Ok parents, it time to talk about one of the scariest experiences you will ever have to go through - traveling with kids on an airplane.
I will keep it real with you, traveling on an airplane with babies and kids is no fun. The experience at best can be described as overwhelming, humiliating and frustrating - and I am trying to be positive here. The airport staff avoids eye contact with you. No one wants to be seated next to you, in front of you or behind you. Basically, no one is happy. No one.
Your kids may seem cute and sweet in your eyes, but to everyone else they are an annoying, screaming hot mess. People may enjoy them when you are waiting in the airport, but once they are trapped on that airplane with them it is a whole different story.
With summer in full swing, parents across the country are already vacationing with their children. If you have younger kids and your vacation destination requires a flight, you better plan accordingly!
Believe me, learning to plan ahead was something I gained from experience. As the mother of a now three-year-old toddler, I have taken my son on various trips with me, and four of those trips required air travel. Fortunately for me, I only have one kid to worry about (for now) but I collected these travel tips from a few different parents so you can be prepared for anything, no matter how many little ones you have in tow.
Rule #1 Pack plenty of activities and snacks
Screen time is a hot topic but when you are traveling on an airplane with kids, you will want to carry some digital fun with you. Kindle tablets, portable DVD players, iPods are all good choices. You also want to have some non-digital items with you such as coloring books, playing cards, sticker books and stuffed animals. You don’t need to bring everything from their toy box, but definitely, have a variety of options with you at all times.
We all know that airplane food typically sucks, so don’t subject your kids to the food if you are trying to have a peaceful flight. Trust me, this is the time to whip out the not-so-healthy snacks and bribe food you don’t always want to give them. Don’t ever list out the options you have in your bag, bring them out one at a time so it always a “surprise” treat. This will literally save your sanity, so make it easy for yourself by packing those extra snacks!
Rule #2 Make friends with the staff and other parents on the flight
Every parent traveling with kids needs a few allies, so get ready to buddy up with the flight staff and other parents with little ones while waiting to get on the plane. Most airlines let kids under two fly for free, and if you have a child in that age range it’s a good idea to let them see how cute your kids are before they board the aircraft. This can really pay off when you need help on the flight - you’re friends now! Plus, flight attendants can give you some tips on holding your baby during takeoffs and landings and how to keep your toddler from screaming and kicking the seat in front of them.
When you are in the waiting area, make sure you strike up some conversation with any other parents on the flight. If your kids are the same age, let them burn out their energy before you board and play together! Chances are, you will end up sitting close to each other in the back where they banish all the children anyway. Might as well have a playdate in the air right?
Rule #3 Board early and sit in the back if you can
You’ve heard it over the intercom before “If you are traveling with small children or need extra assistance you are welcome to board now”. You may have never paid attention to it before, but when you are a parent those words are like music to your ears. Don’t hesitate! Get you and your kids on the plane and before the crowd. Most airlines place children in the back already, but if not it’s a good idea to request a seat towards the back. If you can get that last row, do it. It’s a lot harder for people to turn around and give you the angry eyes. You will also be able to cram your luggage in the overhead compartments before they get full. Winning!
Rule #4 Don’t expect them to sleep or sit still
Every parent dreams that their kid will magically pass out on the plane, never to wake until you land. Yea...this is probably not going to happen, so don’t get your hopes up. Unless they are small babies, they will get fussy and want to move around, especially if you are on a long flight. Their ears might pop too. This is where your snacks and activities will come in hand to help you ride out the storm. And don’t be afraid to take the walk of shame down the airplane aisle. This can be a great way to tire your kid out, just keep it respectful and don’t let them yell or hit anyone on the end of the rows.
Rule #5 Don’t let crabby passengers get to you
No matter how prepared you are, there will always be a few crabby passengers who will give you dirty looks or make snide comments. You may have been one of them at some point in your life. Don’t let it get to you! Just focus on your kids and keep it moving. Chances are you will probably never see those people again anyway :-)
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