Airplane travel with kids; tips and tricks
Traveling with anyone can be a challenge. Traveling with an infant, toddler, or anyone whose emotions you can not control can be a nightmare. (Insert red-eye airplane flight home from Hawaii last May. My son woke up with a night terror not once, but TWO times. Bet you didn’t know the bathroom is a great place to hold an uncontrollably screaming 3 year old when the rest of the plane is glaring at you in horror as they try to sleep.)
Car travel, though much, much longer, is nice because the only one that has to deal with your kids is…you. Airplane travel is another story. You have 100+ people around you that are depending on you to have control of a situation that you really have very little control over.
Regarding my story above with the red-eye flight, it didn’t help any that we sat next to Mrs Too Good For Your Kids. She walked on, saw us, saw she was sitting right in front of us and immediately had an attitude. Great. This of course doesn’t help any because my paranoia goes up. And of course she didn’t know that on the way to Hawaii my kids were told by just about everyone on the plane how good they were, how they were never heard, how no one could believe what amazing travelers they were.
Mrs Too Good also made sure to point out when my son started screaming that the rest of the plane was trying to sleep. As if I didn’t know that?! Really?! Cause I’m pretty sure I’m sitting here pinching my son so he’ll scream on purpose in your FREAKING EAR. The other thing that gets me are the rants about how kids shouldn’t be allowed on airplanes, or how they should have to pay extra, etc, etc. Whatever. Family is very important to me. Sometimes that requires traveling to see my family, or traveling with my family to make memories. Sometimes, we just like to travel just like the rest of the world. It especially irks me when someone is complaining and they don’t even have kids so they have NO IDEA the why to why someone would travel with children, or the how in how difficult it is and yet to desirable. If someone has B.O. on a plane…I just deal with it. Does it bother me? Yes. Do I make a big deal out of it? No. If someone smells like smoke on a plane…that really bothers me, but do I feel the need to rant about it even though I’m allergic to cigarette smoke? No. So, what I’m saying is I will be traveling with my kids. I will do the best I can to keep them quiet. But I will not stop traveling with them.
Needless to say, we’ve decided that as much as we can help it, any future plane trips will be during the day.
Regardless, my kids did great on the way there and below I listed the reasons why. I wanted to give some Airplane Travel Tips to go along with the Car Travel Tips. (I kept this list to my top 10, or less, recommendations…it was getting a bit out of control)
Airplane Traveling with an Infant:
1. Plan on bringing more than you have arms for…especially if you have a babe in arms.
2. Plan on everything taking longer. It does anyway, so why would it be different in an airport.
3. Your child can sit on your lap until the 2nd birthday. However, if you can afford it, purchase an extra seat.
4. Try to call ahead and get a bulkhead seat (free, but limited), or the economy plus seats (costs a little more but SO worth it).
5. Bring a stroller for the airport. It doesn’t cost any money and you can check it at the gate. It saves your arms, might allow for a nap if you have a long layover, and makes a great push-toy for kids in between flights.
6. Most airlines allow you to check a car seat without the baggage fee. Call ahead to be sure! Another option is to call the car rental place (if you’re renting a car upon arrival) and see if they have car seats available. You can always use a car seat on the airplane…some people swear by it because it holds kids in their seats, and others hate it because it makes it easier to kick the seat in front and it’s cumbersome to carry.
7. If you have a nursing baby…try to plan nursing around take off/landing. It helps pop their ears. If you bottle feed, ask the flight attendant if they can heat up the bottle for you (give them plenty of time) and plan on feeding at take off and landing. Also, try to get a window seat and bring a blanket and 2 pins. Pin up the blanket so you have some privacy while you’re nursing. You can use a hooter hider too, but that can make you both hot on a crowded plane.
8. Pack your diaper bag as a carry on. Put a change of clothes for you, 2 changes for your baby, plenty of diapers and wipes, anything you might need to feed baby, and a couple of rattles, toys, puffs, books, etc. If you’re looking for a quick distraction, my kids always loved tearing up the magazines into tiny pieces.
9. Get on early and situate everything before other passengers get on. I like to put a diaper and wipes in the front seat pocket as well as a binkie (in a zip lock to keep it clean) and anything else you might need quickly. This also makes it easier to change a diaper…rather than carrying a huge diaper bag back to the bathroom with you.
10. When you pack your bags, pack them so you can easily juggle baby as you’re getting out your “liquids”, computer, shoes, belts, etc. as you go through security. Have everything in one spot; don’t wear a belt, wear slip on shoes, etc. Also, the 4 oz rule is usually thrown out the window for those traveling with babies. I bring sippy cups of juice all the time. Just check with the airline you’re flying with.
Airplane Travel with a Toddler:
1. See majority of steps in the infant section…most are still applicable.
2. Bring snacks, especially some new, or hardly given snacks. This is when we chose to give our kids pretzels, fruit snacks, etc that we rarely buy at home.
3. Bring toys, especially new, or not seen for awhile toys. Smaller the better obviously. And quiet. Budget savvy? Stick away their favorite toys several weeks in advance and bring them out on the plane…like new again 🙂
4. My rule of thumb is plan on a snack or a toy for every 20-30 minutes of flying time. Don’t forget to plan for the return flight too. The Dollar Store is a great place for Budget Savvy Mommies 🙂
5. Utilize your carry on bags. If you had to buy your children’s seats, remember that they get to have carry on bags too. I always try to pack 1 bag for me; full of all my stuff because if my bag got lost world would be over. The other bag I stuff with all their things. See #8 and #10 in infant section. If they are old enough, consider letting them bring their own rolling suitcase stuffed with snacks, new toys, etc…and let them pick some things to bring too.
6. Throw out all your TV rules. Bring a portable DVD player, some headphones, and let em have at it. If you have a child that can hold an attention span of more than a few minutes. Don’t forget a new DVD or cartoon so it holds their attention longer.
7. If you’re traveling with your spouse, consider sitting apart. It’s nice to trade off kid duty and get a break. For my family we travel 3 and 1 (plus lap child). My husband and I trade off sitting with all the kids (incl lap child once in flight) so the other can get a break (and enjoy a beverage without fear of it spilling in our laps). Then at nap time for the baby it’s nice to have them separated so there’s a chance of slumber.
8. I like to bring sanitizing wipes and do a thorough wipe down of all surfaces before my kids sit down. I also keep wipes in the seat pocket in front of me to use for everything from sticky fingers to boogers in noses.
9. Send your spouse on ahead of you (or vice versa) to get seats prepped. Keep the toddlers off the plane as long as possible so they can get their wiggles out. See step 9 on the infant section.
10. Don’t be afraid to use benadryl. Talk to you Dr beforehand about dosage. And I would suggest doing a trial run at home before you go (some kids get hyperactive). My kids basically drink benedryl as a snack (both have food allergies) so it’s a common thing in our house.
Airplane Travel with Older Kids:
1. Bring a portable DVD player, several new movies they’ve been dying to see, and let ’em have at it.
2. Bring any sort of portable gaming device.
3. Bring snacks.
4. Bring an iPad.
I am really hoping that it’s as easy as that once they get older. If it’s not, please don’t tell me, I’d like to live in ignorant bliss for awhile longer 😉
Readers: What would you add to the list? I know some of you are travel savvy and have some great tips to share! Also, ever encountered Mrs (or Mr) Too Good For You?