Tips for traveling with kids
Once, I was lucky enough to have been upgraded to business class on a short flight from PDX to SFO with my then 1 year old daughter. I thought to myself, "This flight is going to be a breeze!". My daughter has had many flights under her belt prior to that particular flight so I was not expecting any untoward incidents.
A few minutes into the flight, after she's had some of her milk, her stomach felt uneasy and she throws up all over herself and me. The flight attendants were helpful and gave me an endless supply of paper towels to clean up with and huge garbage bag to dispose the soiled towels. i had no extra clothes for the two of us in my diaper bag, everything else was checked in. we sat thru the remaining 2 hours of the flight, wet and reeking from the smell of regurgitated milk. Thankfully, that was the worst thing that happened to us on a flight. My daughter is now 8 years old and we seem to have this whole flying thing down to a pat now. I have compiled some of the things we learned in the 8 years of traveling with a child. If you have any more tips and suggestions, let us know and we'll add them to this list.
DOs when you're flying with kids:
1. Explain the situation - it's usually new experiences that terrify children (and adults, too!). Try to minimize the element of horror surprise by explaining to your child what is to be expected at the airport and on the flight. You'll be surprised at how well they understand the things you tell them.
2. Pack smart - don't over pack and pack only what you need. Remember that you don't have to take the whole closet with you. You can make the convenience store your first stop at your destination so you don't have to pack too much of the things the bulky items like diapers that are available pretty much anywhere.
3. If your kids are old enough to wheel their own little luggage, make them wheel their own little luggage. My daughter started bring her own 'carry on' at 2 years old, with her little Dora backpack with wheels which we always take when we travel. In it, I pack a change of clothes for her, 2 little boxes of apple juice, snacks, a toy, 1 small book, candy, and my ipod. These are not heavy so she can easily pull her bag and she knows she has all of her little goodies in it. I put my ipod in the same bag because after toy fails to entertain her, after the book, the candy, I take out my ipod so she can listen to some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse music. The bag fits under the seat too so it's easily accessible during the flight. My daughter has moved up from the little backpack she had to a full sized carry on which has all of the things she needs. The Ipod has been upgraded to a tablet but still serves the same purpose.
4. Get there early - give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and get thru security. You can be the most savvy traveler by yourself, but it's a different case when you're traveling with kids. You don't have control over your time so give your family a nice cushion and avoid being late for your flight. We have experienced the mad dash to the gate to avoid missing our flight and none of us were happy with that experience. We made it to the gate just as the passengers were boarding but we'd rather not do that again. Stressful!
5. Be prepared to go thru security - I'd like to divide this into sub-categories and trust me, if you follow these tips, going thru security will be faster for you and less stressful.
What to wear, or what not to wear - it goes without saying that you should dress comfortably especially when traveling with kids. I don't wear high heels because I need to be ready to run after my child all over the airport. She's well behaved, but hey, she's still a kid! Wear shoes that are easy to put on and take off - that goes for both parents and kids. Every passenger must take off their shoes at the security line so I avoid boots or shoes with laces (little kids no longer need to remove their shoes). If you need to wear a belt, keep it in your carry on and put it on after you've gone thru security as you will need to take it off before you go through the metal detectors anyway. Put your coins in your bag as they also trigger the alarm.
Technology - put all electronic devices inside your bag (including your cellphone and Bluetooth headset) to avoid setting off the metal detector. Put your laptop in an easily accessible portion of your carry on since they need to go thru the xray machine in a separate bin.
Liquids - If you're checking some of your bags in, put all your liquids in your checked in that bag so you don't have to worry about them. If not, again, bring only what you'll need. For us ladies who carry around a good set of toiletries, buy little bottles of your favorite perfume, lotions, soaps, shampoos, etc. and keep them in a ziploc bag. Since i travel often enough, i always have my set of toiletries ready to go. There is a little bit of leniency when traveling with kids. They allow reasonable amounts of water, juices, milk and other beverages for the kid who's traveling. When my daughter was younger, I kept her juice boxes or milk in her luggage so it's obvious that those liquids are hers.
6. Use the bathroom before you board - you get to the airport, security was a breeze, now you can relax a little bit as you walk towards your gate. This will be the perfect time to change your baby's diaper, or for everyone in the family to use the restroom before boarding the plane. Airplane toilets are not big enough for the average person, and changing diapers in them is near impossible. Don't be the parent that changes the child's diaper in the main cabin, in the seat, for the whole plane to see.
7. Mommy my ears are hurting - even adults get bothered by the change in pressure especially when the plane starts its descent. If your child still takes milk from the bottle, give them their bottle as close to landing as possible. It helps relieve the pressure in their ears. If your child no longer takes milk from the bottle, have them suck on a lollipop. These things almost always work. But if it doesn't, encourage your child to yawn (or open their mouth really wide, they'll yawn eventually) or blow their nose.
8. New toys - I usually go to the dollar store and get cheap toys for my daughter to play with during the flight. They're inexpensive so if she loses the toy, I wont feel as if i threw my money away. I take them out one at a time so if she loses interest in 1 toy, I'll put that away and get the next toy.
9. Movies - almost everyone now owns a laptop or tablet. bring that and load them with a few of your kids' favorite movies, and you'll have approximately 1 1/2 hours of peace.
Remember, the kind of parent you are on the ground will be the kind of parent you are during the flight. If you are not able to get a handle on your kid, it will not be a pleasant experience for you and everyone else on your flight. Pack some extra patience, some parents pack ear plugs and hand them out to passengers sitting near them.
If all else fails, there's always bribing your kids to behave! =)