Here is our secret to start the best family vacation ever.
Deia took her first trans-atlantic flight when she was 6 weeks old. It was a complete success! Though we were a bit weary, Teo took his first long-haul business-class flight at 11 months old. Another complete success! Since, both of our children have taken numerous 8+ hour flights and to date we have never had a fuss-crying child – knock on wood. We are always asked how we do it and how are our kids so great. Here’s our secret:
Be Positive. Probably the most important factor of all when preparing to take a flight is your own confidence in the behaviour of your children. If you freak out or are nervous that your children are going to misbehave, chances are – they will. Our children feed off our own energy and nerves.
Talk about the trip, before the trip. For children over 1.5 years old, you can prepare their expectations for the upcoming trip. Talk about the different flights, how long they will be, things they may or may not see while on the flight, what kind of snacks they might be able to have, etc. Encourage them to help pack a few things for them to do on the flight (See: Tame the lion(ess) below). This way they are not surprised by the “adventure” of the very long flight.
Small chunks are better than one BIG chunk. When planning our flights, we try to break up our flights into smaller chunks. For example: If we are flying to California from Las Palmas de Gran Canarias, Spain (our hometown) we will stay the night in the “hub” city before crossing the Atlantic. We will then have one stop on the east coast, before heading for the west coast. Makes for a long trip, but allows the kids a break for the confining space of the airplane. Also allows for a change of scenery for the kids.
Just say NO to drugs. Always surprising, but a common asked question: What drugs do we give your children to sleep or stay calm on the flight? In our opinion, this is the craziest question ever – no we do not “drug” our children, nor think it is necessary. Just like any other cool experience, our children become stimulated and curious when they get on the plane. Why alter that experience and not allow them to just enjoy it? By dosing your children with drugs their behavior may become unpredictable and may actually work against you during the flight. They will sleep when they are ready to. It will most likely be well after you are completely destroyed. Remind yourself, it is only one day of your life and you’re on your way to your chosen paradise to relax…
Tame that lion(ess). Our best advice to you is: break out that kindred spirit of yours and join in on the fun. Share the task with your partner and take shifts throughout the flight. Like any other good behaved child, boundaries are important. For the sake of the other passengers and their quality of flight, we do not allow our children to pull or kick the seats in front of ours. This is probably our most strict “rule.” Naturally all of our “rules” from home also apply on the plane. There is no screaming, hitting, bouncing off the walls, etc. Try exploring the in-flight magazines together. Talk about what you find in them or even rip the pictures out and put them in categories. Meet some of the staff and other passengers on the plane once you are in flight by taking a trip down the isles. Often they will surprise you. Break out those treasures your children helped you pack before the BIG trip – activity books, co louring books and crayons, an iPad or tablet loaded with some of their favorite movies, cartoons, or games. And most importantly remember, unless it is your first flight, the flight is about your children having fun. The more patience you have with them, the more likely they will be relaxed and well-behaved throughout the flight.