Going on holiday should be about enjoyment and happiness, not stress and anxiety about the flight or helping your children manage. Your mind should be focused on jetting off to your dream destination to have the time of your life exploring different cultures, climates and landscapes – and nothing else.
But for some people travelling, and flying in particular, can be a challenge. Whether it is because you are nervous about flying or because it is your first time on holiday with your young family, no-one should deny themselves the chance to book a trip away.
For that reason, we have put together our best advice for flying with children. We’ve also got tips for people who are anxious about flying, are pregnant and those who are travelling alone to ensure that your flight to Canada is as smooth as possible.
Flying with children
Flying with your young children, or taking a long trip, can be a daunting thought for any parent. But forget the nightmares of the dreaded tantrum in the middle of the terminal, the Buckaroo-style balancing of a huge pile of luggage. It doesn’t need to be that stressful.
Planning and Preparation
There are no guarantees, but there are a number of measures that can help make a smoother journey. Before you fly, try booking seats that allow you to sit as a family. If that isn’t possible, try to make sure that your children are with someone they know.
“My biggest recommendation – and it’s totally not what you think – when traveling with young kids from 9 months to about 4 years old, sit in the back. IN the very back if you can. I know, it’s right near the bathrooms, but that also gives them a chance to walk around a little without bugging the other passengers, and usually it simply is less stressful in the very back.
“Also, another bit of advice, normally airlines ask for people with kids if they want to go first. GO LAST!!! Kids get super restless, why keep them bounded any longer than they have to. I always went on last, just in time for take-off, and it helped so much.”
Snacks are a must to take with you, as airport queues and the flight itself can seem to last a lifetime to little bodies, and travel often interrupts mealtimes. It is also helpful to consider ordering a child meal for the flight – it may help them nod off for a mid-flight nap and will keep the hunger at bay.
Even best laid plans can go wrong if you’re travelling with children, as they can take longer to get ready. That coupled with any extenuating circumstances like traffic can cause a stressful rush. Leaving extra time to get to the airport in case of any mishaps will help make sure you and your family aren’t upset by arriving late.
While on the plane
When on the plane, there are a number of awkward scenarios which keep parents up at night. The most notorious of which is your child kicking the back of another passenger’s seat. To ensure this doesn’t happen, simply take their shoes off – they will not be as inclined to kick the seat if it hurts their feet.
Your carry-on bag should not only be filled with your favourite magazine, book and music, but also have plenty to keep the children entertained. No one likes their ears popping during take-off and the landing, but as adults we know it’s coming. Pack sweets in your bag that they can enjoy to help them adjust to the air pressure.
While on your flight to Toronto or another Canadian destination like Vancouver, airlines often offer seat-back screens that are great for keeping kids entertained. However, it is always worth packing a few extras with you, just in case. Having some colouring books, toys or even your own electronic device with pre-downloaded entertainment ready can help keep them happy. Check with your airline before you fly to find out if they have seatback TVs and what films and shows they have for little ones.
Natalie Tanner from The Educational Tourist, who explores the world with her family, also suggested packing entertainment for them:
“Flying with kids can be fun and peaceful if you are prepared! Pack toys that can be used even if you lose a piece or two, like Lego. Quiet activities like mazes, colouring books, stickers and finger puppets are fun and pass the time without bothering anyone around you. Download books on devices and either read or listen to old favourites or new favourites about your destination. Snacks are always a good idea no matter the age. Keeping young travellers busy and happy will make your family adventure the best ever!”
Tackling jet lag
Jet lag is one of the most unpleasant aspects of long-haul flights and far-flung holidays. The unnerving state of sleep depravity balanced with the inability to nod off leaves you in limbo.
The first step to beating jet lag is to make sure that you are well rested before you fly, even taking the mentality that your holiday begins 48 hours before you actually set off. Stay relaxed, get plenty of sleep and eat well before you go.
In flight, the pilot will be sure to announce your time of arrival as the actual time in the country but also what it would be at home. This is a time to consider not only moving your watch and devices in line with the time zone, but also your head. If for example you are flying during the night then try and nod off as early on as possible.
When you have landed try and keep yourself awake until a reasonable bed time. If you land in the morning or during the day, go about your business as you would at home and aim to settle in for the night at a reasonable local time.
If you had nothing holding you back, no one would ever stop travelling. For some people it is finances or work commitments, but for some, the fear of flying really limits their holiday experiences.
It is far more common than you probably think. You may be looking around the gate or the plane and see a field of smiling faces, but there is every likelihood that underneath there are some people feeling as anxious as you are. The first thing to remember is that this is perfectly normal. At the end of the day, flying is not natural for us humans. But it is important to move past this and appreciate the marvel that flying is one of man’s greatest achievements.
Accept that it is perfectly normal
Everyone is anxious about something, and being an anxious flyer is not necessarily a problem. You might be comfortable in front of a crowd of people performing a presentation, while other people in the crowd would dread that. This is the same as anxiety about flying.
You should acknowledge what part of flying makes you particularly nervous. It could be the waiting and the actual build up to departure, the take-off, the landing or the fear of turbulence. Take your time to think about this part of the journey, preferably long in advance of the actual day. Sit down and dissect what it is you are worrying about. What do I think is actually going to happen? Why is it a big deal? What will happen when I do begin to panic?
This can be quite an uncomfortable task, but it is something that can really be beneficial. You know that you are worried about something, but you never really know what that will result in. A panic attack? Panic attacks last for a maximum of a couple of minutes, then it passes.
This is perhaps the most common practice adopted by those who do have a fear of flying. This can be done in a number of ways, with many opting for music. Making a personal flying playlist full of your favourite songs will ensure that you have songs that can help pump you up, relax you or make you happy before or during your flight.
Another tactic is talking and sharing conversations with someone. But what if you are flying alone, or need to completely switch off from your surroundings? Well, why not try podcasts, like Katie from Wandertooth did:
“After one very turbulent flight in Mexico, my husband and I have both become somewhat nervous flyers. Although it improves with frequency, we definitely take a few steps before our flights so we can be more comfortable and manage the anxiety as best as possible. One thing we’ve found works brilliantly are podcasts: books require too much concentration when you’re nervous, and music doesn’t provide enough of a distraction for us. Podcasts seem to strike the right balance, as well as drowning out the weird sounds the airplane makes. We always download enough podcast content to cover the entire duration of the flight!”
Thanks to the huge array of podcasts available you can listen to everything from sports to movies, comedy to topical stories allowing you to escape into a comfortable place.
Focus on the positives
This may seem obvious, but avoid negative headlines in the build up to a holiday if you are a nervous flyer. Instead, focus on the positives. Occupy your mind with the giddying excitement that comes from discovering a new place and relaxing on your perfect break. At the end of the day, flying is the safest mode of transport and these negative stories only make the news because they are so irregular and uncommon.
Suffering from aerophobia
While some people are apprehensive about flying because it is new, different or they’ve had a bad experience previously, others suffer from aerophobia. This is an excessive worry about air travel which reportedly affects one in ten people. There are a number of reported causes including a fear of the aeroplane itself or links to other psychological problems like claustrophobia, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.
Those who suffer from a fear of flying fall into two different categories; some have a fear of “internal loss of control”. This comes from the feeling that they will lose control of their emotions while in the air because of their anxiety, which leads to an embarrassing episode. Other people fear external factors surrounding air travel, such as bad weather, faults in the aeroplane or turbulence. Even the notion that air travel is among the safest modes of transportation available often does little to reassure someone suffering from this kind of aerophobia.
You may recognise some of these feelings and believe that you do suffer from this phobia. If that is the case then there is a number of options you can take to help. Anxiety UK are just one of the many charities available to support you. With more than 40 years experience, they have been supporting those suffering with anxiety through therapy, free chat services, forums and specialist helplines.
Flying when pregnant
Travelling may seem like the last thing you want to do when pregnant, but a trip can be stress-free and comfortable if it is well planned and organised. However, you should always speak with your doctor or midwife before planning a flight.
Like with any of the previously mentioned situations, you should allow yourself extra time to get to the airport and through to the gate. This will prevent any unnecessary stress and give you the chance to kick back with a magazine before you jet off.
Choosing the right seat
It is very important that you are comfortable during your flight and for those who are travelling while heavily pregnant, this can be a challenge. Aim to book a bulk head seat or an aisle seat for a little more space, as well as easy access in and out.
Top Tip: If you have arrived early and are on your own, it is always worth asking if there is any possibility of an upgrade.
Make sure you are eating and drinking
You should aim to be drinking a small bottle roughly every hour, especially on longer flights. The increased pressure in the cabin can lead to oedema (water retention in the lower limbs) as well as being more dehydrated. This also comes back to our previous point because if you are in an aisle seat, then you will not have to clamber past people for your toilet break.
Although it may compromise your chances to get an upgrade, it is vitally important that you are comfortable during your flight. You’re pregnant and you can be excused for rocking up to the gate in your favourite pair of sweats and a big hoodie. It is also worth putting on some compression socks, but rather than going for the ones sold in the airport, ask your midwife to take your measurements so you can get the best possible pair online or through her.
Our best advice for flying
Check all your information
Even before booking your flight you should be checking that your passport is in date and with time left to spare for your return.
After you have secured your seat and printed off all your documents, keep it all together in a handy folder. In this you can also include details of where you are staying, maps, transport links and contact numbers. When you have all this together, add it to a packing list. Packing is often something that gets left to the last minute, which is fine, but not when you have no idea what you need.
Long before your holiday, create a clear list of everything that you are going to need to take with you and leave it on your bag which you will pack it in. Keep all of this in an obvious place with your folder.
Leave plenty of time
The number one rule for any flyer, leave plenty of time not only to get to the airport, but also while you’re there so you can suss out exactly where you need to go and what you need to do. This way you can figure out your route to the gate once through security and browse duty-free for in-flight treats.
We spoke to The Guy Who Flies who echoed our advice:
“My best advice for any flyer is to aim to arrive at the airport at least 2-3 hours before your flight. This is irrespective of how far you live from the airport, how big the airport is or where you are flying to. I have taken flights almost every month for the last 17 years and have encountered all sorts of delays, whether it be traffic jams, my car breaking down or delays at airports.
“I’ve seen horrendously long queues at airport check-in (remember some flights close the check-in desks/bag drop desks up to 50 minutes before departure time). I’ve also seen some horrendously long queues at passport control and airport security (Toronto Pearson airport springs to mind). Some flights finish boarding 20-30 minutes before scheduled departure time. For less stressful travel it is better to be 2 hours early rather than a minute late.”
If possible, using only a carry-on bag will cut out a lot of time before and after your flight, as well as saving a bit of money. But you’ll do well to fit everything in to a small bag for a holiday to Canada. If you are using a larger bag make sure it is distinctive and individual, it will be easy for you to spot when it comes around the carousel.
Top tip: Some airlines allow you to mark your bag as fragile for free, for others it is a small fee but this can ensure that your bags are handled with more care by the staff and could result in them coming out first at the other end. However, it is a gamble as they could be the last pieces removed from the plane.
It is important to remember that by taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that flying is comfortable and much more enjoyable than before.