My kids have been travelling since they were 5 weeks old. They have checked off more cities and miles on their passports than many people in their 30’s, and now that they are 10 and 5 years old they are quite familiar with planes, trains AND automobiles. Despite their frequent travel (or perhaps because of it) they hate air travel. Long flights suck the most partly because one is trapped in a tin can breathing recycled air or perhaps every other passenger looks at you with dread. Walking down the plane with my little angels in tow I know what’s going through every one’s mind, “Please, let them not be sitting close to me.”
I know – because I am that person when travelling sans kids. I don’t want to be close to whiny, grumpy kids at all, except perhaps when they are mine.
Now that I have established my credibility not only as a frequent flier but also as a mom has flown hundreds and hundreds of tortuous plane hours with her kids, believe me when I tell you I have a system that makes air travel with kids easier. Here are 29 of my best shortcuts and travel tips that make the journey tolerable. And they work!
Planning Airplane Travel With Kids
1.As soon as you make your reservations, check out seatguru.com before you book your seat numbers. You get a good idea of the plane’s layout, location of the washrooms etc. With kids you want to be close to the washrooms but not so close as to get a whiff every time someone opens the door.
2.Check out the airport layout online for playgrounds and things to do with kids. This will help you keep the kids entertained in case there are delays or transfers.
3.Check out the in-flight entertainment options. My older one loves to plan her TV viewing before she gets on board.
4.If you’re renting a car at arrival, sign up for the company’s membership program. They are normally free and will help you skip the lineup when you pick up your car.
5.Buy luggage that your kids can actually handle. Some of those roll-y suitcases made especially “for kids” are too much after the first few steps. And then who do you thinks is going to carry that cute luggage?
6.Help kids pack their bags with a few of their favourite things – toys, candy, books. It will add to the excitement of the trip and encourage kids to manage themselves.
Cabin Baggage Packing Tips
7. 2 changes of clothes for the kids and at least 1 for yourself. Diapers if you need them and always more than you think you will need.
8. Snacks that you can carry on board to your destination (that excludes fruits and veggies)
9. Books, games, toys, art and drawing supplies.
10. Small electronics like DVD players (we have one for the plane), tablets, Nintendo DS whatever your budget and inclination. Don’t forget the chargers.
11. The airline-provided headsets don’t work so well for little ears. Carry larger units that the kids are able to adjust themselves.
12. Pillows and small sheets will make the flight more comfortable for kids. The blankets that you get in economy on board are synthetic and carry static in the dry airplane air.
13. Baby wipes are crucial whatever your kids’ ages because there will be spit-ups, throw-ups, spills, you name it.
14. Plastic bags to carry the mess.
15. Medicines. Pain relief and anti-histamines to relieve congestion that come in bottles of under 60 ml so you don’t get hassled at security. Blocked ears are PAINFUL in mid-air, especially during takeoff and landing.
16.If you’re considering a pill for motion sickness or sleep for kids then test it out now.
The Day Before The Flight
17. Catch up on sleep; you and the kids. Air travel will be more easily tolerated if you’re boarding with a sleep credit.
18. Eat fruits and vegetables more than usual. On the plane there are no rules around food. I do talk about “exercising your best judgement” with the kids and then its junk food and TV free-for-all.
19. Always check-in online. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but so many people don’t do it. This one bit of preparation saves you a ton of agony at the airport even before your journey has started.
20. Carry an oversized plastic bag for the kids’ car seat. Many airlines don’t offer it any more. Without the plastic wrap your car seat ends up at the destination with mysterious stains.
21. Wear travel clothes that do not have rivets or big metal buttons so that you don’t beep going through the detector. If possible wear clothes that don’t need belts, that are easy to slip on and off. I wear yoga pants, a simple shirt and rubber moccasins.
Do whatever you can to make the hours of torture tolerable. Go ahead, don’t judge yourself (or me) if 18 out of the 20 hours of flying time are spent staring at a screen. You and the kids will survive the flight exhausted but holding onto your sanity, and that’s all that matters.
22. Travel with kids has but one perk. Pre-boarding, take full advantage of it so you can get settled into your seats and stow your cabin baggage away before the hordes board the plane.
23.Travelling with a stroller? Leave it empty of luggage and small items because clearing it at the gate before handing it over to the airline staff always stresses me out.
24. Babe in arms? Bring a light-weight baby carrier with you so that you can transfer the little one into it once you hand over the stroller. Holding your little one in the seat is that much easier during take off, landing and flight turbulence.
25. Before you settle down into your seat get the toys and electronics out of your cabin baggage and put them in your seat pocket. It may be a good 45 mins before the seatbelt sign switches off and you are allowed to stand up again.
26. Say Yes. To the juice, and the TV, and the chips and cookies that come with your meal. Make the flight as easy as possible on your kids AND yourself!
27. Don’t use the first set of washrooms once you exit the plane. They are usually the most crowded.
28. Tie ribbons on your luggage, especially if your suitcases are black. Peering up the conveyor belt at 4 am all suitcases look the same.
29. Kids need to be at least a couple of steps away from the baggage belt. The moving luggage is tempting to touch but the belt is dangerous for little fingers.