We have been across the Atlantic to the States and Canada with three children over a dozen times in the last 5 years. Here are some ideas that work for us to ensure that everyone gets most form the holiday:
Let the airline know your needs
If you have the kids with you let them know at the gate so they can get you on the plane first. They are usually flexible and helpful and to be honest want you out of the way so they can get the rest of the passengers on board as quickly as possible.
If you struggle to get around find out how far the gate is when you get through security. It can easily be a 15 to 20 minute walk away. If you think you will struggle with this ask for assistance down to the gate.
Make sure that you will have your push chair/pram/buggy delivered to the gate at your destination.
We have flown with a lot of the major Airlines – KLM, American, Delta, British Airways to name a few – and have always found them more then willing to help.
Keep calm on the plane
Forget with the other passengers think. You have paid good money to be there and they should accept that there will be children on the flight and those children are at some point going to have a bit of a breakdown.
We have had passengers, upon seeing our three kids near them before we took off, ask a member of cabin crew to move. The cabin crew thought this was hilarious and proceeded to move them to the worst seats they could find.
My experience is that the airline staff will do what they can to keep your kids comfortable. A happy, occupied kid is unlikely to give them trouble.
Do online check in if you can
You just need to drop your bags off and can arrive at the airport a little later as you are already booked onto the flight with boarding passes in hand.
Entertainment on planes is essential
Take as much of it as you can possibly carry. On a long flight you will not regret it one bit. iPods, DS’s, Books, Magasines, paper, crayons, cuddly toys, toys – they all fit into my daughters Trunki and keeps her occupied for hours!
Oh and make sure that you fill things like iPods with as much music and movies as their capacity will allow and that they are fully charged and can be charged whilst away.
It is also very useful if you were going on a road trip when the last thing you need is bored children.
iPods can be a life saver.
Take a spare set of light clothes on the plane
You never know when you are going to need them. From kid’ throwing up over themsleves to luggage not being there when you arrive they are an essential addition to your hand luggage.
Going to Disney?
Visit guest services and let them know what you need. This is especially useful if you have young children. They have an amazing area where you can change nappies and feed young ones. It is an oasis of sanity in the mayhem of the park. if you have mobility issues that will provide you with a pass to ensure you get on rides first.
Expect naff food at Disney and the other parks
It tastes like crap and is expensive. Also the lines are generally huge and there never seems to be a right time to start queuing. Try having a big breakfast, taking snacks with you and then enjoying a substantial dinner in downtown Disney where it may not be cheaper but the quality sure is better.
The general Disney dining experience us rarely a pleasant one
Kids meals in diners/restaurants
They invariably serve up the usual appalling hot dogs, chicken dippers and cheese toasties– best to get some variety and quality by splitting an adult meal with the children. Never had a problem with this
Hire a bigger car than you think you need
At some point in a journey with the the kids ripping into each other you will parapphase the immortal phrase either under your breath or in a scream: “we’re gonna need a bigger car”. Once you have the car and are on the road it will be too late.
We only need 5 seats but we hire a car with 7 seats over three rows so that we can split the children up from each other if we want. And we generally do.
You don’t need this!
You want this!!
Take a spare bag
You never know what goodies you will come across in the Outlet malls and the prices are usually so good that temptation and bargains are hard to resist.
Involve the children in decisions
Or at least make it look like some of the ideas are theirs. Ask them what they want to get from the holiday, tell them what you want to get from it and agree with them that a compromise will have to be met if everyone is to have fun.
Set some rules and ask what behaviour they feel is acceptable from them and their parents.
Write it all down and have it as a kind of holiday charter that can be referred back to. It seems to work.
Take a good guide book
We have always found Frommers and Fodors to be the best. Essential when you are out and about and need to know a good kid friendly restaurant or hotel to go to.
Take the car back the night before and use an airport shuttle
It is one less hassle on the day of departure especially if the Rental Car drop off point is off airport.
Don’t surprise the kids
We once told the kids they were going to London and when we got to the airport surprised them by telling them they were going to San Diego. They were so excited by the prospect of the London trip that San Diego turned out to be a huge letdown for them. They loved it when they got there but had miserable faces all through the flight. You can’t win!
Start your holiday immediately!!
Take the view the holiday starts from the time you reach the airport or even when you get up in the morning and start enjoying yourself straight away!
Some of the above may seem a little obvious but we have always found that these suggestions are a good recipe to ensure everyone is happy on holiday.