There is something incredible about spending time above the clouds. No matter how many times I have been on an airplane, it just doesn’t get old for me. Sure, it isn’t always comfortable, or glamorous but seeing the world from the sky does something to my soul. Flying is, unfortunately quite pricey which makes it inaccessible for many people. The first time I flew anywhere, I was 7 years old and it was 20 years later before my second opportunity. Thankfully, with some careful research, bargains ARE available so, if you keep your eyes pealed, it may only need to cost you an arm and you can keep your legs ;).
Flying locally is definitely less complicated than international travel, but even local airlines have a few requirements that are necessary aside from your ticket so being prepared ahead of time goes a long way to ensure that your first experience is a good one.
As an adult, flying is fairly easy. As long as you have your ID document (and passport if you are leaving the country at any point during your journey), you don’t need much else. There are airlines that need you to show your credit card if that is how you paid for your ticket but, other than that, you’re all sorted.
Flying with kids is a little more tricky. You can read more about the South African Home Affairs requirements here, but even then you will be hard pressed to find 2 airports that implement these rules in the same way. When we flew to Durban and our daughter’s unabridged certificate wasn’t ready in time, we took along a letter from the Director of Home Affairs and showed Cape Town airport a certified copy. After a chat with management, this was accepted and we were allowed onto the plane.
On our return journey however, Durban airport wasn’t interested in the letter at all and just used our passports. Fortunately we had passports though or we may have still been wrapped up in red tape.
So, take along everything you think you may need, and the kitchen sink, from a paperwork perspective. If you are flying as a family, it is slightly easier than when one parent flies with the kids but it is doable. Just do your research.
Prepping the child for the flight
Kids do well when they are prepared in advance for what to expect. It’s pretty scary when you don’t know what is coming and it is more so for a child. Chat to your child about the process from the moment you start planning the trip. Tell them about what will happen when you arrive at the airport, prepare them for how busy it will be and let them know that they may need to stand in many lines and wait for a while. Take along whatever works for you in terms of things to keep them busy. Colouring books, mobile devices, comfort toys/blankets will make things a little more familiar and smooth the way to a pleasant experience for everyone.
The worst thing about flying is all the waiting you need to do beforehand. You need to check in at least 2 hours before the flight and then you need to sit around and wait until you can board, 45 minutes before your plane leaves. Do yourself a favour and let your kids run around as much as possible.
Cape Town airport has a Jimmy Jungles near the Spur so set aside your own sanity and let them play. Whether you are flying from Cape Town to George – which is a super short flight or from Cape Town to Durban, the time they will need to be strapped into a seat will seem endless and letting them run off some energy beforehand will help.
On the Plane
Once you have boarded, it will still take some time for the plane to be prepped for departure so go prepared with a bag of tricks. Pack a small backpack of stickers, colouring in supplies, mini board games, Lego, small figurines and a fully charged mobile device to entertain. Oh, also pack a blanket or hoodie into this bag. It can get a little chilly on the plane. Use every distraction technique in the book to avoid having to crack open the backpack before it is absolutely necessary.
If you are lucky enough to have booked a window seat, let your child sit there and watch all the activity on the tarmac. We specifically book window seats near the wings of the plane so that our kids can watch the bags get loaded and see the little carts fetch and carry all sorts of things.
Once you have packed a comfort pack for the kids, you will also need to pack some secret weapons into your handbag or backpack. This will need to remain with you at all times so don’t stow it in the overhead lockers. You are allowed to keep a small bag with you, but it will need to be stowed under the seat in front of you.
Pack this bag with the following: plain biscuits, small bottle of cold water, dried fruit, jelly sweets, wet wipes/wet facecloth in a Ziplock bag. The dried fruit works well for take off and landing because it helps for kids to be chewing something so that there ears don’t pop as the plane changes altitudes. You are welcome to use chewing gum or wine gums if you prefer. If your kids are very small, a pacifier/dummy will also help.
And, that’s it. Hopefully this post has given you a few handy tips to prep yourself for your first flight as a family. Now all there is left to do is to plan that trip. Starting here.
Disclaimer: This post was brought to you in collaboration with TravelStart. All thoughts and opinions are our own.