Monday, December 5, 2011

Traveling with kids: 7 tips to feel better on board

A comfortable sleeping position on board, at least when you're exhausted!

Spending hours on board an airplane, especially if you're flying Economy Class (I've never flown anything else), can be hard on your body. It's cramped, the seats don't recline properly, you're jammed in there with lots of other people, and you might also be stressed out and anxious. Add in the fact that you might also be sleep deprived, dehydrated, and trying to keep your children entertained, fed, and out of trouble, and you might end up with some real aches and pains.

Once upon a time. 15+ years ago (this is before I had kids), I used to get so uncomfortable and so tense while flying that I'd literally get sick to my stomach. That hasn't happened to me for a very long time. I've found a few "tricks" that work for me, and here are the 5 most important ones:

1. Relax your body
This sounds easy but it actually isn't, or rather: it's easy to overlook. When you're stressed out, anxious and sitting in an uncomfortable airplane seat, it's easy to get stuck in a position that involves tense muscles and bad posture. After getting myself and the kids settled in our seats, I try to check how my body is doing. This involves relaxing tense neck muscles, relaxing my stomach (otherwise I tend to get queasy after a while), and adjusting my posture and sitting position so I'm as comfortable as possible.

2. Wear loose-fitting clothes
This is key for me, especially wearing clothes that aren't tight around my waist and stomach. Sitting down in tight pants just isn't comfortable, and I also tend to feel bloated on board which makes it worse. I want no belt, no tight socks, no tight pants, and a comfy bra. All that helps me relax and feel better. In a couple of previous blog posts, I have some more travel-wear tips for adults and kids.

3. Take off your shoes
My feet often feel like they get about one size bigger when I've been sitting on the airplane for a few hours. I try to wear shoes that are reasonably comfortable, socks that are not too tight, and then I remove my shoes during the flight to make myself even comfier. Doing so also makes it easier to flex my ankles and toes! I take the kids' shoes off too, if they'll let me, as soon as they sit down.

4. Use a neck pillow
Seats do recline even in Economy class (usually...), but not always enough to make you really able to relax. And falling asleep when you're sitting more or less upright can lead to the dreaded "gaping mouth syndrome": meaning that you wake up from a brief slumber and realize that your mouth has been hanging wide open (potentially drooling and snoring) while you slept. A neck pillow won't make you totally relaxed and comfortable, but it can help prevent sore neck muscles and that gaping mouth thing. Even a cheap, inflatable neck pillow can make a big difference.

5. Get up and move around
This is something that is actually easier to do when you're flying with kids. Most likely, they will need to go to the bathroom, or they will need to be held and rocked, or they will want to just walk around to pass the time, during the flight. This means you will be getting up from your seat more frequently than you would otherwise, which helps prevent stiff muscles, tension, and blood clots. One definite health perk when you're flying with children!

6. Drink and breathe
Yes, sounds obvious, but it's easy to overlook doing this when you're stressed out and busy with your children. It's very easy to get dehydrated on a plane because of the dry air and the altitude. Bring a water bottle on board (just remember to buy it or fill it after going through security), grab a drink whenever it's offered (preferably a non-alcoholic one), and ask for something to drink if you're feeling parched. A few minutes of deep breathing exercises can also help you relax and release some tension. When you're traveling with kids, a few minutes are sometimes hard to come by, but try to take some time for this, even if it's just for a moment.

7. Exercise
A full yoga or aerobics routine isn't possible on a plane of course, but moving around, even just a little bit, will help you feel better, and there are lots of ways to do that. Many airlines include tips on exercises to do on-board in the information in your seat pocket. There are also many books and websites that can give you ideas for exercises to do during a flight. Here are some web resources:
  • Simple workouts to help provide relief from tension, aches, and pains are provided by websites like ehow and others.
  • Another great idea is airplane yoga . Several websites, like and GirlsWhoTravel, give examples of yoga exercises you can do in a confined space, like an airplane seat. There's even an app for it!


  1. Another great post! I am loving all your travel tips this fall, we are flying across the country for Christmas (with the 3 girls) so I'm sure your ideas will come in very handy :)
    have a great trip

  2. Thank you! I hope you have a great trip and a fantastic Christmas. :)


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