Top Tips for Staying Sane While Flying with Your Kids

Airport travel family young kids luggage baby © iStock

Your holiday is booked, you shut your eyes and dream of floating in a turquoise-blue sea – but you have to get there first, with your whole family.That includes your kids, old enough to walk - and especially run - all around the cabin and ask ‘are we there yet’ every 15 minutes!

Don’t worry we’ve got it all figured out! One of the quietest and most spacious airplanes in the sky, the A380 is perfect for a family flight.

(If your kids are younger, we have this article with tips for flying with babies).

Before You Fly

Check your A380 seat plan on your airline’s website or on the iflyA380 app and request seats that are best for you and your family.

If there are four of you traveling together, then the middle four-seat aisle is ideal as you can sit together and be less likely to have to worry about disturbing other passengers if the kids are getting in and out of their seats all the time. 

Sitting near the toilets can also be a good idea, especially for independent children who revel in the excitement of making trips up the cabin on their own.

Get everyone involved in packing and let the kids have their own on-board bag. Let them write their own packing checklists and decide what games or books they want to take.

The A380 has excellent storage room and giving the kids responsibility for their own belongings before they board will mean they will be more responsible for them after they board.

The more self-sufficient they are, the less time you’ll spend finding crayons, books or snacks for them once you’re in the air.

Packs of cards, pencils and paper, stickers, small cars, and tablets with games, are all popular choices for in-flight bags. Ask them not to pack noisy toys – not only will these drive you crazy, but they will also add to your stress levels as you worry about upsetting other passengers.

And make sure any favourite stuff animals are marked with their name and your phone number in case they go missing.

Most A380 airlines provide headphones for the in-flight entertainment but you might want to buy kids’ headphones before you board.

Having a comfortable pair of headphones (priced from around $US15) that are adjustable to their head size can result in hours of fuss-free in-flight cartoons, movies and games.

Check airline meal menus ahead and book children’s meals in advance. Chat about the menu so they know what to expect and be less likely to complain about the food.

If you don’t think your child will eat what’s on the menu, pack their favourite sandwiches as a backup, along with lots of snacks.

And pack baby wipes. Your kids may no longer be babies, but they still make a mess. Baby wipes are great for spills, and sticky fingers and mouths.

A small plastic bag for rubbish is also a good idea – encourage the kids to use it to keep your seat area cleaner and more pleasant to fly in.

On the Flight

Sacrificing style for comfort is a smart move on a flight. White linen trousers are a bad idea and best saved for your destination.

Dress the kids in comfortable clothes: tracksuits and T-shirts are better than jeans. Also, get everyone to add an extra set of light-weight clothes to cabin bags for when they spill their juice or knock their meal tray into their lap (or all over you).

Resist the urge to accept your airline’s offer and board first if you have kids. While you want to get on board and settled in your seat in plenty of time, remember that the longer you’re on board, the longer you have to wait for takeoff.

And that means more time for them to start fidgeting and ask you a dozen times if you’ll be taking off soon. Use the time instead to go to the toilet in the departures lounge and to burn off a bit of extra energy.

When you board, put main bags in the overhead lockers and keep a smaller ‘day’ bag under the seat in front for easy access. This should have toys, games, snacks, baby wipes and anything else that may need accessing multiple times during the flight.

You don’t want to have to worry about accessing the overhead locker to retrieve something that could be easily stored at your (or their) fingertips.

Keeping Kids Entertained

Most A380 airlines provide packs for the kids – such as crayons and books – but always take your own as well. Crayons will get dropped or lost; pens will run out. Always have a plan B.

Don’t get all the toys out at once. Space them out so there is always something ‘new’ for the kids to do when they get bored. Consider adding ‘surprise’ toys to their flight bags to lift their spirits when they start flagging.

Take sweets for sore ears, or – if you’re OK with bribery on a long-haul flight – use them as rewards for good behaviour.

Invest some time in showing the kids how to make the most of the in-flight entertainment. A380 airlines generally offer great TV, music and film options, and these can give every member of the family a chance to get some “me-time”.

Making sure the kids know how navigate the system will reduce the risk of them pressing the wrong button and interrupting your own film with requests to “fix” their TV.

Taking Time Out

Consider the time of the flight and have a strategy for sleep. If it’s a morning flight, make sure they are well rested before boarding so that it takes them longer to get bored and start fidgeting.

If it’s a night-time flight, ensure they are active at the airport so they are tired when their usual bedtime comes around. Remember: the more sleep they get, the more time you have to sleep or watch a movie in peace.

The A380 has very quiet cabins, so sleeping should be easier than on other airplanes. Even so, it can help to continue their bedtime routine: make sure they have a night shirt or pyjamas in their in-flight bag, as well as their toothbrush.

Ask for Help If You Need It

This is really important – especially if you are traveling as a single parent or with multiple kids. If you are polite, flight attendants are usually more than happy to help you with extra snacks or drinks for the kids, or to watch your kids while you go to the bathroom.

And Breathe…

Remember that flying is an adventure at any age – and it’s your holiday too! Try not to stress too much about your kids disturbing other passengers. Be respectful and encourage your kids to do the same.

Remind them in particular not to kick the seat in front or constantly turn around and annoy the passenger behind. Set out your expectations early in the flight and tell them how loud is too loud.

Remember that we were all kids once. Some passengers won’t be happy flying with kids no matter how much effort you – or your kids – make. Just encourage your kids to relax and enjoy the flight. If they are happy, chances are you – and your fellow passengers – will be happy too.

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