A child’s first flight should be an exciting experience as it can set the foundations for a life long love of travel. What a beautiful gift to give our children. However, flying for the first time can be overwhelming and scary for the little ones – let alone us adults! It is for this reason I advise preparing your child for their first flight to reduce their apprehension, hopefully resulting in a more relaxed and happy child and parent.
Here are 5 ways to prepare your child for their first flight:
- Explain the airport process. There are some great children’s books that explain the whole airport process. My favourite is the Usborne Wind Up Plane Book. I read this book to my children from a young age. It covers all the steps from bag checking & security, through to take-off and landing and even getting a taxi once you land. I never forget how worried my daughter was as a toddler when we checked in our bags, asking “where are our bags going Mummy?” I explained remember in your book our bags are going on a special belt to be loaded in the undercarriage of the aircraft. I also loved telling her “that is what mummy does” when they showed the flight attendant doing the safety demo.
- Explain why the flight attendants do a safety demonstration. It’s nothing to be afraid off and we are very safe in the air, however in the unlikely chance that there was an emergency in-flight it’s important that children know to listen to the flight attendants instructions. I always show my kids the closest emergency exit in case we have to exit in a hurry. This has never scared my children and if anything they are reassured. You know your child and how to best word your safety conversation, I think its very important.
- Most general Turbulence is normal and safe. Explain to your children that the plane might be going through a few bumpy clouds once are up in the sky. Unexpected turbulence can give any of us a little shock, so best to pre warn your children that if it does happen its normal and we are safe.
- Following your journey on a map.Showing your child where you are going on a map is a great way for them to visualise the journey before you fly. Your child’s concept of the world, like travellers of all age, increases with air travel. What a gift to open your child’s perception and teach them about another place beyond their home.
- Get your child to start a travel journal before you fly. Travel journals are a great keepsake for children. Get your children to write in their travel journal before you leave, or draw some pictures that you can help annotate. Provide them some prompting questions like “how are you feeling about the trip?” or “What do you think the plane journey will be like?” You can also use the journal as a prompt to discuss the up coming flight and allow them to keep filling it in on the rest of their travels.
If you are a nervous flyer yourself, try to plan some coping strategies for the flight. For all of you though, I encourage you to take some time before you travel and use my tips to reassure and encourage your child that flying is safe and exciting, hopefully resulting in a relaxed and happy little traveller.