Living in one part of the country and having my entire family live in another part, I have flown home a bunch over the last 10 years. I have quite the gamete of experience too: I have flown solo, with a 2 month old, a six month old, a one year old, 6 months pregnant and with a toddler, with a 2 year old and a 6 month old and with three kids aged 2, 4 and 6. Please keep in mind that ALL of those flights were WITHOUT my husband! Every time I have flown with the peas, it was as a solo parent, my husband usually having to work. Well, this week we are flying across the country again, from Tucson to Boston- this time I am lucky enough to have my husband tagging along! YAY!
Having flown so many times, I have acquired lots of tips and tricks with flying with kids of different ages and today I want to share my top ten!
Top Ten Tuesday: Tips for Flying with Kids!!
1. Dress in comfy warm clothes. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a HUGE fan of dressing comfy in everyday life, but when flying it is of the utmost important to dress not only yourself but your kids as well in comfy and WARM clothes. Planes are small and it’s hard to get comfortable as it is in those little seats, so you don’t want tight jeans making it worse. Most parents will be up and down with their kids during the flight so dress like you are going to workout, which you may be 😉 Also, planes can get cold, especially for kids, so I suggest dressing in layers- leggings or sweats, a thin long sleeved tee and a sweater or sweatshirt for the top and socks. I always dressed my babies in footie pj’s so it was easy to change them and they didn’t kick off their socks. The layers make it easy to add on or take off if the temperature changes on the plane. If you are traveling to a cold place, don’t wear your coats on the plane, they get too bulky, pack them on the very top of your suitcase so you can access them easily when you land.
2. Sit as far back in the plane as you can. Yes, that does mean you will get off the plane last, which is annoying, but I think the benefits outweigh the pit falls. If you sit in the back, you can board first (if your airline doesn’t allow for pre-boarding with families), which gives you a few minutes to get settled and get down the aisle easily. There’s not much worse than trying to squeeze down the aisle with on kid in tow, two behind you and four carry on bags :/ Yes, not fun (been there, done that). Also the back of the plane is naturally noisier, which helps to drown out the noise your kids will make and it’s right by the bathr0oms, which is convenient. That is very beneficial if you are flying with kids by yourself, as most flight attendants will be kind enough to keep an eye on your kids if you have to pee so you don’t have to have three kids on your lap in the micro-bathroom while you try and go potty (also been there, even less fun).
3. Bring a mini blanket and pillow/pillowpet for the kids. My kids don’t nap, unfortunately, but even having a blanket and pillow can make them feel better and cozy, which should help keep them more settled on the plane. If your kids are big enough, have them carry their own backpacks, filled with some of this stuff, which will be less for you to carry.
4. Bring something to help with their ears on the ascent and decent. What this “something” is depends on their ages. Sucking on something or chewing is the best way to combat the “popping” of their ears. I breastfed my babies so when they were really small, I would nurse them on take off and landing, or you could do a bottle. Binkies also do the trick. If they are a bit older, sucking on a lollipop works well- I would suggest a small one, like a dum-dum size, in case they lose interest in it. Gum is also great if your kids are big enough. My kids have suddenly become obsessed with gum so we’ll be bringing some gum, licorice and also lolli’s for our trip. Plus, these special treats are great to be used as bribes later on in the flight, if they get antsy 😉
5. Bring oodles of snacks/food. Gone are the days where you are fed on an airplane, and most airlines don’t even give out a snack, so be prepared to take your own. Bring snacks that are healthy and filling and that won’t get them all wired up. I do bring some treats like I said above, but the rest of my snacks will consist of things like string cheese, cut up fruit, squeezy apple sauces, pre-portioned dry snacks like fishies, graham cracker bites, and natural fruit snacks. Try to avoid things that crumble easily like granola bars or muffins, unless your kids don’t mind sitting in a pile of crumbs for 5 hours. Pre-package everything before you go. Thinks of it how you would pack for a road trip. Here I contradict my usual “green” self and suggest packing things in baggies instead of containers, because you will already be having to carry around enough stuff, it’s nice to be able to just throw away things as you go. Also avoid taking things that have to be kept cool, unless you want to tote around a bunch of ice packs. Bring some juice cups for the kids to avoid spilling and buy a few extra bottles of water once you get through the gate, since you won’t be able to get though security with them. If you have babies, you can bring more milk/formula/breast milk but you will have to declare it in security. I also suggest bringing a large zippy baggie to use as a “trash bag” on the plane for all the wrappers you will accumulate.
6. Bring lots of electronic entertainment. This one is a given. I know we shouldn’t let our kids watch TV all day but, in my opinion, all bets are off when it comes to flying. Bring every device you can, and pack their chargers with you so you can recharge if necessary when you have a layover. If you have a portable charging device, bring that too! I like to buy, borrow and check out from the library a bunch of new movies before we leave to bring with us. Pack them in a mini cd carrier or just in a baggie. My kids are 3, 5, and 7 so they hold their attention better watching many episodes of a show rather than a whole long movie, so we lean towards bringing DVD’s that have lots of shows on one, like Curious George or Thomas the Train. My older daughter will usually watch those too, but I plan on bringing the iPad and some head phones for her so she can play her games and listen to her music if she gets bored. Try to get a few new ones for both the trip there and back.
7. Bring lots of non-electronic entertainment. Inevitably the kids WILL lose interest in the DVD player, unfortunately, so that’s a great time to break out the hands on stuff to play with. This is where is comes in handy to have them carry their own backpack (even when my kids were two, I had them bring a small one- if you had to purchase them a seat, they get a carry on too, so take advantage of it!). I like to bring a few books for each kid, new crayons, a few cheap new coloring books, stickers, pipe cleaners (for bending into funny shapes) and mini white boards. You can also bring flash cards, playing cards, puzzles (as long as the pieces aren’t too small and the finished puzzle isn’t too big!) and a few small toys per kid. Make sure you bring quiet toys, trust me! Things like the Crayola wonder markers are great because they only draw on the paper and are fun to use.
8. Bring a special toy or prize for the kids to have on the plane. This will be a nice little “reward” for them for behaving on the plane. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, anything small will do!
9. Pack everything you think you need and more! Depending on how long your flight is, you are stuck on that plane for hours with no access to your luggage, so be prepared for everything! I like to bring a change of clothes for my littlest (she’s three) and when they were in diapers, I brought PLENTY of those! Other necessities: wipes, disinfecting wipes, mini first aid kit, nail clippers, Tylenol (perhaps for mom and kids!), a few extra baggies for anything that may get wet, creams, lotions (depending how old your kids area), anything for motion sickness (if your kids get motion sickness), chap stick, hair ties, Benadryl (if your kids get allergies), and something for mom and dad to do, if you get a quiet moment (your phone or a book to read). One can never be too prepared for a plane trip with kids!
10. Don’t stress about what other people think. Of course I do my best to keep my kids happy, well fed and entertained on a plane and sometimes that all works, and other times it doesn’t. Take my last trip to Boston for example. The flight there was perfect! Kids were so well behaved, watched their movies, little fighting and were excited. It was shorter since flying west to east is shorter because of the jet stream and we had a direct flight. On the way back…well…that was another story. I was THAT mom on the plane with THAT screaming kid. My daughter, who was one and a half at the time and still napped, was EXHAUSTED. I had to get them up all crazy early to get our returning flight and she would just NOT fall asleep on the plane. She screamed and cried and there was nothing I could do about it. It was mortified wanted to cry myself! Finally she fell asleep after about 2 hours of screaming. I got to the point where I could have cared less about everyone else because there was literally nothing I could do about it. There are always going to be jerks in life and if someone gives you a hard time about your kids being noisy or fussing either ignore it or come up with a smart comeback (I would do the latter). Obviously I don’t abdicate allowing your kids to run up and down the aisles like animals, but if they fuss for a bit, don’t let all the watchful eyes stress you out because your kid will feed off that and get worse. Take some deep breaths, perhaps order some wine from the flight attendant and come up with a creative and fun new game to play with them- like let them draw on your arm with pen. (Use that as a last resort). You will survive it!!
So there are my top ten tips for flying with kids. A few bonus tips: use a baby carrier for little ones, which makes it easier to get checked in through security, or gate check a stroller so it’s waiting right when you get off the plane and remember that airlines can’t charge for you to check in your car seats, so you can do that when you check in your bags. I do recommend investing (or borrowing) some nice car seat bags so your seat doesn’t get all banged up during flight. Bonus for the bags: there’s usually some extra room in there so you can shove some coats or whatever in there and save some space in your luggage!
Have you ever flown with kids before? What are your tips for flying with them? Ever have a terrible flight like I did once?? Share that too so we know we are not alone in that experience!