Dear Father Hood: what’s the best time of day to fly with a kid?

flyingwithakid

There isn’t one. Next question. Sorry, I’m in a grump because three of my most recent flights with my son have been about as enjoyable as a long weekend with the Norovirus. The first featured the most bizarre, stressful and mentally scarring baby change of my life. The second saw a member of the cabin crew wake my son up by tickling his foot as we left the plane (why would anyone do that just before passport control? Why? Why? Why?) And the third saw our baby stay awake way past his bedtime, which induced a bit of a meltdown (from both baby and daddy). Then, just after we’d finally got our son into the Land of Nod, we woke him up trying to put one of those silly little plane seat belts around him. Cue tantrum-throwing, seat-hitting carnage.

Okay, rant over. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of your query. The good news is this is something I know quite a lot about, partly because my wife and I like holidays and partly because 66% of my son’s grandparents live in Scotland (both of my parents have remarried). The bad news is I was only half-joking when I wrote my opening sentence. What on earth does that mean? It means that, in my experience, flying with a child is extremely challenging no matter which numbers the clock’s big and little hands are pointing to.

That’s it. You knew it was a bad idea. You’re just going to forget planes and stick to car journeys and staycations until your kid is at least 25. Yes, that is one way you could proceed. Another, slightly dramatic option, would be to realise that the pain of the journey is worth the pleasure of the destination and then take a look at my super-handy time of day pros and cons parental flight guide. Spoiler alert: it starts on the next line.

The Father-Hood.co.uk Super-Handy Time of Day Pros and Cons Parental Flight Guide

Early morning

Pros: You’ll be up anyway; cheaper tickets; less chance of getting stuck in a traffic jam; you get everything over with early.
Cons: No time to go back for all the things you’ve forgotten; your baby will be hungry; you will have to deal with poop ‘on the move’; high chance of encountering stag and hen parties; probably too early to drink your way through it.

Mid morning

Pros: Can get breakfast and first poop of the morning out of the way before leaving the house; you may have time to shower/do some last-minute packing; your kid will be wide awake; if you’re flying domestically, you’ll still have plenty of time at your destination.
Cons: Slightly more expensive; your kid will be wide awake (hint: take LOTS of books, toys, snacks and distraction devices); if you’re driving, you’ll need to negotiate rush hour; if you’re taking public transport, you’ll need to negotiate angry commuters.

Lunchtime

Pros: Even if you’re really, really disorganised, you should be able to get there on time; domestic flights tends to be a little quieter at this time; your baby is likely to nap at some point; it’s now officially not too early to drink your way through it.
Cons: At one point your baby will get hungry and, most likely, angry; at one point you will get hungry and, most likely, angry; you will essentially be travelling all day; the post-lunch poop.

Mid afternoon

Pros: You could ‘work’ from home in the morning (read: get paid to pack); you can attempt to tire your baby out in morning; if you’re flying internationally, you have time to get your baby used to the plane before attempting to put him or her to sleep; you should be able to eat lunch before you get on the plane.
Cons: You will be beginning to flag; flight delays tend to get longer as the day progresses; your baby will be looking for dinner pretty soon after you touch down; if you’re flying domestically, you’ll land in rush hour.

Evening

Pros: You’ll be able to finish the day’s eating and drinking battles and get your kid into their pyjamas before take off; your baby will be getting tired and thus be less mobile; the roads should be quiet when you arrive at your destination; it’s highly likely your baby will sleep at some point (fingers, toes, legs, ears, eyes and nose crossed).
Cons: The presence of business travellers will make tickets more expensive; you’ll be flying during the manic, moany and extremely difficult to predict pre-bedtime ‘witching hour’; if your baby sleeps, one of you will be pinned to your seat for the duration of the flight.

Night

Pros: You don’t have to take the day off work; your baby could sleep through the whole thing; you shouldn’t have to worry about food; if you’re flying long haul, there could be a beach at the other end; the more passengers that are asleep, the less passengers there are to stand in front of you in toilet/nappy change queue.
Cons: There will be a noticeable difference in the temperature inside and outside of the aircraft (which means you’ll have to take layers off your baby when you board and put them on when you disembark); public transport will be less frequent at destination; if your baby doesn’t sleep, you could have the worst night of your life.

Read all of the above? Fantastic. Now decree to never, ever set foot in an airport again. I’m only joking. Decide the time that’ll suit your little one the best, go to Skyscanner, find a great value flight and book, book, book. After all, your little cherub’s only free until he or she is two.

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