Travel Tuesday: Tips for flying with children
Putting young children on an airplane — an enclosed space, for an extended period of time, surrounded by strangers — sounds like the scene from a parental horror story.
And it’s true; flying with children can be a nightmare. We’ve all heard the screaming infants and gritted our teeth as toddlers behind us kick our seat.
While it’s impossible to perfectly predict anything a kid is going to do, you can do your best prep work to set up your travels for success.
Here are our top tips for flying with children.
1. Prepare, and prepare some more:
Don’t try to wing it. Use your carry-on as an entertainment center, and pack it full of your child’s favorite toys, as well as plenty of new ones they’ve never seen before. Pick toys that are quiet, without little pieces that can get lost and that are time-consuming, but exciting.
You could even pack a toy airplane for your kids to play with while on the real airplane. Older or ambitious kids may enjoy a 3-D airplane puzzle.
Airplane toys we love:
3-D Puzzle Wooden Airplane, $9.16 (plus Cash Back), Walmart.com
2. Stave off the hangry child:
Make sure your child is plenty full before you fly, and pack lots of his favorite foods, too. Airplane food is far from kid-friendly (and it doesn’t have a reputation for its health benefits either).
One idea to combine snacks with entertainment is to pack a “snackle box.” Buy a small, plastic tackle box for fishing (or any organizer with compartments will do) and fill each square with a different snack. Create games around the snacks. Count the Cheerios. Make up a story for the Goldfish. This is one time when it’s beneficial to play with your food.
Tackle boxes we love:
Plano ProLatch StowAway Utility Box, $6.99 (plus Cash Back), Basspro.com
3. Plan for the ears:
Most kids can’t understand what’s going on when their ears pop or need to. Explain to your child before getting on the plane what’s going to happen, and when it happens to you, talk about it calmly, so your child understands it is normal and happening to everyone. Make sure you pack plenty of gum and/or suckers for your kid to use to assist in popping the ears. Plus, a shiny, new sucker can keep your kid distracted as the plane takes off.
Use the sucker for the descent to encourage good behavior throughout the flight.
Ear candy we love:
Dum Dum lollipops, $19.95 (plus Cash Back), Target.com
4. Bring passive entertainment, too:
Especially for late or long trips, your kids may not be able to sustain their attention span and energy level to plan nonstop, so pack relaxing, passive entertainment. Download some new movies on your iPad or smartphone. Bring an audiobook or real book to read to them. Don’t overlook the power of a few new games on your iPad.