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Easy ways to stay sane and serene when flying with kids

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  • Category Advice Column, Baby, Child, Lifestyle, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby, Recently, Toddler

After a busy year, the festive season is an ideal opportunity to reconnect with loved ones far away. Zoom and WhatsApp calls are no substitute for longtime friends or two or more generations of a family sharing a meal together, and air-travel is the quickest way to cross great distances. But travelling with little ones can be a source of dread and stress. Serving more than 160 destinations around the world from their Doha hub, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Airways’ crew get to go lots of places, often. They share some suggestions on how to not bookmark your holiday with anxiety over your kids. 

Do the paperwork in good time: Depending on your destination, the documentation you’ll need will vary widely and some of it takes a while to secure. So prepare a list of what you need: visas, birth- and vaccination-certificates, and so on. Some travellers find it reassuring to carry a file with hard copies of any documentation they might need to present. 

Talk about it: Depending on their age, you may be able to explain to your youngsters what to expect at the airports and in the air. There’s also a large variety of videos online that show kids what it’s like to pass through customs and to board. 

Sort out seats and eats: As a parent, you can request that you and your family board your flight before or after the other passengers, depending on what you feel is easier. Plan ahead and you can reserve bassinets which are installed against the bulkheads of long-haul aircraft, and book special meals if you need to. You can also push foldable pushchairs up to the door of the aircraft. Some airports, like Doha’s Hamad International Airport, have complimentary pushchairs for passengers’ use, but remember to reserve yours beforehand. Most airlines also allow you to book children’s meals ahead of time, and they’ll be fed before everyone else, which can help settle them.  

Manage the noise: Air travel can be noisy, and for neurodivergent people of all ages, the levels of sensory stimulation can be overpowering. Noise-cancelling headphones can help, although civil aviation regulations mean they’ll need to be removed for takeoff and landing. 

Lay down their arms: Many kids have a favourite toy, and many will find it upsetting if they have their Jacqui or Jack Sparrow rubber sword confiscated by airport security. Rather leave anything at home that resembles a weapon. 

Don’t overpack: You want to avoid running out of nappies, wipes and other essentials while airborne, but carrying too many supplies will be a burden, so pack a sensible amount in your carry-on and check the rest in to go in the hold. 

Pack chewy snacks: Changes in the pressurization of airline cabins during ascent and descent can be uncomfortable and upsetting for little ones. That’s generally remedied by munching age-appropriate snacks. Avoid overly-sugary ones as that may make some kids restless. 

Screentime is okay: There are times when you want your youngsters to spend time in the real world and way from their devices, but on a long-haul flight, inflight entertainment or games on a smartphone or tablet can be your new best friend. Any good airline will have a wealth of age-appropriate movies on offer, but Qatar Airways’ is unmatched. 

Ask for help: The cabin-crew is trained to make life easy for passengers of all ages, and that includes parents, children and babies. 

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