Let’s face it. Children are biologically designed not to do well on airplanes. Let me list some potential obstacles: Sitting still for long periods of time. Having to be conscious of their volume. Resisting the urge to kick the seat in front of them. Licking random surfaces being socially frowned upon. The list goes on.
Flying with kids doesn’t have to suck!
I recently took my two toddlers ages 2 and 3 on a cross country flight. Here are some things that were a huge help to us. Along with a few that looking back, would have made my life a lot easier.
Leading up to the flight:
Talk about the process- Tell your children about all the steps of the trip. Checking in, going through security, boarding, take off and landing etc. There are a few good books that go through the process such as My Plane Trip. Find one that is age appropriate for your kids.
Be consistent with your parenting- With the stress and excitement of preparing for a trip, it’s easy to waver from usual routines or even let bad behavior slide. Try and be as consistent as possible with your kids in the weeks leading up to your departure. They will appreciate the familiar structure of whatever parenting style your family uses when they are this new environment. Doing this also helps to nip bad behavior in the bud if they know you will be as consistent with consequences as you are at home.
What to pack:
Snacks galore!- The less messy the better. Bring a variety of favorites and ones they haven’t tired yet (or that you don’t normally buy them). Applesauce in squeeze packets are great too, just remember they have to be under 3.4oz each due to the carry on liquids rule. Don’t forget something to ease ear pressure such as gum, a sucker, raisins or something to drink.
NEW activities- Whatever you bring to keep your kid entertained (coloring book, stickers, toys etc.) make it new and exciting. Build up the anticipation by telling them beforehand that on the plane they will get new activities once you get in the air.
As far as crayons go, do yourself a favor and get TRIANGLE crayons. These Melissa & Doug Jumbo Triangular Crayons are great because they won’t roll off and they are thicker and stronger so they won’t break if you step on them.
Media- If you have a portable DVD player, bring it. Some airlines even have media tablets you can rent with movies and shows on them to watch. Save this for your last resort when gets kids extra wiggly.
Empty kids cups- You cannot bring full water bottles or sippy cups through security, but you can fill them up once you are through. Empty kid’s cups are especially handy if you don’t trust those super full yet tiny clear plastic cups from the beverage cart to survive your toddler or turbulence.
Contact paper- If you are worried about your child coloring all over the tray tables or even about germs, bring some rectangle pieces of contact paper to stick over the tray table. Just make sure the brand you get is not too tacky. Some trays do better with removal than others, so test a small chunk on the tray to make sure you won’t leave a sticky mess behind.
At the airport:
Have your kids carry their own stuff- This is of course age appropriate. My 3.5 year old was a champ at carrying his backpack and roller luggage. My freshly 2 year old on the other hand, we ended up carrying her roller bag most of the time. If your bag doesn’t already have one, get a Luggage Strap to strap the handles of two bags together to so you can carry them both at once.
Car seats- If you can manage lugging them through the airport it really is best practice to have your child sit in their car seat on the plane. If this is too much, check it at the gate, or check it as luggage at the ticket counter. Most airlines will check them for free, but check with your airline to be sure. You probably don’t want to use a rental company’s rental car seat, so do your research and make plans for your seats.
On the plane:
Pace the fun– Don’t pull out all the stops before takeoff. Save the best for last when by then the excitement has worn off.
… and ABOVE ALL ELSE…
Give your kid grace!
Have reasonable expectations. Take into account your child’s age, tendencies when excited/tired/over stimulated as well as the flight length. Don’t get angry or embarrassed if your child is getting loud, whiney, or cries. There will always be grumpy people so don’t stress. Chances are there are more understanding people than grouchy ones. Just prepare the best you can and enjoy the ride!