Friday, September 2, 2011

Flying with kids: my top 6 tips

 1. Preparation
This is the most important thing when you're traveling by plane with children. Prepare yourself and your kids by talking to them about what will happen during the trip. Even if your kids are quite young, you can go into some detail: talk about check-ins, lineups, security checkpoints, boarding the plane, spending time on the plane, and waiting at luggage carousels. Kids who have some idea of what will happen and why they're waiting around in various lineups, can usually handle the frustration and boredom of long flights and long airport-waits a lot better. You can read more about travel preparation here.

2. Bring snacks
Hungry kids are not usually happy kids. Bring your own stash of flight-friendly snacks to make it easier and quicker to get your children a snack they like and will actually eat. Some kids will not eat very much on board the plane, either because they're nervous, excited, uncomfortable or just because the food available on the plane might not look or taste familiar. Bringing familiar snacks will help tide them over.

3. Bring comfort items
A favorite stuffed animal or snuggly blanket, a much-loved toy, a favorite book: all these things can help your child feel more relaxed on the plane and at the airport. It can also help them fall asleep on board, which is a very good thing. If your child uses a soother bring a spare and use a strap to attach the soother to their clothing.

4. Give yourself lots of time at the airport
My kids do not respond well to being rushed, and I don't usually feel so good either if I have to hustle them through an airport and onto a plane. Arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare before a flight (if you can) really helps. You won't feel so stressed out if there are lineups (and in today's world, there are almost always lineups somewhere at an airport). You'll also have time for a bit of plane-watching, a meal or snack, and bathroom visits.

5. Ask the airline about kid-friendly perks
If your child is under the age of 2, ask the airline or your travel agent if you can get a cot or bassinet for them on the plane. Being able to put your baby to bed on board is a fantastic perk. Check if there are special kids' meals available for pre-order. Also, ask about the policies for bringing a stroller, in case you think you'll need one.You can read more about what to ask the airline here. 

6. Don't sweat it too much if things get crazy
If you're traveling on long flights with young kids, or babies, there will likely be moments, or at least a moment, when things go haywire. Maybe it's a really messy diaper change, a spilled can of a soft drink that drenches your clothes, a tantrum in the lineup for security, or a meltdown caused by fear of flying. That's life. Even the most well-behaved kids and patient adults can be sorely tested on long flights, maybe with a lot of waiting time in airports added in. Come prepared, pack your hand luggage wisely, and do the best you can. Eventually, you will reach your destination and you will be fine.

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