It’s not just about keeping the kids entertained while in the air that’s important; there are a myriad of details that go into flying with children.
What kind of research should you do?
What’s the ticket pricing for a child? Does the airline offer child services i.e. nanny service? Does your choice of accommodation cater for children, can you bring a stroller along etc.? Does your child need travel documents, in accordance with ACSA and TSA regulations, etc.?
Tip: one can never do enough research to ensure your perfect vacation, be sure to set plenty of time aside for this – especially the administrative bits of flying with children.
How should I prepare my children for the flight?
Speak to your child and prepare them for the flight. Get them excited about the prospect of flying and explain to them that they will be sharing the cabin with other passengers. Speak about behaviour and that while flying it is a good idea to use their ‘inside voice’ and to try to be considerate of other passengers.
Tip: If possible, try to limit your child’s liquid intake about 2-4 hours before your flight to avoid needing the loo during check-in, boarding and take-off!
Which travel documents are needed?
Make sure all your children’s travel documents (ID, birth certificate, passport, visas) are in place, save it to your smartphone or to your cloud (Google Drive/Dropbox/iCloud) – make copies of it and keep them handy. In some cases when travelling without your spouse, you might need an affidavit from him/her, giving you permission to travel with your child.
Tip: Make sure to plan this part of your travel process at least 3 months in advance!
What kind of clothing should I pack for the flight?
Pack enough spare clothing in your carry-on luggage for those unexpected accidents. Also, go with layers instead of bulky items to warm up or cool down. There’s no need to strap your child into an oversized coat as he or she will most probably find it uncomfortable to travel like this. Also, don’t underestimate the fact that it can be quite a few degrees cooler in an airplane than what it was when you left your house, so a light but warm jacket and a spare pair of socks are always a good plan!
Tip: Keep a few large Ziploc bags for soiled or wet clothes.
How do I work around flight times?
Book online. Check in online. Arrive on time (check how many hours ahead of time you can check in) but don’t arrive overly early either. This way your child won’t get too distracted, over stimulated, or even bored at the airport, waiting to board the plane. Schedule flight times to coincide with child’s nap or bed time to allow for a smooth journey, if possible.
Tip: Travelling with a toddler? Schedule feeding times to coincide with take-off and landing as drinking/chewing can reduce the impact of blocked ears.
Can I fly with my child’s medication?
Always have any of your child’s necessary medication on hand. Over-the-counter medication, as well as prescription drugs (with proof of prescription), can be taken on a flight. For South Africa, passengers are allowed to carry one months’ supply of their own or their children’s medication with them, but this amount will vary from destination to destination, so please make sure to check ahead of time. Flights can experience turbulence, and even without that, it can still be tricky at times to give a baby or child his/her medication. A good idea for all children under the age of 10 years old is to forget the medicine spoons at home and use a medication syringe instead to avoid mess. Keep some allergy medication at hand too. It’s recommended to keep your child’s medication in your carry-on baggage in case of emergency usage.
Tip: Mark your children’s medicine clearly and store it in sealable bags.
For more tips head over to Travelstart’s blog.