With the summer holidays fast approaching, you may be looking forward to taking your kids on holiday but dreading the flight there. But airports and flying are a tremendous adventure for kids – in today’s age of easy flying it’s easy to forget that once upon a time it was exciting for everyone. The trick is to find the balance between them being happy and stimulated and overwhelmed or bored, and in this blog we have some tips to help turn things to your advantage.
It takes a very calm person to not get stressed out by check-in at the airport on a Saturday afternoon in the school holidays. Arrive early enough to avoid the queues and bear in mind that if you arrive late the airline may struggle to be able to seat you all together. Dress them in as bright a colour as they will tolerate so you can spot them easily amongst the crowds. Another useful tip is to write your name and mobile number on the back of their hand so you can be reunited speedily should they get lost.
The era of children travelling on their parent’s passports is nearly over. Children who are not already on their parent’s passport must now travel on their own documents. So if you are taking your kids abroad for the first time, you will need to obtain a passport for them. This applies to newborn babies too, and 16 and 17 year olds require their own passport even where they have previously travelled on yours. For the latest advice on passports, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-passport-office
If you are travelling with children that are not your own – a friend of your child perhaps, or your grandchildren, it is wise to carry a letter from the child’s parents authorising you to take them out of the UK and giving consent for medical treatment to take place abroad if necessary. The letter should include the dates of the trip, the destination, and the name of the adults in whose care the child is being placed. This is because it is actually a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984 to take a child under the age of 18 out of the UK without proof of appropriate parental consent, and there have been reports of customs officials being rather heavy-handed.**
Put them in charge
Older children will thrive upon being involved in the whole adventure. Explain the airport procedures to them and give them the task of finding the check-in desk, passport control and departure gate and watching the screens for updates on their flights. They will love it and it gives useful practice for the day when – gasp – they have to do it themselves. In departures, give them a small “airport allowance” – searching for the perfect magazine or toy for the holiday will keep kids happy for a good length of time.
The dreaded D-word
Delays are every parent’s nightmare. Pack a good supply of travel games and colouring books, and a useful tip is to produce a new one from your bag just as they start to tire of the current one, rather than giving them all the goodies in one go! If conditions permit, take the kids up to the airport’s viewing gallery. Kids will watch planes taking off and landing for a surprisingly long time and it is usually much quieter than the departure lounge.
An excellent tip for babies and toddlers is to pack a small ball. While waiting at the departure gate roll it around the floor for them to fetch and follow. Often other passengers will join in on the game. Feed them on take-off to stop ears from popping (this is much more painful for children than adults) and hopefully by the time the plane reaches the clouds they will be fast asleep!
In the air
In this era where cockpit visits are no longer allowed, flying often ceases to be interesting after take off. If you are lucky enough to be flying on a clear day, seat your child by the window – they will find the view fascinating, particularly if they can pick out landmarks. The in-flight magazine will often have a map showing the routes and flight attendants are usually happy to point out roughly where the plane is!
If your child owns a handheld games console you will realise it is probably the best money you ever spent. Just make sure it’s fully charged!
An excellent website for further tips, and a variety of items to make the family holiday go with a swing is http://www.travellingwithchildren.co.uk/. You may also find our previous blogs on Motion Sickness and Great games for journeys useful for your trip.
Don’t overlook the importance of travel insurance in the excitement of going away. 24/7 travel insurance offers cover for a week in Europe for a family from just £14.00*, leaving you plenty of money for those colouring books!
*Premium £14.00 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on 2 adults under 55 and their two accompanying children aged under 18 taking out a Standard single-trip policy for 7 days in Europe and travelling within 14 days of purchase and excluding personal possessions cover. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.
**Gill Charlton, Telegraph Travel, 7th September 2007