Where South Africans are traveling to and how to manage it with the kids in tow
According to global travel and search platform, Cheapflights.co.za, more and more South Africans are traveling abroad as a family. “Our data has shown a 55% increase year-on-year in searches for family flights from South Africa to 20 top international destinations, the most popular being London, Mauritius and Athens,” says Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of Cheapflights.co.za.
Searches for family flights to London have increased by 71%, Mauritius by 40% while searches to Athens have grown by a staggering 86% over the last year. Other popular destinations for international family vacations, as revealed by Cheapflights, include Lisbon, Phuket, Dubai and New York.
“Clearly South Africans are still traveling for leisure – with their families, as opposed to single person business flights for example – despite the local current economic situation,” shares Shelton.
Family holidays are an exciting event to look forward to and, for most, they form part of cherished childhood memories. At the same time, they can be quite stressful for parents and uncomfortable for the little ones. Cheapflights.co.za shares a few tips that will help start family vacation without tears.
Top Tips for hassle-free travel with children
Do it all for them
Don’t let the kids pack their own things. There are very strict rules and regulations as to what can and can’t be taken onto a fight. The last thing anyone needs is to be stopped at the security check for something as silly as a sharp-looking toy.
Take your time
“Get to the airport early. Our research shows that Wednesdays are the most affordable day to fly and it’s also quieter than Mondays and weekends, so it might be easier to get the kids through the check-in process faster. Consider booking an afternoon flight to avoid waking up early and having to rush through. You can always try and sleep on the plane,” explains Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of Cheapflights.
Have your documentation ready
It is a good idea to nominate one person in the family to keep all the passports and travel documents. This will avoid misplacing something and hopefully speed up the process.
Brush up on the latest travel document regulations for children. For travel into and out of South Africa, parents need an unabridged birth certificate, valid passport, and in some cases, a Parental Consent Affidavit that is no more than six months old. Details can be found online at the Department of Home Affairs website.
Standing in line
There is a perception that traveling as a family unit, and having parents handling the admin, allows getting through a terminal quicker. In reality, all family members still need to be processed and this does take time – often even more than usual. Be patient and prepared to stand around at times.
“As annoying as they may be, long queues and flight delays are a very real possibility, so be prepared. Typically, children do not have much patience, so in a situation like this, engage with them and give them small games to play. Tech screens like iPads and Android tablets can be a game changer in these situations,” shares Shelton. “Also be sure to remember the charger and bring along earphones so that the noise doesn’t distract other travellers.”
Putting safety first
Safety is often something that is taken for granted, especially when traveling internationally. But things can go wrong quickly and parents should:
- Keep their eyes glued on the children and do not ever lose contact with them. The airport is a very big and busy place, filled with all kinds of weird and wonderful things, and children can easily wonder away.
- Draft a small and simple ICE document and zip it into the child’s jacket pocket. In case of emergency, airport staff will be able to find and reunite families. Depending on the maturity and reliability of the child, it may also be worthwhile investing in an electronic child locator so they are not lost in the airport.
On a tightly booked flight, families may need to sit apart. “Book the flights well in advance, and pay a fee to reserve a row of seats if necessary.” says Shelton.
If that ship has sailed there are two options; nicely asking the passenger in-between to swop seats. Otherwise, simply ask the flight attendant to help find a set of seats that are better suited. Often there are a few individual passengers all seated next to each other that don’t mind moving around bit for a family in need. It may take some schmoozing, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
Have snacks on hand
Kids can get ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) and keeping the diet and meals consistent while traveling is a tough task. Consider preparing a bag with a few small snacks. Having ‘food-on-tap’ can save the day, and try and avoid foods that are going to give children sticky fingers. Be sure to pack items that are cleared by the airline and don’t forget to declare the food if need be.
“Traveling can be a shock to the body and diet related issues due to different foods, altitude, air pressure changes, exposure to hundreds of strangers and foreign foods are a very real possibility. Air pressure changes can cause a huge amount of discomfort for a little body not prepared to handle it. Pack something for them to suck on as this will help to alleviate that unnecessary pressure and discomfort. A dummy or bottle will do the trick for the really little ones,” advises Shelton.
For more information on travelling with children and the best family-friendly airlines take a look at this useful infographic by Cheapflights.co.za