I read a lot of stories about how traveling with kids can be a nightmare; either for the parents or for other travelers. Just a little planning ahead can make traveling with kids a much more pleasant experience for everyone. And, just so you know, this applies to the younger ages especially, don’t expect to relax on the flight. It’s our job as parents to keep our children quiet and well-behaved. Please don’t ignore them or let them run wild. That’s just not cool.
I found that it’s actually easiest to travel with the kids when they are very small; less than 1 year old; and haven’t started to walk yet. All you have to do is be sure to have some things to keep their attention — books and toys and such — diapers, a bottle with powdered formula (they won’t let you take liquid through security, so you can buy a bottle of water once you are on the other side or if you breast feed, you already have the bottle built in) and something for them to suck on during takeoff and landing. If they are sucking on something during takeoff, it will alleviate the stress of pressure changes on their little bodies and they will likely fall asleep. During landing, the swift increase in pressure can be hard on a little one’s ears and they don’t know how to pop them. Just sucking on a binky, or even on your finger, will help them to be much more comfortable.
When my kids were toddlers through about age 5 or 6, I would prepare by going to the store and buying several secret surprises for them to discover during the flight. These would be small toys, games and books. It always kept them busy and happy. Also, they carried their own little backpacks where I would pack the surprises for them to find. They liked to be responsible for their own things, just like the adults were. It’s a good idea to bring them healthy snacks. No one, including the kids themselves, can stand a sugared-up child bouncing off the airplane seats. Along those lines, let them drink water. Again, during takeoff and landing bring them something to chew on or suck on when they are small. When they are a little older, you can teach them how to pop their ears to relieve the pressure. Scuba divers pinch their noses, close their mouths and blow gently. Moving your jaw from side to side also works, as does yawning or swallowing.
My daughter was a challenge to fly with as a toddler because she just didn’t want to sit for the whole flight. I finally figured out that I could let her stand between my legs or next to her chair while the seat belt sign was off and she was much happier. Plus that seat belt sign was a great tool. When it went on, it was a command from a higher authority and we couldn’t argue with it.
Age 7 and up is pretty well covered with electronics. Or you can bring books to read and traveling games to play with the kids. Cards are always good. If you go the electronics route, it’s helpful to have a movie or two downloaded beforehand that you know the children will like to watch. Generally, they can eat the snack packs that the airlines sell you. I probably don’t need to remind you again to avoid sugar in food and drinks. The kids are big enough to carry their own rolling bags and backpacks. How we pack depends on what baggage fees the airlines are charging. If there’s going to be a fee for each rolling bag, then we’re all packing in one. If not, we’ll take smaller bags and each have our own.
The one time that my son thought it would be funny to kick the back of someone’s seat and he wouldn’t listen to me about stopping, I made him go forward to the person and apologize. She was really nice about it after he said he was sorry. And even better, he never kicked the back of an airline seat again. He must have been 6 when that happened.
This is how I travel with my children and it’s always been a really pleasant experience. People always comment about how well-behaved they are. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a little about our months long road trips.
p.s. if you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them.