Friday, January 21, 2011

What to do on the airplane when traveling with kids

Flying with dinosaurs
Once you’re on the airplane, try to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Fasten the seat-belts and take off your kids' shoes if they’ll let you. Let the children explore their surroundings: seat pockets, in-flight magazines, TV-screens, meal trays, and various buttons in the arm rest can all be exhilarating stuff for kids.

Bring out the blankets, stuffed animals and maybe a book or a game, and make use of the pillows usually provided by the airline. If you’re lucky your children will settle down once the initial excitement of being on board dies down. And if you’re really lucky, they will spend at least part of the flight asleep.

Hoard snacks
On longer flights, some airlines will dole out free snacks every now and then: crackers, sandwiches, candy, pretzels and so on. If your children are asleep or simply not hungry when snacks are being offered just stash them in your hand luggage and hand them out as needed. 

Again with the bathrooms
Just like at the airport, make sure you know where the bathrooms are and try to use them before there’s an emergency. I find my children always need to go right as the plane is about to land, or once it’s landed and everyone is standing up waiting for the doors to open. Try to get them to go before that and your life will be a lot easier.

Make use of the in-flight entertainment system
Nowadays, pretty much every airline offers individual TV-screens for all passengers. No more craning your neck to watch the one movie offered like in the bad old days! Instead, you can usually choose from a menu of movies, TV-episodes, music, news and even games. 

Some airlines charge for the use of headphones while others give them out for free. Bring kid-sized headphones with you if you can: the ones provided by the airlines can often be difficult for little children to wear comfortably.

Oh behave!
When it comes to kids’ behavior on board, you can never be sure what you’re going to get. Sometimes I’ve received compliments on my kids' behavior; other times I’ve been given the evil eye or, very rarely, an earful. 

The reality is that at some point during a long flight, your children will probably squirm, be loud, kick the seat in front of them, play with their tray in a noisy fashion, whine or spill something. They’re in an unfamiliar situation and may be tired, scared, bored, uncomfortable or even feel sick, so some acting up and acting out is normal.

Of course you do your best to help them calm down. You bring out the toys and games. You explain what’s expected of them. You divert their attention. You use the bribes you brought if you have to. You pull out all the usual tricks you use to get your children to behave in public. And still it won’t always help and you might end up feeling stressed out because you know your children are bothering other passengers. However, in my experience, other passengers are usually quite sympathetic: sometimes I’ve even had people play with my children for part of a flight!

Sadly, even if you and your children do your very best, there may still be passengers who get annoyed with you: some people just seem to get stressed out when they’re on a plane with kids on-board. Try to take that in stride even if it can be aggravating.

Read more about flying with kids:

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