Air Travel with small kids doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, though often it is! Here are some excellent tips that will help you make it through your flight with most of your children alive 🙂
Schedule your flights to coincide with kids sleep patterns.
I know that if I am taking long flights I always personally try to fly overnight so I can sleep for as long as possible and it is the same when travelling with kids, even for short flights. Whenever possible, try to book flights during the time of day or night your children would normally be sleeping. Then, just like you, they will likely keep up the same routine and fall asleep despite being 25,000+ feet in the air. Any sleep they get on the plane will serve to cut down the time they must be entertained whilst awake, which has to be a win win!
Do I need a car seat on the plane?
When our daughters were infants we chose to save money and only buy seats for ourselves which meant they spent the flight(s) on our laps. More recently, we have taken to carrying-on the car seat which accomplishes two very important things: freeing up our laps, arms, and such, and keeping her in the seat. It also adds some familiarity to a new vehicle/mode of transportation – a little piece of home(life) in a new place. Yes, it is frustrating having to carry the seat around the airport, but the in-flight payoff is worth it. One Step Ahead sells an adapter to turn a car seat into a backpack which may help you manage your carry-ons.
Managing the Flight
An easy and effective way to manage your in-flight, family-with-toddler(s) experience is to break the trip down, mentally, into 20 minute segments (to borrow an airline term). So, if you have a 2 1/2 hour flight, you really have only 7 twenty minute segments to schedule and occupy your child’s (or children’s) time. When you think of your flight in this manner it becomes a relatively manageable event. Here are some parent and flight tested tips on segment ideas that will occupy and entertain your kids, providing you with some down time to peruse the SkyMall catalog, and not have you lugging a suitcase full of toys around the terminal.
remember: each idea has to occupy a mere 20 minutes, anything more than that is a bonus!
- A new toy or book (nothing fancy, just something brand new to him or her)
- Crayola Color Wonder Markers (an inventive product that will only write on the special Crayola paper) – This is a favourite of ours. No messes at all and no toxic marker smell. The marker caps make for great, silly kid fingernail extensions. In fact, if your child is anything like ours, the caps alone could be their own segment.
- Tape and/or Stickers – Plain old Scotch tape can be a load of fun for a little one. Roll it up inside itself to make a sticky circle and let them stick it to their nose, your nose, between their fingers…just good old fashioned fun with a 2 inch piece of tape.
- Magna Doodle (Travel Edition) – A classic toy that our modern kids still enjoy. (Note: really young ones may get frustrated at their inability to, independently, erase their work as the tab to clear the screen can be rather difficult to slide)
- Tablet/Music Player – If you do not have an old one collecting dust somewhere, they can be had relatively cheap on Ebay or Tesco’s. This is perfect if your child has a particular song collection or movie they love at the moment. If they have never used a tablet or music player before, the novelty of this device combined with the films/music they already love should carry you for quite a while. Be sure to keep the volume at a low level and use only the classic earphones with the large, round and padded ear pieces that sit on the outside of their ears. kid size earphones?
- Their favourite book(s) – often a bedtime book, which is essential if your flight will involve a nap or take place during bedtime.
- For older toddlers/young kids: some brochures/city-location guide books. Allow and encourage your kids to plan a day trip, museum visit, etc. Give the reigns over to them for a period of time (whatever you are comfortable with/have the time for) providing they devise a plan using the material you bring on board. Not only will this occupy a good amount of time, but they will love the chance to be the boss and decision maker. By engaging them in the trip planning you will also increase the chances of them enjoying themselves and going along with something you want to do (reciprocating the favour). For the younger members of your family, use the brochures as a conversation piece to get them excited and interested in what they will be seeing during the vacation.
Snap-Crackle-Pop – Dealing with the altitude and popping ears
Be sure to pack their favourite beverage and snack on board. Not only will the eating and drinking occupy a few 20 minute time frame but it is also an method of reducing the impact of air pressure on their ears. By drinking or chewing they will hopefully not feel an uncomfortable amount of pressure while taking off and landing.
This was particularly hard to deal with when your children are babies as you cannot explain to them why it is happening and how eating or drinking will make them feel better. But rest assured, if there are any other parents on the plane, they understand what you are going through so do not worry about the crying, it will stop soon.
For older kids, this is an easy fix, so make sure you are prepared and have something with you to remove unpleasantness for your children.
Enjoy your flight!