Back to basics – airlines need to think very differently when flying families as parents call for ‘notebooks, pencils and crayons’ as travel essentials

Holidays are all about relaxation, yet the uncertainty of travelling to new environments has the potential to have the opposite effect for parents of young children and parents appears to be championing creativity over technology when it comes to trying to make family travel as stress-free as possible, a new UK study has revealed.

The survey, conducted by family travel experts Tots to Travel has found that 57% of parents won’t board an aeroplane without ‘notebooks, pencils and crayons’ to keep their child entertained during a flight. The move to a more creative on-board activity means there is less room in parent’s hand luggage for the likes of ‘iPads’ (27%) and ‘sweets or chocolate’ (10%).

The study asked 1,500 UK parents what influenced their decision when booking a holiday, with the length of journey and worry about how to keep their child entertained during a flight unsurprisingly emerging as key factors. Child behavioural expert Richard Daniel Curtis has backed a move to more interactive activities during a flight, for the benefit of both parents, children, and other passengers.

“Children under the age of five need to be stimulated and given opportunities to move throughout a journey. Whilst, you may get quick wins from using technology to entertain them at this age, this is often short-lived as the children start to experience eye-strain, lack of movement and secondary behaviours. These secondary behaviours include things like not answering a parent, being frustrated, irritability and rudeness,” he explains.

He says that having a selection of hand-held engaging non-technology-based activities are far more suitable for travelling for more than 30 minutes. Things like pencils and pads “not only allow a parent to allow a child to draw or colour on their own,” it also allows them “to generate activities as their child becomes bored”. “Food, toys or tech are all time-limited activities, whereas pens and paper can provide infinite opportunities for entertainment,” he adds.

The research highlights a real dilemma for parents with over two thirds (69%) of British parents stating that they worry about the journey when booking a holiday, it and almost a third (31%) not considering flying for over three hours with their children. In total only one in ten British parents are happy to take their child on a flight up to nine hours.

Flight time is a driving force in deciding the ideal destinations for UK parents, but days vary depending on the age of their children, but generally all of the top-ranking destinations coming in within a less than a five-hour flight duration away from the UK. Mums are the most adventurous when it comes to long haul flights with their little ones, with 15% of stating they would take their child on a nine hour flight, versus just 5% of Dads.

A solution would be to stay local for holidays and just under a third of British parents (30%) would prefer to stay in the UK for their holiday, according to the responses, leaving jetting abroad by far the most popular choice when deciding on a family break.

Even though airlines are showing a high percentage of delays to the most popular destinations, UK parents are seemingly happy with the service on offer from the busiest UK airports. 81% of parents rate UK airports ‘good’ for travelling with children. The highest-ranking airport was Glasgow (85%) and the lowest was Newcastle (72%).

Away from the stresses and strains of travelling with children, the survey has found some other interesting observations on family travel, most notably around destination temperatures. It has found the majority of British parents (56%) wouldn’t want to go on holiday in temperatures over 25 degrees, but almost one million sun starved UK parents (5%) would happily take their family to temperatures up to 35 degrees.

It may be that new parents underestimate the toll heat can take on their young children, with the most popular holiday temperature for those with children between 0-1 years being between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius. Apparently, the lesson is learnt quickly however, as the most popular heat for the rest of the age ranges fall between 21-25 degrees, says Tots to Travel.

Interestingly, the gender split shows that Dads are the ones pushing for warmer climates, with ten times as many Dads stating they would go on a holiday with their kids to a 31-35 degrees destination. This works out as two million dads looking for that fix of baking temperatures. Mums are pushing more for cooler climates, with 70% responding their ideal temperature would be 21-25 degrees.