Traveling With Kids: Tips For the Airplane
Flying is hard enough for some adults — use these tips to help the traveling process with your kids.
By: Leticia Barr
Traveling parents know how important it is to be prepared when flying with children of any age. After all, one can never be too organized or over-prepared, and this handy guide will make you seem like a traveling pro as you breeze through security and fellow passengers compliment you on the behaviour of your young traveling companions.
Before You Go
Prepare your family for what to expect by providing some background information about flying and your destination. Visit the library to check out books that you can read together about a vacation destination. Take a look at a map to provide a relevant geography lesson about where you’re going.
Designate a bag for each child as a carry-on that will hold favourite items. Younger children will need familiar items such as a treasured stuffed animal or blanket. Older children will want digital devices such as e-readers, tablets and music players. Having a bag at their feet with their “must-have” items ensures that things are easily accessible.
Download new apps, music, favourite shows and age-appropriate movies, too. Make sure that the headphones you have are comfortable for your child to wear. Pack all devices fully charged and if the device requires batteries, bring along an extra set or two.
Pack your charging cables in your carry-on bag. One of the most common items that travelers put in their checked luggage are cables to recharge smartphones, tablets, laptops and other digital devices — which are often needed during flight delays or layovers.
Pack entertainment that doesn’t require a screen. Entertaining young children on long flights can be a challenge, but the key is novelty. New books, super sparkly stickers, mini notepads, a mini magnetic doodler, washable crayons and even a glue stick for torn paper collages of the in-flight magazine can help pass the time. Some markers even have an attached cap to prevent caps from falling underneath the seat and rolling two rows behind yours. Make sure you can actually bring the items aboard, of course. The only thing worse than not being able to use something mid-flight is if it’s confiscated before you even get on the plane!
Bring some favourite snacks to keep them comfortable and well fed with some of their favourite treats.
Consider packing carry-on only. With most airlines charging $25 for a checked bag, it can be a travel challenge to try to pack carry-on only, but it can save your family lots of money in bag fees on your round trip flight.
Use sealable plastic bags to organize your belongings. From snack-size bags to contain batteries, quart-size bags for toiletries and 4-liter sizes ones for spare outfits, clear plastic bags with zip closures are a lifesaver when traveling. Packing some extras also ensures that you have some to contain wet and drippy swimsuits during the trip home.
When in doubt, bring extras in your carry-on. Pack extra diapers, an extra change of clothes (or two!) and extra snacks. Once again, it never hurts to be too prepared.
In the Air
Use antibacterial wipes to wipe down the tray table, arm rests, window and other surfaces around your child’s seat to cut down on their exposure to germs.
Indulge your child with a lollipop at takeoff or landing. Oftentimes, a crying child at takeoff or landing is being subjected to extreme ear pressure that can be relieved by sucking on a bottle, pacifier — or lollipop.
Disregard your usual watch-time rules. Sometimes air travel is all about survival, and if it means letting your child watch back-to-back episodes of their favourite show or an extra movie, consider it a treat that will save your sanity.
With these tips you and your family will be on your way to stress-free travel and will start your trip off on the right foot.
A Washington, D.C., metro-area dwelling mom of two and former teacher with a background in classroom technology, Leticia is a regular columnist on Parents.com's Tech Savvy Parents, a dog owner, car enthusiast and avid gardener. You can find her at Tech Savvy Mama, a service-style blog that offers parents advice on technology in the home and classroom.