“Are we nearly there yet?”
Let’s be honest – the first 3 or 4 times they ask this (usually accomplished within 30 minutes of take-off) is cute and quite funny. The 8th time (in an hour) is getting a little bit annoying and when you hit 15-20 times in 90 minutes it’s starting to seriously get on your nerves!
That’s not the only problem either, what if they cry? Or throw a drama-queen-sized tantrum? What will other people will think if they make too much noise? Or if they listen to the same episode of Peppa Pig over and over again at high volume? Can you stand the tutting and disparaging looks? No, you’re right, it’s too stressful, cancel the move!
Thankfully, there’s no need for anything so extreme and there are lots of things you can plan to fend off the questions (and the tantrums) for as long as possible… It’s all about structuring your flight to kill time. Check out this article about what to pack in your hand luggage to help you and your child survive the flight unscathed.
Flying is an adventure
As an adult, it’s easy to forget that being on a plane, way up high above houses, trees and fields is an awe-inspiring adventure. Take the opportunity early in the flight to point out all the things you can see and engage your child in conversation about how they’re feeling – “Do your ears feel weird? Do you feel like a giant being up so high? Do you think the birds are jealous? Wow look, we’re in the clouds! How pretty they are!” This will spark imagination and generate ideas that you can use later in the flight. For now, be thankful that enthusiasm for a new experience should easily kill the first half an hour.
Once the initial novelty has worn off it’s time to introduce some games while your child is still engaged and happy. You don’t want to be carrying lots of equipment with you so keep your games simple. I-Spy, with letters for older children and colours for younger ones. Guess the Animal, spotting shapes and pictures in clouds, two facts and a fib and word association. Whatever you choose to play, going along with your children’s creativity and encouraging their laughter will make it last longer and before you know it you’re another 45 minutes down!
Now it’s story time. The games have dried up, the children are starting to fidget and it’s time to tell a story or two. If you’re creative, you can make up your own and include the children in the story for some personal engagement and involvement. If not, then a small selection of (new) books in your hand luggage or downloaded onto your Kindle will do the trick equally well. Three stories they haven’t heard before, with appropriate questions and diversions will give you another 30 minutes easily.
If they’re not into stories you can use sticker books or drawing (an Etch-a-Sketch for little ones prevents pens from rolling all over the floor). Use the inspiration from earlier in the flight and have a range of suitable stickers or picture ideas ready to roll out.
Snacks aren’t only a necessary trick to fend off hunger and moaning – they’re also another time killing activity. Instead of allowing the munching of chocolate biscuits while you’re reading stories, have snack times as something separate and plan them carefully. A few minutes to wipe hands with wet-wipes before and after and a range of snacks that take time to eat – raisins, fruit, self-assembly mini wraps or cheese and crackers, there are plenty of choices for the creative parent. Avoid sugary snacks because the last thing you need is a burst of sugar filled energy.
After snack time – that was another 20 minutes by the way – it’s time to pull out the big guns. What child, of any age, doesn’t enjoy plugging themselves in to a Nintendo DS, iPad, or phone for some uninterrupted screen time? Make sure your devices are fully charged, you have suitable headphones for each child to reduce the volume (remember to check they haven’t got it too loud for sensitive little ears) and you have downloaded an array of enticing new games and movies. You could easily lose them for an hour or more if you’re well prepared.
Throughout all your carefully planned activities, a happy child is a comfortable one. Let them wear their favourite soft and old clothes on the plane and have a spare set with you just in case of accidents. From spilled drinks in older kids to an accidental wee or someone who gets travel sick, wet sticky clothes are a fast track to tantrum land – and I don’t just mean the child! Keep them clean, warm and comfortable.
Tire them out before you board the plane. Unless you have a very early flight, plan time in your routine to take them out for a run about beforehand. This way you’ll use up the excess energy generated by excitement and after they’ve played, looked around, had a snack and indulged in some tech time many kids will be ready to give in to a nap. Have a light, soft blanket to hand and make them as comfortable as you possibly can and you might be lucky enough to have one that sleeps for an hour.
This simple schedule works for a flight of up to 4 hours. If yours is longer, simply lather, rinse and repeat (with an extra snack time thrown in after the nap). Forget ‘me’ time, plane journeys with children are all about them – but if you put in the leg work to plan a journey schedule and keep them engaged and interested you’ll be “nearly there” in no time.