Summer is almost here, which means many of you are going on a trip with the family. My husband and I love traveling, so our kids have learned to fly at a young age. Our eldest, at 3, has learned the routine and enjoys traveling by airplane. Adding kids to airplane travel creates a whole new level of complexity, so I encourage you to come prepared, and have a good trip!
Here are a few tips I will share from traveling with my littles:
- Plan for extra time at the airport. It just takes longer to do the whole process while juggling kids. Having time to change diapers before you get on a plane for a few hours is important!
- Prepare kids who are old enough for what to expect. As with any new or unfamiliar setting, it helps to let kids know what will be happening. At the airport you encounter many people (hard for shy toddlers and preschoolers) and have to hand over the special things that you have brought on your trip. Letting your children know in advance that you will be giving the nice people your suitcases and letting their teddy bears go on a fun ride through the scanner is very helpful. We run through the routine of the airport verbally with my daughter as we drive to the airport, and she can now recite most of it on her own.
- Bring a change of clothes for everyone. Particularly with kids in diapers, a full change for them and at least a shirt for adults could come in handy. Completing a travel day while wearing your child’s bodily fluids is never ideal.
- Gate-check your car seat. If you are traveling with car seats, you may gate-check them so that you have them in the airport (carriers are nice to have along for the babies) and have them on the other side when you get in the car to leave the airport. It is nice not to worry about anything getting lost. Roller bags for larger car seats make the airport travel much easier. (Plus you can jam soft, lightweight items like jackets or extra diapers in the bag.)
- Offer some entertainment. Novelty is key and will entertain kids much longer than will known toys. Pack plenty of small quiet toys to fill the time. Some of our favorites are blue painters’ tape (the possibilities are endless and it doesn’t leave residue), books, sticker books, and our magnet drawing board. When at the airport, allow as much physicaactivity as possible to burn some energy.
- Consider bringing an additional harness option. Kids age 2 and older are required to have and sit in their own seat. When my daughter turned 2-years-old, I still felt uncomfortable with her just in a lap belt on the plane, so we purchased the CARES harness. It is FAA-approved (I think it is the only one that is, and you should be prepared to show the packaging that says so), and fits like a car seat harness. My daughter feels secure in it, and it is much safer than just a lap belt.
- Remember that pressure-changes during take-off and landing can be uncomfortable. It helps for babies and toddlers to suck on something during take-off and landing. So, for babies, put off breastfeeding or giving a bottle until take-off. For older kids, a water bottle with a straw or a squeeze pouch does the trick.
- Come prepared with medications. I think it is wise to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen on board just in case you need it.
I think traveling with kids is fun (the airplane is no longer relaxing…but the trip is worth it). Pack well, set reasonable expectations, and prepare to have a good time!