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Tips for travelling by plane with children

Travelling by air with children can be a challenge. Especially if it is the first time for the offspring to take to the air or if the children are still small.

Therefore, good preparation and planning can spare everyone's nerves - including those of the passengers travelling with them. ARAG's expert editorial team has compiled some tips on what to bear in mind when travelling by air with your children.

Important documents

ARAG advises you to take a look at your passport or identity card when booking your trip. Are all documents still valid? If documents have already expired, you may still enter many countries of the European Union (EU) one year after expiry. On the website of the German Foreign Office, travellers can find out which regulations apply where. However, airlines may put a spoke in the wheel of passengers with expired papers and refuse to transport them. Nevertheless, there are various ways to obtain new identity papers quickly - thanks to express or temporary papers.

Children need a valid identity card for air travel within the Schengen area, which currently includes 27 countries in Europe. This can be applied for immediately after birth and is valid for six years until the child reaches the age of 24. A biometric passport is also permitted; it can also be applied for from birth and has the same validity as the identity card.

Another possibility of legitimisation is a child's passport. However, the ARAG experts point out that children's passports are only valid for one year and must be renewed at the registration office of the main place of residence when they expire. This goes up to the child's 12th birthday. In addition, some countries - such as the USA - do not recognise children's passports for entry into the country. By the way: Since 2006, children need their own identity documents. An entry in the parents' passport and also the white folder as a substitute children's passport are no longer permitted.

Other important documents that should be taken along for the offspring are the vaccination certificate and possibly a copy of the birth certificate. If a visa or electronic entry permit is required for entry, the ARAG experts advise planning a few weeks for the application.

Child-friendly schedule

If you are travelling with children, you should - despite all your love of spontaneity and letting yourself go - book all flights, accommodation and other travel arrangements in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you get there. To minimise stress for children, allow enough time for stopovers and rest and play breaks on the way to the airport.

The sleeping and eating schedule of the children should also be considered, especially for destinations where jet lag can occur due to time differences. It may be possible to plan flights to coincide with children's normal sleeping habits.

Babies and toddlers on board

Every airline has its own rules and regulations when it comes to prams and the like. Depending on their size and weight, even foldable prams and buggies often have to fly in the hold. This means they have to be checked in before the flight like the rest of the luggage, possibly even for an extra charge. In this case, the ARAG experts advise you to keep the luggage tag safe. If the pram or buggy is damaged during transport or does not arrive at all, it is easier to assert a claim for reimbursement against the airline. A proof of purchase with the purchase price of the child's companion is also absolutely helpful.

The ARAG experts point out that the 100-millilitre limit for liquids in hand luggage does not apply to baby food and medication. Baby food, juices or milk may be carried in the quantity necessary for the duration of the flight. In the case of medicines - and not only those for children - the ARAG editorial team recommends obtaining a doctor's confirmation that they are necessary.

Entertainment on board

Many airlines hand out colouring pictures or toys to their little passengers. But depending on the age and duration of the flight, parents should always provide entertainment on board: games, books, toys or electronic devices can keep children occupied for a good while. Snacks and drinks can also keep the youngsters happy - unhealthy snacking is allowed here as an exception.

Children travelling alone

Airlines have different rules on when a child is allowed to fly alone. As a rule, the age is between twelve and 16 years. However, if children travelling alone are younger, many airlines offer a chargeable childcare service for the entire duration of the flight until they are handed over at the destination airport. Depending on the destination, children may need a travel power of attorney if they are not accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Federal Foreign Office provides tips on what information the declaration of consent for minors should contain.

Playing hooky and extending holidays?

As recently happened at the airport in Memmingen, Bavaria, the police catch families every year who travel outside the official school holidays. Depending on the destination, this can save several hundred euros. However, the ARAG experts remind us that truancy is not a trivial offence and can be punished with heavy fines. At the same time, schools are only allowed to require a medical certificate in individually justified exceptional cases, even though many schools have introduced a requirement for a medical certificate due to the high numbers of pupils absent before and after the holidays.

This article is from the 3/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.