Remember when you could board a plane, sit back, pull out a paperback and read through the entire flight? When you’re a parent traveling with kids those days may be behind you, but with a little planning and a lot of patience, traveling with a child can be smooth sailing. Here are a few ideas to make your next journey as easy as possible.
Traveling With a Newborn
Traveling when your baby is under six months can be intimidating, especially for new parents, but this is often the easiest period to travel with baby. She is most likely still sleeping a lot, is easily soothed by the breast or bottle, and is not yet mobile. Make your flight easier by changing baby’s diaper just before boarding your plane, and offer something to suck on after take-off and landing to help equalize tiny ears. You most likely won’t need lots of toys or books, but a change of clothes for mom and baby can be invaluable.
Snacks and Toys for Your Toddler
Once babies achieve independent mobility flying becomes more of a challenge, but the key at this stage is engaging activity. Board books, crayons and favorite dolls or trucks all help to keep your little ones busy, which helps to distract them from the fact that they can’t run up and down the aisle. Resist the urge to offer chocolate or other sweet snacks. Five minutes of quiet eating will be surely followed by a manic sugar high and despairing crash. Keeping food and routines as close to normal as possible while traveling helps your child to maintain some sense of what is normal while you’re away from home.
Board First, Disembark Last
If you’re offered the chance to board before the rest of your flight, take it, especially if you’re traveling without a partner or friend to lend a hand with your baggage. Fewer distractions along the way will make it easier to find your seat and get settled. When your flight is over, waiting until the other passengers have disembarked will give you the time and space to coordinate your carry on and your child without holding everyone else up or feeling pressured. Arriving early and allowing extra time between connecting flights will make your journey less stressful overall, even if it does take all day.
Get the Wiggles Out at the Gate
Preschoolers and older children have lots of physical energy, which can overflow as crankiness if they’re not allowed time and space for physical play. Instead of asking your kids to sit quietly beside you while waiting at the gate, allow them to walk around, explore with you or play in the airport play area. Using up that physical energy in the airport will make it easier for them to sit still in the confined space of the plane.
Whether you’re a frequent flyer or on board a plane to Hawaii for your family vacation once a year, air travel with children is easiest when you come prepared with snacks, toys, extra time and realistic expectations.
Orignially published on Suite101.com on April 13, 2008