My Twelve Tips for Traveling with Kids on Planes
Airplanes and your children—a good mix?
Greetings from 30,000 feet. We are somewhere over Baltimore—or maybe Richmond, Virginia—on our way to a family vacation in Florida.
Sunshine. Warmth. Grandma and Grandpa. Mickey Mouse.
What more could a sun-deprived, so-darn-tired-of-winter-I-could-just-spit, family from New England ask for?
This is a relatively easy trip for us.
I promised myself, when I adopted my sons (at the ages of two and three), that I would not give up my passion for travel. Just because there were three of us—and at that point, two of us became stroller-bound when fatigued or cranky—we needn’t give up the wonders of seeing the world up close and personal.
That would be taking the concept of “stay-at-home Mom” just a little too far.
And so, we’ve become a traveling family.
The boys and I have flown from Boston, Massachusetts to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia; we’ve slept our way across the Atlantic to Ireland and England; and we’ve enjoyed multiple trips to Mexico and the Caribbean.
With no connections, overnight flights or passing through Customs, Orlando is a piece of cake.
Still, flying with children does take some preparation. If conscious parenting begins with paying attention to our parenting choices, let’s apply this principle to family travel.
Just because I like you (and because I am hoping you will return the favor), I am going to share my …
Top Twelve Tips for Traveling with Kids on Planes
1. Set Your Intention. Don’t go into the whole thing planning on difficulties and misery. Write yourself an affirmation, such as “Our travels are always safe, restorative, and joyful.” Repeat it regularly as you prepare for your trip. If you keep a journal, write down your vision of a perfect family vacation. Visualize!
2. Start Packing a Couple of Days in Advance. Spending the last eight hours before departure in a frenzy of packing, accompanied by a last minute dash through airport security is not a recipe for success. Get your suitcases out two or three days before your travel date. Make packing a meditation: As you pack each item, give thanks for the people who made your clothes, sandals and sunscreen. Where would you be without them?
3. Pack a Carry-on Bag for Each Child. If your children are old enough, get them each a rolling duffle bag or back pack, to carry whatever will keep them occupied and entertained on-board.
4. Plan for On-board Snacks. What goes in those carry-on bags depends upon each child’s age and preferences. While you can’t bring a water bottle through Security, you can bring some yummy snacks, which will undoubtedly be healthier choices than anything you can purchase at the airport.
5. Plan for On-board Entertainment. Portable electronic items seem to be the most popular choice for on-board entertainment. We currently travel with the I-Pod Touch and a portable DVD player; our first Nintendo DS systems got us to Ireland and back a couple years ago.
Does providing my children with video games make me an unconscious parent? I don’t think so. I don’t believe electronics—or most other things in life—are inherently bad. We use them wisely, and in moderation. And almost always on long plane rides.
Don’t forget some “old-fashioned” items, like coloring books, puzzle books, and/or just plain books. You will want something for when you aren’t allowed to use the electronics, anyway. A simple deck of UNO cards has been a standby for us since the boys were toddlers.
6. Plan a Few Surprises. You might get a little extra mileage (just a little pun, intended), by wrapping up a small gift to open on-board. When the kids get fidgety, pull out a new DVD or video game, puzzle book or card game. I’ve been known to wrap up a pack of gum. Hey, whatever will make them smile?
7. Prepare Your Children for the Process of Traveling. Tell them what will happen at the airport. Describe the security screening process, the boarding process and the need to obey on-board seatbelt instructions. Explain to them when they will be getting their next meal (always an important consideration with my sons, at least) and what snacks will be available in transit.
8. Consider Seating Carefully. Put seat selection somewhere on your strategic plan. Will you be making a tight connection in Dallas? First, try not to. If unavoidable, get seats towards the front of the plane, so you can make a quick exit. Taking a six-hour non-stop to Los Angeles? Consider sitting towards the back, where you can make easy and frequent trips to the restrooms.
9. Speaking of Potty Breaks … Pay close attention to the overhead seatbelt lights. You never know how long they will stay on. We’ve been on a couple bumpy flights where even the flight attendants were strapped down the entire way. I don’t mean to scare you here, but be smart: When that light goes off, get everyone out of their seats, take a leisurely stroll to the back of the plane and hit the restrooms.
10. Make Friends with the Flight Attendants and Other Passengers. Start smiling at people as soon as you get on the plane. Get yourselves seated as efficiently as possible and help others where appropriate. You never know when you might really, really need the goodwill and/or assistance of those around you.
11. Keep Your Children from Kicking or Pushing on the Seat in Front of Them. One of the easiest ways to make friends with the people sitting in front of you is to let them sit in peace. Teach your children about airplane etiquette. Practice at home, it you need to.
12. Enjoy the Ride. Remember that your airplane ride is part of your vacation. Plan ahead, for the enjoyment of you and your children. And don’t forget your commitment to conscious parenting: Create your vision and keep those affirmations flowing. “Our travels are always safe, restorative, and joyful!”
If you have kids, you are already an expert on family travel. Do you have some helpful travel tips to share?
Write me a comment and spread the joy!