Traveling with your kids is always an adventure no matter where you go, but let’s face it; flying with young children can be exhausting. Between the endless amounts of luggage (sometimes even including strollers and car seats), working your way through a crowded airport, trying to get everyone through security, all of the bathroom breaks, finding activities for them to do before boarding, dealing with tantrums, etc. you’ve got your hands full.
Flying with your kids takes a lot of planning and preparation (and patience!), but it’s rewarding when finally get to your destination with your entire family in tow. If you are planning a family vacation in the near-distant future, here’s some advice to help you fly with your kids on a less stressful note.
Book direct flights (or longer layovers)
When you are booking your travel avoid layovers whenever possible. Sure your flight might be longer or a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it knowing you won’t have to deal with the grueling process of getting all of your luggage and children on and off of multiple planes. And you won’t have to get your children reacclimated to being in the air all over again. If you have no choice and you have to have a layover, opt for a longer one so kids can have a chance to get their energy out.
We all know a sleep-deprived child is a cranky child, so steer clear of red-eye flights. If you don’t have a certain time that you need to arrive at your destination, you have the advantage of choosing a flight time around your child’s schedule! For example, if their nap time is usually in the afternoon, see if you can book an afternoon flight that way they are more likely to nap during the trip.
Talk to your child about the flight process
Obviously, babies won’t know any better, but toddlers can understand basic rules. So set some easy expectations for your trip. Talk to them about how to behave in the airport, what it will be like going through security, and boarding the plane. They probably won’t remember everything you talked about, but you can always remind them of “what you talked about earlier”. You can’t expect them to succeed if you don’t give them a little bit of direction.
Take advantage of early boarding… or don’t
Airlines usually let families board the aircraft first. You don’t have to, but it may be worth your time to get on the plane right away, stow your carry-ons, and get your child settled before other passengers start to board. On the other hand, you may want to wait to board until the very last minute so your child can get as much energy as they can out before you get in the air. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Pack the essentials to keep them occupied
Your carry-on should include all of the essentials you and your kids will need for your entire flight. This also includes emergency items, and items that will help keep your children occupied throughout the flight; like backup pacifiers, toys, games, ipads, extra headphones, baby wipes, extra formula, extra clothes or diapers, etc.
Be prepared for a meltdown
Children are unpredictable little creatures, one minute they are completely fine and the next they are kicking and screaming for no apparent reason. Pair this with their ears popping and being stuck in one place for hours and you’ve got yourself a meltdown waiting to happen. Be prepared to use any calming mechanism necessary and ride out the storm.
Snacks should also help!
Nothing calms down a screaming toddler better than pulling out a tasty bag of treats that you snagged from one of the snack stands on your way to board. You never know what kind of food the flight attendant will pull out, so be prepared with a few options you know your child loves.
Answering the “Are we there yet?” questions
Questions like “How much longer?”, “Are we getting close?” are signs that your child is getting restless during the flight. You could handle this one of two ways. Pull up the flight map, either on the monitor on the screen in front of you or on your phone, and entertain your child by letting them watch your plane’s path. Or if your child has no interest and watching the plane, let them know that you will be landing soon. Even if soon is an hour away, this will encourage them to sit tight and try to hold their wiggles in until you land.
Lastly, don’t be embarrassed. Accept that you can’t control everything. On some flights, your kids may act perfectly calm and on some flights, they may not and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid of being “that” family. You are doing the best you can and chances are, outside of the airport, you will probably never seen the majority of the people on your flight ever again. These things happen to everyone. Don’t let a bad flight ruin your whole trip.
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