‘De plane, ‘de plane! Does the idea of traveling with kids by airplane make you want to jump? 8 practical, parent-friendly tips for traveling with kids!
Don’t Get Carried Away with Carry-Ons – Keep It Small and Simple. We have the kids pack their own carry-on bags (with supervision and direction). That way they are responsible for what’s on-board and more importantly, what got left behind.
Think small and quiet. Other passengers will thank you! We love toy planes, coloring/activity books, travel size games, cards, clay, pipe cleaners, Wiki sticks. On our 17-hour flight to Africa, Seamus spent a good 2 hours making African animals out of pipe cleaners and then playing “zoo”. For more information on what to pack, check out our packing tips.
Turn to Technology as a Back-Up – A hand-held game, MP3 player with music from the destination, smart phone can be wonderful in a pinch. Many planes, especially on long hauls, provide seat-back entertainment systems with games and movies that will keep the kids occupied for hours.
Sometimes airlines or airports also allow you to rent DVD players for the trip Airport rentals can often be dropped off in your destination airport or when you return. Don’t forget the rules for keeping your kids safe online!
Stroll the Airport – Even when our kids were a bit too old for strollers, we brought along small, lightweight umbrella strollers. Not only are they vital in big cities when little legs get worn out and parents may want to continue exploring, but they can be used as luggage carts for all those carry-ons in the airport.
Find Ways to Release Energy – Even though you have the strollers with you, have the kids walk through the airport. It will help them burn off some energy before the flight.
We tell the kids what gate the plane is departing from and let them find it. They have fun running around, looking at signs, and get lots of exercise without even realizing it. You could also design a scavenger hunt with things you commonly see in the airport to keep them moving and burning that energy.
Avoid Mealtime Mayhem – Many airlines do not serve meals, even on longer flights, nowadays so be sure to check what will be available. Try to hold the kids off on eating until you are on the plane as it gives them something to do to pass the time.
Pack something they like from home or buy sandwiches or something easy in the airport. Also pack several healthy treats, and some not-so healthy treats for when the kids get a bit cranky. A lollipop or gum for the descent is key to keeping their ears clear. For babies, try to arrange bottle/breast feeding for the take-off/descent as well to help with their ears. For ideas on eating with kids in a destination, this out: http://www.travelwithkids.tv/304/
Timing is Key – For long flights, we try to arrange take-off at night or late afternoon. That way the kids can have dinner, watch a movie and go to sleep.
It’s also vital if you are changing time zones to try to arrive in the afternoon/evening so that you can stay up until normal bedtime in the new location. Getting on the new schedule as quickly as possible is the best way to adjust to jetlag.
Engage, Engage, Engage – The main thing kids want when sitting right next to you is your attention. This is vacation time after all and without the school, sports schedules, etc pulling everyone’s attention in a thousand direction, the kids will definitely want some one-on-one time.
Play cards with them or a travel size game. Tell them stories. Draw with them. The reason Seamus was so happy playing with his African zoo for so long is because I helped him.
Let Novelty Save the Day – Always pack a few surprises for the plane ride. Pick up something small from the dollar store that you can bring out when the kids get a bit antsy.
Some parents recommend wrapping them so the kids can actually open them on the plane. I never have, but it sounds like a fun idea!