Despite racking up more than her fair share of Air Miles, Space In Your Case’s Katie isn’t the calmest person ever when she gets on a plane. Here, she shares some tips on flying with children, when you’re an anxious flyer…
I am REALLY not keen on flying. That may sound strange for someone who has travelled all over the world and who contributes to a travel blog- but deep down I really hate it. I’ve had serious panic attacks on planes (the most memorable being on a night flight back from Barbados), I’ve very nearly got off just before we taxied down the runway, and the slightest bit of turbulence can send me into panic mode. I also spent a fair few weeks before a flight worrying in the back of my mind.
I once remember an old boss from my travel industry days telling me that when I had children I would be even worse when it came to flying, that I would be more nervous, presumably because you worry more when you have your most precious cargo on board. But in my case, having my daughter’s has actually made me slightly better, although I still am not particularly comfortable with it.
Why do I do it even though I really don’t like it? Because quite simply, I LOVE to travel. Travelling is my passion, I want to experience as much of the world as I can and I now want my children to be able to experience the same. I have managed to overcome my fears in order to get to see these far flung places and to make memories, and while I am still never likely to completely relax when I am on a plane, I have some great tips and tricks that helped me on board, especially when it came to my children.
I thought I would share a few of them below as I often get emails from people who are anxious about flying with young children for the first time…
It can be stressful travelling with young children- think a confined space for a few hours, members of the general public and no escape- it’s bound to make even the most seasoned traveller a bit nervous. My best advice I can give is plan ahead as the more prepared you are the more relaxed you will feel. The first time we went on a flight we explained to my eldest daughter about what was going to happen so she was aware about the fact she had to keep her seatbelt on etc. Also make sure you put them in loose clothes, pack blankets if you are going long haul (you can’t beat a cosy blanket to snuggle up with), stuffed toys and comforters if you are wanting them to sleep, and perhaps even a pair of PJ’s if it’s a night flight. And of course don’t forget to fully charge iPads, load them with Apps etc.
We started the tradition of having a plane bag for when we go on a flight and it’s stuck- so much so we do it on every flight we now go on. It’s a bit of excitement for the journey and my girls get so excited to open them- I don’t let them peek inside the bags until we are up in the air and the seat belt sign has been switched off. Basically I just hunt around for cheap pocket money toys- things like small colouring pads, stickers, pocket games, a couple of new books and things like that. I always pack sweets and snacks as well, these are great for when the seat belt sign comes on as we come into landing and they don’t particularly want to stay in their seats. I will always bring the iPad and I got some great kids headphones off Amazon which are comfy and come with a volume control for their little ears. We will always let them buy a magazine at the airport too, and they always come with cheap toys that they love to play with.
It sounds really strange but if I ever get nervous during the flight I like to repeat in my head little snippets of information that I find reassuring. I like to think about my favourite celebrities and how many times they must fly a year, or think about statistics and I repeat them over and over in my head and breathe calmly. So for example how many thousands of flights take off and land each day, or how many flights happen a year. I say these quietly in my head and they definitely make me feel better. Taking deep breaths and closing my eyes helps too.
Especially for long flights, I find breaking it into sections really helps. So I think well for the next half an hour I will read a story to the girls, then we will play some games on the iPad, or watch a film. It’s the same if I am on my own, but having these milestones to reach often helps me relax a bit more and helps the flight go that bit quicker. Plus of course on flights children need to be entertained and it helps them having small timeframes of things to do.
I don’t particularly like take off, I don’t really relax until we are up in the air and the captain has switched off the seat belt signs, but more than that I hate bumps and turbulence- over the years I have been on some awfully bumpy flights, including ones where they suspend all services from the crew etc. But I try and reassure myself that it really is just air pockets- I went on a press flight once where the captain came out to speak to us and he was really great at reassuring me about turbulence- you think about how much a ship rocks up and down in the sea and you don’t think twice, well it’s completely the same up in the air. Planes are made for the air- it’s so important for anxious flyers to remember that, it’s obvious but not when you are feeling nervous. When it’s particularly bumpy I also like to look at the cabin crew and other passengers, more often than not they are completely relaxed, watching tv, reading or having a snooze- it’s then I realise that I am more than likely panicking for no reason.
Lets face it, travelling with children can be stressful. But just remember that most people on the plane are going to be sympathetic if they cry, or grumble a little bit, after all they are so little. Just come prepared with things to entertain them, and try and relax as best you can. If I am feeling a little anxious, the best thing I can do is cuddle my girls- they instantly relax me and I often find that by chatting away to them I forget why I was feeling worried in the first place. I really don’t like flying, at some stages in my life it has almost stopped me going anywhere, but I have got to the point where I have just decided to face my fear and do it anyway. And since travelling with the girls, I have definitely become slightly less anxious, especially as they do wonders for taking my mind off it in the air.
At the end of the day, I want to travel as much as I can and I want my girls to see that the world can be their oyster, therefore I will face my anxieties and try and find my own ways of dealing with my flying worries. But I can assure you, as someone who has travelled a fair bit as a family, including long haul, that it really isn’t ever as bad as you think. And when you are on a beach, sipping on a cocktail, or watching your son or daughter playing happily in the swimming pool, you will be so glad you faced your fears and travelled on a plane with your children.