Friday, February 10, 2012

Flying with my kids: 8 comfort items

When I fly anywhere with my kids, there are two items that are absolute must-haves in my hand-luggage:
  • Litterless Juice Boxes - So that my kids can drink their juice on board without spilling it, and without me worrying that they're going to spill it. And also so that I can put their drink away for later in case they are too tired to finish it, or because they're heading to the bathroom.
  • Antibacterial Hand Wipes - I bring these and use them frequently on myself and the kids because airplanes (especially airplane bathrooms) are full of germs. I'm not obsessive about using antibacterial gels and wipes when I'm not traveling, but on-board I just have to use them.
Many other important items we bring when we travel could be called comfort items. These are items that I bring, and the kids bring, on board because they make the flight more comfortable, help reduce anxieties, and just helps all of us feel better and more relaxed. For my family, some of these comfort items are:

1. Child sized headphones
My kids love to watch movies and play games on-board, but the headphones given out for free, or for a small charge, on flights often don't fit very well on my children's heads. For the last few years I've carried a couple of fairly cheap, but child-sized headphones with me in my carry-on, and it makes using the on-board entertainment system a lot easier for the kids.

2. Comfortable sweaters
Airplanes are strange environments. Sometimes they are inexplicably too warm, and sometimes they're too chilly: often during the same flight. The same is true of airports. This is why my kids and I always wear comfortable sweaters, usually cotton or fleece and usually zippered, on flights. (I always try to put our coats and jackets into the checked luggage, just so we won't have to worry about that while traveling.) If it really gets too warm, a sweater can usually be easily stuffed into the hand-luggage.

3. A change of clothes, including socks
Even though my kids are no longer babies or even toddlers, I usually bring a clean pair of pants, a clean t-shirt, and a clean pair of socks for each of them. I put this change of clothes either in my hand-luggage or in theirs. I do this because traveling can be really unpredictable: spills happen, bathroom accidents can happen (what if your child throws up for example), and puddles on the floor of airplane bathrooms happen (and if a child has removed their shoes, this is where a clean pair of socks can come in handy). I also bring a plastic bag to put any wet clothes in, before they go into the hand-luggage.

4. On-board pharmacy
I have only rarely had to use my well-stocked on-board pharmacy, but this is one item that can definitely bring some much-needed comfort if your child gets sick on board. A detailed list of what I bring is included in this post, but at minimum I would bring a fever-reducer, some kind of child's decongestant, and something to calm upset stomachs.

5. A menagerie of stuffed animals
Most of my daughter's carry-on is filled with stuffed animals. I try to limit how many she gets to bring, but she usually manages to sneak a few extra ones in there anyway. To her, these are necessities, and they help her sleep, relax and just feel better on board.

6. The Blankie
My daughter's well-loved, well-traveled blue blanket has come with us on every trip since she was born. I predict it will keep coming along with us for a while yet. She doesn't snuggle with it as much as she used to, but she still asks for it at bedtime and when she's feeling very down, or anxious, or tired. Like on a flight! If your child has a special comfort item like this, don't forget to bring it, and don't forget it on the plane!

7. Two fleece blankets
I bring a couple of fleece blankets along because sometimes, especially on shorter flights, the airlines don't provide blankets. And if my kids are tired, they often sleep better if I cover them up a bit. The blankets can also be rolled up and used as pillows. The blankets don't have to be very thick or big, just enough to provide some comfort and warmth.

8. My travel earrings
This is my own comfort item: a set of silver studs in the shape of flying horses. I don't have a lot of superstitions, and I'm reasonably sure I could fly without them if I had to, but I just feel better wearing them.

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