There is no doubt that flying with kids is not an enviable task, and when you’re faced with travelling on your own, it becomes even more daunting. It’s hard to even contemplate coming out the other end unscathed and ready for a ‘relaxing’ holiday, but flying solo with your kids can be done if you follow some simple tips.
Prepare. Some of the more practical things you can do to make flying with kids go smoothly, is to pack plenty of entertainment, bring plenty of food and drink and arrive at the terminal early. Also check out the airport before you travel. Heathrow and Gatwick, for example, have family security lanes and some terminals have kids zones with soft play and more to keep the kids entertained once you have gone through security. I have often missed these not realising they are there until I walked past them on the way to board. So check BEFORE you travel or ask at the airport.
Make your seat reservations early. This sounds like a pretty obvious tip, but it is well worth taking note as an early booking will guarantee you get seats together. If you’re a parent travelling alone, this is very important as you do not want to (and usually are not allowed to) be seated in different areas of the plane. If you have left it too late, and are unable to book seats next to each other, you will have to see what can be done at the check-in counter. If all fails, you will need to explain the situation to the stewardess when you board but this can cause you and the staff a lot of hassle and waiting around so it’s best avoided!
Splash out on priority boarding if you book with a cheap carrier or charter airline. If you can afford it, it is well worth paying for, especially when flying with young kids: If you are anything like me, it will make a big difference to your stress levels when boarding. This also has the advantage that you will have time to get you and your children settled on the plane and store your hand luggage safely in the overhead lockers before the crowds rush onto the plane.
Choose your seat position wisely. Consider seat location and amenities offered by the airline you are flying with and choose seats near the staff area, the bathroom or aisle seats if either of these are important to you and your children tend to be restless. Find out where the power ports are located – crucial if you’re relying on electrical entertainment such as DVD players, game consoles and other gadgets to keep your children amused. Just remember to always bring headphones – other passengers might not appreciate the constant droll of your child’s computer game or DVD player.
Befriend the flight attendants. This might sound odd at first but flying solo with your kids is hard work and we forget that the flight attendants are there to help. Making sure you have at least one person who is aware you are travelling alone is a good move, especially if you are on a long-haul flight – for safety reasons as well as practical reasons. It will make life easier if you need to make a toilet trip or leave your seat for any other reason.
Keep the children entertained. This is the hardest task of all as a solo parent – you only have one pair of hands so it’s well worth preparing a few games or crafts which the kids can get on with once you’re air borne. A great game, known as ‘build a story’, can keep kids amused for hours with everyone adding a sentence onto the story. Make sure each child has their own rucksack for the plane filled with top trumps, coloured paper and crayons, or a piece of string for cat’s cradle, all of which take up little space but go a long way. You could add a travel activity pack as a surprise which can be bought cheaply before you travel rather than at airport prices. Or you can make your own – some great ideas for smart travel accessories for kids can be found on Pinterest. It might be wise to invest in a DVD player and headphones if you are facing a longer journey – it has saved me on many a trip when I ran out of either patience or energy with my toddler. Don’t forget to ask the flight attendants if there are any free activity packs (or sweets) to be had!
The two key things to remember when flying solo with your kids are to prepare your journey and to ask for help. In fact, you will be surprised how many people offer their help when they see a parent struggling down stairs with a young child and luggage in hand.