Great tips for flying with kids By Holly Rosen Fink
Happy kids make for happy traveling. (Flickr: David D)
Traveling with kids isn’t as hard as it sounds. There are parents who put all travel aside for the first 13 years of parenting until the kids are easier to fly with, but that’s not the solution to easier travel. The trick is to travel often – get your children accustomed to being outside their comfort zone. Adventures out of the home can only awaken their senses and widen their horizons.
If you’re the type of parent who wants to ensure a good outcome on your next vacation, there are five simple mistakes parents make often and should avoid when flying with kids.
Not Being Flexible
It’s not always possible to book the best flight time to coincide with your children’s eating and sleeping habits. If you’re a helicopter parent and adhere to a strict schedule, be open to changing things around. You never know if there will be a flight delay going out or coming back, for example, or if you’re going to be stuck on the plane for an indefinite period of time due to a flight delay. Be prepared to alter your children’s routine for a day. Ultimately, they will bounce back and return to normalcy on the next leg of the trip or when you get home. It also pays to be flexible booking your flights. Tips like flying off peak, avoiding connections or stopovers, printing out your boarding passes, paying to have your luggage checked in – these small tips can simplify your trip in a big way by saving time and being able to pay more attention to your children at the airport and on the plane.
Over or Under Packing Mistakes
Packing when traveling with kids can be a complicated endeavor. The last thing anyone wants to do is over pack. Traveling with children requires many more items than you would normally take for yourselves and items be quite heavy. You can’t forget the stroller, car seats, toys for the plane, of course, but you can limit the amount of toys you bring and bring lighter items, like a small, fold-up stroller. Breastfeeding an infant certainly makes cutting down on bottles and feeding supplies easier, and it also makes for a relatively easy flying experience.
But in addition to over packing, under packing can be troublesome. Make sure you pack an extra set of clothes for a baby, as well as extra diapers. Many airlines don’t provide blankets any longer, so bring extras to keep your children warm. Check your bags several times to make sure you have what you need – or don’t need. Know that you can pick up toiletry items or any urgent items on your travels, but items like car seat and a GPS really come in handy (and save money) when brought from home.
Being Strict on Eating
It’s really hard for children to eat completely healthy while on a plane – but it’s not impossible. Nowadays, many airlines don’t offer meals to patrons, but when they do, it’s often cookies and peanuts. If you know your children are going to require a meal or snack, your best bet is to bring it with you. However, if you forget or run out of food, be flexible. It’s better to feed a child and order something off the plane menu (they often have hummus or cheese & fruit) than to starve them. Again, make sure you have clean bottles or whatever your infant might need to drink and let the flight attendants know when you require assistance. Also be sure to order special meals, if they are offered, so that you don’t have to worry about any allergies or food issues. But most of all, remember that your children’s regular eating habits and schedules can resume after your vacation.
Letting Your Child Stay Up During Overnight Flights
If you’re flying abroad or taking a red eye, be sure to advise your children to turn off their electronics or movies when the lights go out. Children need to sleep and chances are that when you land, they will need a nap. One whole night of missed sleep can really mess up their metabolism and set them back for a few days, which can easily jeopardize a portion of your trip. Try to prepare in advance of your flight, letting the kids nap or push the nap back, in order to accommodate the flight times. Walk toddlers up and down the aisles periodically to feed their bursts of energy while on the plane and bring an antihistamine for emergencies (Please note that this option may be controversial in some circles).
Apologizing to Fellow Passengers
There have been many reports over the past few years about people who get really annoyed with crying babies on the plane. Moms are often denied seats next to their children on planes without reserved seating and treated like second class citizens. Many parents are used to getting looks from fellow passengers and the amount of animosity towards traveling families has increased. The only way to respond is with respect and integrity. Make sure you do everything you can to keep your children happy and comfortable on a plane to avoid any outbursts. Pay attention to their needs, bring enough for them to do and make sure they get some sleep, and you are likely to have both happy children and happy fellow passengers who will be likely to compliment your parenting skills when the plane lands.