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I am going to travel with some friends that have children (2 kids around 6 and 10 years old).

My friends don't usually travel by plane and I am not used to travel with kids. It's the kids first airplane travel.

  • Are there any common sense advices?
  • The younger says she is afraid of airplanes and flying. Is there any way to make the travel easier for everyone (the kid, the parents and other passengers)?
  • Should they take any special seats (like in cars) so that kids fit better with the security belt?
  • Any other things I am forgeting?
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how long is the flight? Is it overnight or during the day? –  Kate Gregory Aug 7 '13 at 21:47
    
It's during the day and should take up around 3 hours –  nsn Aug 7 '13 at 21:53
    
ok, so I won't add anything to my answer about sleeping etc –  Kate Gregory Aug 7 '13 at 21:55
    
I am pretty sure they will be fine. 3h long flight is not a problem really. I agree with @Kate that you should try to educate them about flying, planes, etc. so they know what to expect. –  Grzenio Aug 9 '13 at 9:52
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Kids that age are too large for car seats and probably don't need booster seats. Their parent should bring:

  • books, handheld video games, smartphones, headsets, crossword or similar puzzle books that they enjoy (and plenty of pens/pencils/etc in case some get dropped or lost)
  • snacks like granola bars or carrot sticks that they like
  • paper towels/wetwipes
  • chewing gum for the descent
  • a small camera for each child so they can document the heck out of the whole thing - their suitcase in their room just before it's zipped shut, driving to the airport, the checkin line, etc etc - this makes it start to be fun long before it starts

You can bring:

  • earplugs in case the engine noise bothers them, You can also offer them to any nearby passengers who seem upset.
  • wristbands that prevent motion sickness (they may or may not be placebo, who cares as long as they help)
  • gravol or the like to help with motion sickness (and also makes some children sleep)

(my distinction is that parents should bring things that need to fit the child's taste or preferences, or cost a lot, and you can bring small things that you pull out of your pocket to help when trouble arises.)

Toys are generally problematic. Anything with small pieces is out because losing a piece will cause more trouble than the toy prevented. Anything throwable is out.

In advance, you can give the children a book about planes and airports, or a video, to reassure them about the process. A 6 year old should have no reason to be afraid of flying, but the cure for fear is knowledge, so provide it.

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Although I agree with you about fear I am afraid she enters in a panic state with engine noise on board. –  nsn Aug 7 '13 at 21:56
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And don't let them watch "Mayday" on Discovery Channel ;-) –  vartec Aug 8 '13 at 11:14
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@nsn - you are afraid that she will? Based on what? If she has never flown before how does anyone even know? –  Kate Gregory Aug 8 '13 at 13:54
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@KateGregory I suspect that will happen for 2 reasons. When traveling by metro she cries due the loud noise. When playing with her, saying we're in a plane and taking her up in the air she loves it but says, without anyone asking, that she only likes this plane not the real ones. –  nsn Aug 8 '13 at 19:18
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As someone who has first flown at age 25, developed terrible fear of flight, then successfully overcame that fear, I can't 100% agree with "the cure for fear is knowledge". If the fear is irrational (and fear of flight is, usually), knowledge does not always help. The only thing that worked for me was accepting that it is possible to die, just like in a car; more knowledge just gave me more fuel for random statistics that fed my fear. Now, I don't think children of 6 should have to think about dying ;-) , but I wanted to point out that irrational fear is present in adults, so why not in kids. –  Cristina Aug 22 '13 at 13:18
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I found YouTube the best preparation for flying with small children. Before I went on a plane with my kids for the first time, I started viewing a lot of "airplane" video's. We watched this landing in Madeira video over and over. It is where I learned that Airbus airplanes calls the pilots retards just before touching down ;). You should be cautious not showing these "near misses" or other spectacular videos. When we boarded the plane finally my kids had a lot of YouTube "simulator" training and were extremely curious about doing it for real.

Whether or not you should bring child seats, really depends on the carrier. Bringing it on board can be convenient, if you plan to rent a car at your destination, but be prepared to not being allowed to use it on board for multiple reasons. If you are flying a American carrier you should be sure to have a seat recognized by the American authorities or in case of an European carrier you seat should have TuV logo or the like. Some carriers consider child seat a hazard during take of and landing. In the end you might end up storing the seats in the baggage compartment, because the FA denies using them. Happened to me multiple times. Opinions between FA differ within the same carrier. Only last week I had a transfer on top. On the flight into Lisbon it was an issue, on the connecting flight there was no issue what so ever.

Be prepared to ignore a lot of disgruntled fellow passengers. A lot of people really have a strong opinion against (small) children flying. True, a crying or nagging child can be a nuisance, but so is the bragging drunk businessmen who are also sometimes abundant.

It can be beneficial to learn the word for child or children in the local native language, because in some countries people with children board first. Although I like boarding last, but with children boarding first can be beneficial (especially if you are not pre-seated). The disgruntled fellow passenger will make sure not to sit in your proximity. In case you bring your car seats and the FA disagrees there is still room enough to store them in the overhead compartments. I was allowed boarding in Lisbon first, only because I learned that criança is the local word for child and the boarding announcement was in Portuguese first. Luckily, once it was announced in English, I was already standing in the children line. It was brilliant.

If you have a tablet or laptop, load it with some cartoons and you also might have a relaxing flight.

In my case showing a lot of YouTube, really turned out well, I ended up explaining why planes fly while being heavy almost half of the flight. It made them curious about flying and travelling and they wanted to know more.

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FA's with different opinions in the same carrier means one thing, this particular airlines has bad policy which has some gray zones when it comes to child seats leaving the final decision to FA's opinions. I can totally understand this because each airlines has grey zones in some parts of its policy so they can find someone to blame later.. –  user1712 Aug 22 '13 at 16:20
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This may sound a little mean but if you're really concerned with them misbehaving or crying during the descent, one thing my mother used to is give us Dramamine. Granted she was frequently traveling with three of us under ten, and often by herself. And we all had a track record of being difficult travelers, particularly with respect to the ear pain during landing. But people would often tell her how lucky she was that we slept during the whole flight.

I don't have kids yet, but I'm keeping this in mind for when I do.

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