Usually I tend to steer clear of giving parenting advice because every child is unique. Moreover, every parent has their own beliefs and ideas. But after surviving a 22 hrs 25 mins transatlantic flight with a 4 year old and a 10 year old, I feel like I have a few things to share. The flight was from JFK to Dubai (short layover) and then Dubai to Kolkata, India. Of course, we had to endure this miserably long flight not once, but twice. You got to fly back home as well, right?
The #1 life-saver is the “Novelty Factor”. Get toys and/or books that are new to them. Something they haven’t laid eyes on before. Of course, have the lovey they can’t sleep without and the monster trucks that have permanently taken up residence in your handbag, but also have something they are not expecting at all. A surprise toy and/or book.
The airline will give them toys, at least Emirates did but unfortunately the toys and puzzles in the bag had too many parts and were not really engaging for a four year old. The bag itself however was fun for him to carry and after getting back he insisted on taking it to school for a few days. Make sure the toy does not have accessories that can get lost under the seats so crayons are a big no.
In-flight movies, shows and music will keep the pre-teen entertained but the preschooler will also need hands-on toys. One of the things that worked was the double sided magnetic drawing board (picasso tiles) which had the alphabet on one side and an attached pencil. No loose parts. The book we got had his favorite little blue truck embarking on a brave new adventure. What’s more, it had flaps he could flip over. Always a bonus.
#2 Pick your seats in advance. Try and get seats with more leg room and at the front if possible.
#3 Make sure you heed the call for travelers with kids and use the pre-board privilege but do it the Samantha Brown Way. She suggests partner number 1 actually use the pre-board option and load all the “kid stuff” and carry-ons. Partner number 2 waits with the kids and boards with the last zone.
#4 Speaking of waiting with kids in airports – take them for walks as much as possible. One smart family I saw was letting their kid go up and down the travelator (moving walkway) for what seemed like the millionth time. I am sure the kid was tuckered out by the time they were on the plane. Tire. Them. Out.
#5 If your kids are anything like mine, they will sleep through meals and then of course they will be hungry at all odd times. Ask the attendants for snacks and they will provide you with fruits, packaged stuff like cheese crackers, trail mix, nuts and juice boxes/chocolate milk. Just as before, new varieties of snack with unfamiliar branding equals engagement which equals to five minutes of respite for you.
#6 Take a deep breath and tell yourself that the flight will land and you will get off the metal bird. Eventually.