Short haul flights can be anything up to seven hours but can easily feel a lot longer when you’re traveling with kids.
The trick is to make your journey as simple as possible, accept all available help, book with a view to getting on and off the plane quickly and smoothly and never, ever forgetting to check kids passports are valid – amazing how often this one gets overlooked in the excitement.
Thomas Cook Airlines are experts in travelling with the wriggliest toddlers and tiniest babies. Here are a few of their tried and tested hints on how to make a short haul journey easy from start to finish.
1/7 Plan ahead and take a breath
It might sound like a cliché, but the little things can make a big difference when you’re travelling with kids. Select seating when you book so everyone’s together or as close as possible. Priority boarding gives you some valuable time to find where you’re sitting and stow bags in overhead lockers before everyone else is rushing to do the same.
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2/7 Make sure passports are current for flight dates
If this is one that makes you smile, hold off on the mirth. It’s surprising how many families arrive at the airport with children’s passports due to expire before their return flights. It’s very easy to forget the every-five-years renew rule for kids, so check, just in case. A new passport takes up to four weeks to arrive from receipt of an application.
3/7 Let kids pack their own cabin bags (then check them)
Kids love to pack bags almost as much as they love holidays. Spending a few hours getting them invested in what to take for the journey’s a good way to make sure favourites aren’t left behind. You can also pack in a few wrapped pressies for opening during the flight – useful distractions for boring waits too.
Don’t forget to do a final, secret, once over check of any bag contents yourself. Kids can often have a different take on what’s essential – you won’t be the first parent to have jettisoned a rock collection at airport security.
4/7 Build in extra time for everything
Nobody wants to do more hanging around at an airport than is strictly necessary. But, cutting it fine is the fastest route to full-blown chaos. Just assume everything’s going to take almost twice as long with kids and play by the rules: arrive two hours before flight time, go straight through security, sit as close as possible to the gate at departures and have all your kids and kit ready to move if you’ve arranged priority boarding.
5/7 Organise airport transfers in advance
The flight itself can seem like heaven compared to getting from the airport to your resort. Inevitably, the last taxi will just be leaving as you hit the rank with kids, bags and the very last of your patience in tow. And, even if you do manage to find a cab, the chances of pulling together a perfectly pronounced set of understandable directions in another language are slim to none. Give yourself and everyone else a break and arrange airport transfers when you book your flights.
6/7 Think comfort food and cabin pressure
Serving meals, handing out drinks, screening a movie, they’re all traditionally timed to make long flights seem shorter. It’s pretty basic psychology and it works. Take a leaf out of the airline guidebook and pack child-size snacks for the journey. Keep any sweet treats for real emergencies (no one wants to fly with kid-sugar-rush).
If you’re travelling with a baby, try to time a last feed to coincide with the descent: sucking helps with cabin pressure earache – hard sweets work for older kids and fruit-sugar lollies are the best idea for under fives.
7/7 Arrange your own in-flight entertainment
The biggest challenge on any flight is keeping boredom at bay. Hopefully you’ll have remembered to pack any can’t-settle-without essentials for babies and that’s usually enough.
Two and over? You’re head of the entertainment committee and every other passenger’s nightmare, unless you have lots of quiet and enthralling stuff planned. A few episodes of a favourite TV show downloaded on a device work better than full-length movies. Games are great distractions and comfortable, volume controlled headphones are best accessories, remember to keep ‘fun sounds’ switched off.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to charge all batteries before you go – power-out in the middle of unpacking Toca Life Vacation is a catastrophe of almost mythical proportions and you’ll never hear the end of it.