Wednesday, April 1, 2015

10 quick tips when you're flying with kids

Taking your kids on a flight, or a series of flights if you're doing some long-haul travel, can feel rather daunting when you're a parent. Here are 10 quick tips from me to make flying with kids a little easier, and a little less stressful:

1. Always bring antibacterial wipes & use them
I keep repeating this advice to others and myself for one reason: it works. We used to always pick up some kind of germ or another in our travels, whether a stomach bug or a cold or the flu. Using the wipes after each bathroom visit and before each snack- or meal-time really, really helps. Anti-bacterial gel works too, but the wipes are handy and are not considered a liquid, which makes them a bit more convenient to bring on the plane.

2. Use the bathroom when you see it
I still try to hustle my kids into the bathroom whenever I spot one at the airport, even though they're older these days and usually able to tell me they need to go before it becomes an emergency. However, when you're going through an airport with young kids, it is a good policy to take them into the bathroom when you see a bathroom. Otherwise (if you're luck is anything like mine) you will be standing in some eternal lineup for immigration, check-in, boarding, or security when your child needs to go. And by then, all bathrooms might have magically disappeared...

On board it's a wise policy to take your kids into the bathroom before landing. My kids always seem to have "emergencies" right as we're approaching the airport, or when everyone is standing up, waiting for the doors to open. Not ideal for relaxed bathroom visits!

3. If your child can stand up, bring pullups rather than regular diapers on the flight
Diaper changes in an airplane bathroom are never fun. Yes, there are change-tables, but in the extremely cramped quarters it is never easy to change a diaper in the air. With my kids, I found it to be a lot easier to change a pullup than a regular diaper. Even if you don't usually use pullups, it might be a good idea to bring some on the plane, once your child is able to stand up.

4. Always look back before leaving
I got this advice a long time ago in my youthful backpacking days, and I still live by this rule. Whenever you've stopped or sat down for a break, a snack, to make a phone call, or whatever reason - look back as you're leaving to see if you've left anything behind. It's saved my sanity several times, because I've spotted dropped toys or blankets, or a cellphone or wallet.

5. Wear comfy pants
Few things make me more uncomfortable on a flight than tight pants. Anything that pinches at the waist is awful. I don't like tight pants at the best of times, but when you spend hours sitting in a cramped airplane seat, and feel your body bloat and swell from the pressure... well, a loose-fitting waistband is a lot better than a tight one. I'm not the world's biggest fan of yoga pants, but if there was ever a place to wear them, the airplane is it.

6. Chocolate + kids + planes = bad news
Chocolate covered snack-bars, or candy is not a good idea for a flight. At least for my kids, we always seem to end up with chocolate everywhere, and that's not great when you're on a plane. Anything that "melts in your mouth, not in your hand" is a better snack-choice.

7. Apps, games, and e-readers are great ways to pass the time
Plan ahead and get some kid-friendly apps and games for your electronic devices (new ones if possible, to further battle travel boredom). If you get stuck at an airport, or on any long flights, it is a good way to pass the time. I always make sure I have some go-to kids' books on my Kindle as well.

8. Pen & paper is a must
Entertaining your kids when you're on a long flight, or waiting for a long time at an airport can be a big challenge. And electronic devices will only last so long: I find my kids get bored with them eventually, or the devices may need recharging when there is nowhere to recharge them. Pen and paper, that old-school form of entertainment, can help. Draw pictures, write stories, play simple games like tic-tac-toe or Hangman... you can always do something with a pen (or pencil) and some paper.

9. Don't forget your charging cables
It's easy to remember bringing your electronic devices, but sometimes (and yes, I am speaking from experience), it's easy to forget the charging cables. Bring them along in your hand-luggage: some airports and airplanes are starting to provide places for recharging.

10. Pockets are good, and waist packs
When you're traveling with kids, there are always things you need to keep track of: pacifiers, tickets, toys, snacks, money, cellphone... A waist pack or a good travel-purse can be a life-saver (and will hold your most important travel-documents securely), but it's also good to wear clothes that have pockets. Sweaters or cardigans with pockets is a favourite travel-gear of mine for this very reason.

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