It’s something that brings anxiety to both parents and airline passengers, alike – a plane ride with children. Regardless of their age, flying with kids can be a daunting task. However, there are some things you can do in order to ease the journey for your family and yourselves! Here are just a few quick tips.
When Booking Flights
• Research the different airlines for their specific guidelines on traveling with children – some airlines are more accommodating than others, or have fewer restrictions than some of their counterparts.
• Some parents will suggest trying to schedule your flight times to coincide with your child’s normal sleeping schedule – a tired kid more easily translates into a sleeping, quiet flyer.
• Traveling with another adult? Think about possibly booking seats apart from one another. This allows the opportunity for one adult to rest while the other is on kid duty. This could be a great solution for especially long flights.
• Not sure whether to book a full child’s fare for a toddler or not? Test yourself this way: see how long you can last with your child on your knee in a chair at home. See how it goes, then decide.
• CLEARLY set the different responsibilities for each adult flying with the children BEFORE leaving – clear parameters set ahead of time with prevent arguments in the heat of a tricky family moment.
• There are different views on booking non-stop flights versus flights with layovers. Depending on the attention span of your child and the time of day of your flight, consider which option will give you the least hassle.
• Try traveling at nonpeak times, like late at night, midday and Mondays to Wednesdays. Hopefully this ups the possibility for a less-crowded flight and more opportunity to spread out.
Prepping and Packing for the Plane
• Tickets sometimes have hidden restrictions (cabin baggage weight limits, permissible items, etc) so check yours carefully before you start to pack.
• FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SANE AND GOOD, AVOID PACKING THESE TOYS – anything that makes noise, Play-doh or anything sticky, balls and other throw-able objects, small Legos and other toys made up of little bitty objects, and board games with lots of little pieces.
• To build on the excitement of the journey, create a countdown calendar and post it in a prominent place in the house. Mark the days off as you get closer!
• Talk up the trip to get your child prepared and excited for the journey ahead. Explain what the boarding process is like, talk about the pilots, describe what it’ll look like right near the clouds, etc. Explain that sometimes flights can get bumpy, kind of like an amusement park ride. Go early to the airport so your child can watch planes land and take off before you actually board your own flight.
• Child still in diapers? Pack a small bag with just one diaper, a few wipes, a perfumed diaper bag and some rash cream if needed and place it in the seat pocket in front of you.
• Bring disposable diaper bags as sick bags – sick kids produce lots of things that need to be disposed of, and these can be life savers.
• Airplane bathrooms are small, so keep your minimal essentials with you for changing diapers either in your seat area or in a tiny restroom.
• Take an extra-large purse as a carry on. Giant purses are great for carrying extra things like toys, snacks, wipes, etc. Remember to check TSA guidelines to be sure you can take everything in your bag through security.
• Get older children to pack and carry their own special tote with basic entertainment contents – coloring books, crayons, reading books, MP3 player, dolls or cars, etc. This will also lighten your own load.
• Forget about style when choosing your traveling clothes – go for comfort, ease of wear and layers.
• Dress your child in distinctive clothing to avoid losing them in crowded airport lounges.
• Take a simple change of clothing for you and for your child in case of spills.
• A pillow or small quilt from home is a good idea (as long as you aren’t traveling too light). Airplanes are cold, and your child won’t be able to truly get comfortable under one of those thin sheets that pass for airline blankets.
• Want to let your child wander without losing them? Pick up a child harness so that they can safely explore the airport, but stay close.
On the Plane
• Do you have rules at home for limited the amount of TV your child can watch? Throw those rules right out the window for the flight! The airplane’s children’s video channels and games can provide a welcome relief for you while distracting them. If you don’t trust these channels, take a portable DVD player with your choice of DVDs for viewing.
• Try this strategy with toys: bring them out one by one. To get maximum use from each distraction, play with one thing and then pack it away, moving on to the next toy.
• Always test the temperature of food heated in the aircraft galley before you give it to your child, as it may be way too hot or ice cold.
• Take your own baby food, bowl and utensils. Some airlines do have baby food on board – but it may not be what your child prefers.
• Ask for bottles and meals to be warmed well in advance of when you need them. Cabin crew members don’t have a microwave and have to heat bottles using hot water in the galley, which takes time.
• Keep two diaper pins attached to your diaper bag. If you can get a window seat (some people will trade you) you can take a blanket and attach it to your seat and the seat in front of you for a privacy screen.
• Try and keep yourself from saying “shhh” every two minutes – it can be just as annoying as an unruly child. As long as your kid hasn’t turned into an obvious Planezilla, chances are that they are no more obnoxious than other kids on the aircraft.
• Stay active. Certain types of behavior are simply unacceptable, up in the air or down. You may need to haul your child to the bathroom for a talk.
• Remember that some people don’t like children, no matter how well behaved. Do your best with fellow passengers by letting them see that you aren’t just ignoring your child, and make sure you keep a smile on your face. Chances are, most people will cut you a break – just go with it.
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PHOTO: From www.caribbeantravelmag.com / Yahoo images.