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Flying with children for the first time

Guest post by Patricia Hogenes

It’s time for a vacation, so the family is heading out to visit relatives. It won’t be a long plane flight, but for the kids – it will be their first time. So how can a parent prepare the children for the whole flying experience?

Make it sound fun. Above all, the experience should be described as a fun adventure. There will be a lot of new things to see, the kids will get a chance to fly – depending on how old they are, remind them of fun flying experiences like Peter Pan – make it a positive association.

Explain the airport. With the metal detectors and serious people watching the screening process, that could be a really frightening experience for children. Sit them down before the trip and let them know this is going to be something they will encounter, but emphasize the safety – this is what happens to make sure everyone will be safe on the flight. Tell them the metal detector is very safe – it will just be a minute to walk through it, and they’ll be done. Mom or Dad will go first, to show them that it is really easy.

Talk about safety. Let the kids know that when the family gets to the airport, they are not to wander off, or try to run around and see everything. The kids need to hold hands with the their parents if there is a crowd.

There will just be a lot of noise, with people moving in different directions, announcements coming over the loud speaker, and little carts zooming by. The family will have to spend some time in lines – waiting to check in luggage, going through security, so just let them know to be patient – fun is just around the corner, when they get to go on the plane!

Above all, teach your children to keep their seatbelts fastened at all times when they are seated, and remember to practice yourself what you preach to others.

On board the plane. Remind the kids that they need to be polite – they can’t just talk loud and do whatever they want – they must be well behaved. There will be smiling ladies who will bring them a soda pop – those ladies are called flight attendants, and they want to help, and the children must say “thank you”.

Carry games, colouring books, tablets, video players, and other small items that will keep the kids entertained through the flight. After the family settles in, the kids will be able to use their tablets to quietly watch a video, and Finding Nemo is already loaded.

Carry a spare set of clothes and wet-wipes in your carry-on baggage. You never know when your child decides the orange juice looks better on his or her t-shirt than in the glass.

Meals. Many airlines offer special children’s meals. Research with your airline and pre-order your meals at least 48 hours before your flight. If your airline does not offer a kid’s meal, pack some of your children’s favourite foods to keep them happy through the flight, but remember no liquids or gels will get through security.

Seating. If you are travelling with an infant below two years of age, you can request for a bassinet and seating in the very first row behind the bulkhead. Similarly, when travelling with children, many airlines will accept a special request in advance to seat all of you together. Check with your airline at the time of making your reservation.

What to expect on take-off. Don’t let the take-off be a surprise. Just explain to the kids that the airplane will roll around for a while, and then the smiling ladies will tell everyone to sit back. The plane noise will get louder, and then the kids will feel pushed back in their seats – like at the state fair on the roller coaster. After that, there will be a weightless feeling, and guess what kids, you’re flying! When a plane goes through some wind, it might feel bumpy once in a while. It is nothing to be alarmed about. Just sit back and relax, and the bumps will soon go away.

When it’s time to land. Point out to the kids that there will be a time when they can feel the plane going down – that is normal, and everything is fine. When the plane touches the ground, there will be a little squeak. Then after it rolls for a while, there will be some engine noise – that is the pilot using the engines to slow the plane – it is completely normal. When the plane slows down, it will roll for a while more, then slow down and pull up to a stop. That means the trip is over, and it’s time to go see the family.

When travelling with infants and younger children, it is important to remember that they do not know how to relieve the increasing air pressure that presses on the eardrums as the plane descends. Their natural reaction to the pain is to cry. The Eustachian Tube which connects the inner ear to the back of the throat, is the body’s natural pressure regulating mechanism. It works best with a chewing action, and so carry some small pieces of a hard candy, or a device, anything the baby can chew on and relieve the pressure. In India, “Mishri” can also be used.

With a little explanation of the process, so the kids know what to expect during plane travel before it happens, their experience of flying for the first time can be positive, exciting and rewarding. When the little one says “Mommy, can we go again?” – that signals a successful flight!

While Patricia Hogenes works as a paralegal for a law office, her real loves are her three kids, and her latest travel adventure. She has been writing freelance articles 10 years, on topics as varied as law and legal matters, adolescent drug treatment, and health topics such as diabetes. She currently writes for SlackDavis.com.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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