep before boarding. Instead, keep them awake until you're on board.
Before the flight, let your child run around in the terminal. By having them active before the flight, they are more likely to feel tired and fall asleep during the journey, making it a more relaxing experience for both you and your little traveller.
4. Banish hunger with snacks on hand
Snacks are a lifesaver for those moments when hunger strikes.
If you don’t fancy sitting down for a proper meal at the airport, or you want to plan ahead for the plane journey, a smart snack choice I recommend is picking up kids’ snacks such 'squeeze' yoghurts from Boots in the departures lounge. You don't have to worry about waiting for liquids to be cleared during airport security checks. Even though children's food is allowed, items containing liquid may still undergo additional screening, causing delays. By purchasing snacks after passing through security, you can bypass this hassle.
My daughter's favourite is yoghurts which come with a convenient screw-top lid. If she doesn't finish the pouch, you can save it for later, minimising food waste and ensuring she stays happy and satisfied throughout the journey.
Don’t forget that there is so much else that is easy to pick up in the departures lounge. Baby wipes, books, medication – you can pretty much grab anything while waiting for your flight, so useful if you’ve forgotten anything when packing for the family!
5. Leave early, and take it all in!
When travelling with kids, it's crucial to leave home with ample time. Aim to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your departure. Rushing and stressing at the airport can be challenging even when travelling alone, and having a child to care for adds an extra layer of complexity.
Remember, while you might be a seasoned traveller, for your child, it's likely to be a whole new experience. Transform the journey into a fun day out by arriving early and taking the opportunity to look at the aircraft taking off and landing. Engage your mini-traveller with the excitement of aviation, turning it into a memorable adventure for both of you. One of my favourite spots to plane-watch is upstairs at London Stansted's The Camden Bar & Kitchen which has a full view of the runways.
So, arrive early, and turn your airport time into an exciting and positive start to your travel adventure!
By Maria Pettersson, London Stansted pilot