Our daughter has been flying around the world with us since she was just eight weeks old. However, now, at nearly five years old, she has reached the perfect age to fly.
Challenges of Flying With Children
There are many things that make traveling with young children a challenge. We have been very fortunate that our daughter Lucy has always been an easy traveler and enjoys being on airplanes for short and long-haul flights. However, even an easy traveler can still be needy and fidgety.
In many instances when we purchased a separate seat for our child, she just wanted to be in our seats. There were many flights from the U.S. to Asia that I can recall sharing a lie-flat seat with a toddler to get some sleep. If Lucy wanted to snuggle and watch a movie we gladly shared IFE. If it was meal time, my husband and I took turns cutting up food and feeding our daughter. Long-haul flights are hard on adults, for children they are incomprehensible.
The Perfect Age to Fly
Finally, at nearly five years old we think Lucy has reached the perfect age to fly. On a recent flight to England, we watched as Lucy settled into her seat, asked politely for a glass of orange juice and waited patiently until she could recline her seat. After take-off, she looked to us for a nod of approval to recline her seat and adjust her monitor screen and then she was perfectly content. My husband and I looked at each other and realized, this was it.
At almost age five, she was able to entertain herself at her own seat, feed herself during meal time and adjust her seat both for her comfort and for take-off and landing. As a result, these flights were a dream.
What Challenges Still Remain
As a passenger in her own right and not an extension of her parents, flight attendants and staff address her and she may not know the answer. She isn’t used to the social norm of taking off your headphones when spoken to by a FA for example (one FA stood there until she took off her headphones at my husband’s insistence).
She still needs help with certain aspects, like getting set up initially with headphones and settled into place. We have to remind her that her seat needs to be fully up for take-off and landing, and her TV can be on but must be pushed back if traveling in business class.
A few other challenges include our child’s inability to carry luggage for herself and understanding long delays as we experienced prior to our flight to Manchester. Though she has reached a more independent age (and long gone from the days of a crying baby), some passengers remain skeptical when they see her take a seat in a premium cabin.
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Have you traveled with children? What was your perfect age for traveling with your kids? Are there challenges that remain that I missed?
Our toddler son is very, very active, and can’t/won’t sit still for more than about two hours at a time. That makes road trips manageable, but flying nearly impossible (we’ve only tried once and it didn’t go well). We’re going to have to try again out of necessity in a couple of months; he’s started to get where toys and videos distract him, so hopefully that helps.
The other challenge is if you have a finicky eater like we do. He just won’t eat “regular” foods, which means we’re having to pack a bunch of pre-made stuff we know he’ll eat with us, or pick stuff up along the way. Not a huge deal traveling domestically, or on a cruise, but it’s a problem traveling internationally. Not that he can take that long of a flight anyway…
I too found age 5 to have been a pretty magical transition time with my daughter for major travel. Took her on a 13 hour flight to Hong Kong one month after her 5th birthday dreading the worst and suddenly finding her to be an absolute travel champ. My son is now 5.5 and I can’t say he’s quite as mature of a travel companion but the last year of travel with him has been much, much easier too.
Carly – like you and Kyle, we have an only child and I agree, we noticed a huge shift around 5yo. Our son was a real little trooper and a great traveler since birth but it got so much easier around 5yo.