Spring Break is approaching, and although we are all looking forward to vacation and a little R&R, we are certainly dreading the flight to our destination. One of Etihad Airways’ on-board nannies (they actually have those?!) gives her top 10 tips. Our personal favorite: Befriend your flight attendant as soon as you board.
For parents, seamlessly getting from point A to point B with kids can be challenging. Add in a long-haul flight through multiple time zones, and it’s a full-blown nightmare. And while it would be great to travel with a personal nanny, that’s not an option for most. Instead, you’re left figuring out ways to entertain your children for hours and prevent evil glares from surrounding passengers. Terrible? Yes. So we thought, There’s got to be a better way.
To figure out the secret to having a (mostly) stress-free flight with little ones, we turned to Denya Glover, one of Etihad Airways’ flying nannies. Not to be confused with a flying nun, a [Flying Nanny is a free service offered by the airline on lengthy flights across all classes of service to serve as an extra pair of hands for parents. They are experts in the art of entertaining antsy toddlers and lulling fussy newborns to sleep, even at 30,000 feet. Every Flying Nanny is a certified flight attendant and graduate of the prestigious Norland College in England, receiving the same training trusted by the royal family to keep their children in line.
Here are Glover’s top tips for keeping your kids—and yourself—sane during your next flight.
1. Choose child-friendly airlines and airports.
“As most parents know, not all airlines are ideal for traveling with little ones. Etihad Airways’ inflight Flying Nanny service is designed to give parents an extra set of hands. When they see our orange apron—a signature part of the Flying Nanny uniform—they know a helping pair of hands is on the way.”
2. Check in-flight meal offerings beforehand and plan ahead with snacks.
“Children have their own food habits and oftentimes can stay hungry if they won’t eat what’s served onboard. Parents should pack high-protein snacks so they always have something to munch on. Carrying something you know your child likes makes for a relaxed journey ahead and becomes especially helpful when waking up jet-lagged in another country with no 24-hour room service.”
3. With a child’s carry-on, less is more.
“While most children will want to bring each and every toy on their journey, it’s important to downsize, especially since, as the parent, you will be tasked to keep tabs on it all. Let children pack their own carry-on (those with wheels work best), but limit items to only what can fit inside.”
4. Take advantage of early boarding.
“When you hear that early boarding announcement, those are your magic words to make a break for it. Utilize the few extra minutes to get everything settled and communicate any specific needs with your flight attendant prior to general boarding.”
5. Relieve pain due to ear pressure.
“When taking off, many children experience ear pain due to the increase in air pressure. Most parents think that ear plugs will solve the problem, but I recommend something else. Ask the flight attendant for some warm water (not too hot, not too cold), a tissue, and a cup. Place the wet tissue in the cup and then over the ear. The steam will relieve the pressure and soothe the pain. Happy children, happy flight!”
6. Prepare for messy moments. “Carry extra bibs to avoid having to give your baby a new change of clothes. They are great for spit up and easy to wash and carry, saving you space for that extra outfit you really want to take with you. And don’t forget lots of wipes for toddler meals and diaper changes.”
7. Distraction is key. “While a quick movie works for shorter flights, keeping children entertained for 15+ hours is no easy feat. Distraction is essential for keeping younger guests occupied without getting anxious. One of my favorite activities is to teach our younger guests origami, which is great for kids of all ages and requires little preparation as paper is easily accessible on any flight.”
8. Make in-flight bedtimes easy.
“While some children fall asleep almost immediately on planes, for others it can be more difficult. It’s important to bring a set of comfortable pajamas, as well as any favorite stuffed animals or blanket to make older kids feel comfortable if they get homesick or scared.”
9. Let your child sleep, regardless of time zone changes.
“While our cardinal rule as adult flyers is to adjust to the time zone of our destination, the opposite is true for children. Allowing your child to sleep as normal will prevent grumpiness and diminish jet lag.”
10. Ward off meltdowns with surprises.
“Offering packable surprises like stickers or sweet treats toward the end of the flight as a reward will give your child something to look forward to and encourage good behavior.”