How to prepare kids for their first flight

Taking kids on their first flight is exciting, and equally terrifying. As with each new experience, there’s a mixture of feelings for both parents and kids.

I remember the first flight I took with our boys, aged five and two years old, a few years ago. We took a local flight to Cape Town to visit their grandparents for two weeks and my stress levels were a little high in how they would handle the flight experience. I was also three months pregnant with Kid3, so my emotional rollercoaster and changing hormones didn’t ease up on the stress.

Their experience was a good one because I took some time in preparing them before the flight, as much as I possibly could to ease them into the idea as well as make it as comfortable as possible for all of us.

I’ll share tips on the actual flight and how to handle it in a future post. This post is focused on preparing your kid BEFORE the day to help them understand and overcome any worries they might feel.

My biggest concern was Kid1 who didn’t do well with loud noises or confined spaces and it was important for me to take out as many obstacles as possible.

If you’re concerned about the first flight with your kids, try and make their first flight a local one to keep the flight time shorter.


Talk about it

As soon as you’ve made a decision that you’ll be flying, talk to your kids about it. Explain where you’re going and how you’ll be getting there. While you need to consider the age of your kid, try and use terms that are age-appropriate to explain the plan and what will happen.

Watch airplane documentaries

What’s a little extra screen time when it’s for educational purposes? Watch some airplane documentaries to help them get used to the idea, what it looks like, what it does, etc. We even went further and watched some space documentaries. The boys knew we weren’t going into space, but we made a game of counting down liftoffs and we did the exact same thing when we were on the plane.

Do airplane activities

There are so many activities you can do with the kids that are fun like building paper airplanes or making an airplane model from recycling material. You can even print out templates for airplanes that you glue together and the kids can draw themselves as passengers on the plane.

Let them help you pack

Letting them help you pack their things will give them a sense of security and make them feel part of the planning. If you’re worried about the packing turning into a disastrous event, you can just allow a couple of items like swimming gear or a favourite t-shirt, a favourite toy, etc. to get the kids involved.

Talk about airport rules

This is an important step when preparing your kids. Talk to them about not wandering off, talk about keeping their belongings on them and not lying around. Talk about their safety and the dangers. Explain proper and improper behaviour, and what is expected.

Talk about airplane rules

As important as it is to discuss the airport rules, it’s just as important to talk about the airplane rules. Chances are they aren’t going to hear the in-flight announcements, and if they do, they won’t understand them. It’s good to let them know of proper airplane etiquette and what is allowed and what isn’t. Things like not kicking against the seat in front of you, not pressing buttons unnecessarily, not being allowed to constantly walk up and down the aisle, etc.

It’s good to discuss these things beforehand. That way, you’ll only need to highlight an instance to them, and it will be more of a reminder than an explanation.

Encourage questions

Encouraging questions will help dampen any worries that they have so accept them! Their curiosity and excitement will shine through this way and you’ll be able to help navigate through any worries or anxieties they might be feeling about the upcoming flight.

Keep an open mind about the experience as it might not go all smooth sailing as we all hope it will. Meaning there could be tears and tantrums, and that’s okay. Each kid can have a different approach to the experience and it’s important for you stay calm and focused to control and diffuse the moment(s).

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