By Aliza Sartor
There’s nothing more exhilarating than the promise of world travel, and there’s nothing better than traveling with your beloved family.
But, if you’ve ever tried to take young children on an airplane, you know how difficult and potentially hazardous this can be. From crying babies soliciting groans to precocious children kicking the backs of others’ chairs, parenting on an airplane is a special skill.
Your tickets are booked. Your hotel is paid for. So, do you have what it takes to parent on an airplane?
Try these helpful hints if you’re taking the little ones on a plane, and turn them into expert travelers in no time!
1. Talk about the trip before you take it.
Even with the youngest children, it’s important to talk to them in ways they can understand about the fact that they’re going on an airplane. Particularly if the plane ride is more than a few hours and they will be responsible for politely sitting still, it’s imperative to start working with them as soon as your tickets are booked.
Make sure your children know what etiquette is necessary for plane flights. Talk to them about patiently standing in line, sitting quietly in their chair with their seatbelts fastened, and how to speak with flight attendants and other passengers. If need be, reward them with a treat when they have successfully completed a leg of the flight, and make sure they’re aware that it will be a round trip!
Books, iPads, or even a new and engrossing toy will do the trick, but the savvy parent knows that traveling with kids means entertaining them constantly so they don’t have time to act up. If you have more than one child, magnetic travel games are a great option – your children can play together and entertain each other, and the magnetized game pieces don’t get lost easily on planes or during travel.
It’s difficult to bring arts and crafts for children to do on planes, especially if they have a penchant for coloring outside the lines. You don’t want to have to clean crayon off a tray table – so stick to books, tablets, and self-contained toys.
One of the most important things about travel is the contents of your carry on. While your bag is sure to have children’s necessities such as diapers, wipes, medicines, and snacks – let your children experience the fun of packing their own bags. This will instill a sense of responsibility and ownership over their airplane experience, hopefully enticing and motivating them to play quietly with the choices they brought on board.
Make sure you supervise the carry on packing, and guide them to making choices that are conducive to airplane rides. Some examples are: books, especially chapter books like Harry Potter; small games; wooden puzzles with large pieces for very young children; and maybe a stuffed animal or favorite blanket in case they take a nap.
4. Schedule your flight at a time when they’re likely to sleep or eat quietly.
If at all possible, parent on an airplane with a little scheduling forethought. If you can schedule your flight for a time that your child is likely to nap or play quietly, that’s ideal. If you have more than one child of varying ages, this can be difficult, but it is best to yield to the schedule of the youngest child if you can.
Alternatively, if you must schedule a shorter, daytime flight, try to do it at a time when your child is used to playing inside. Airplanes are difficult enough for children – they often feel cooped up in their seats and let the people around them know it! Don’t schedule a flight during their peak physical activity time if you can help it. Another option for rambunctious children: If you can tire them out earlier in the day, they might sleep through the flight!
The most difficult part about flying with children is the advanced-level parenting that has to take place, particularly when you’re dealing with your child’s bathroom habits. Whether it’s nerves, or sitting too long, or unexpectedly falling asleep on an airplane, nary has there been a child who has not endured at least one bodily function accident. You’ve got to come prepared.
Diapers, wipes, Pull-Ups for big kids, and even a change of clothes might be necessary for flights any longer than an hour. Oftentimes, flying will upset your little one’s stomach, and you may even have to deal with vomiting. Make sure you watch what your child eats and how vigorously he or she plays just prior to boarding your flight. While a crying child is never fun, a crying child with an upset stomach is even worse.
6. Love Thy Neighbor…
Although it’s not always common to speak to other patrons on your flight, you might want to let those around you know that you’re aware you’re flying with children, and you know that might cause some problems. You don’t have to make new friends, but a simple, “He’s two, this is his first flight. Please let me know if we bother you – we’re trying to make it peaceful for everyone,” will go a long way.
The majority of those flying alongside you, whether you can tell it or not, will be parents or caregivers as well. Assume that people will be kind and make sure you have the best intentions. If you just give other patrons a heads up, you will be surprised how many folks are understanding.
It’s difficult to be a parent, especially when your family is traveling by air. Make sure you feel ready to travel with your family before you decide to subject your kids to air travel. Get a plan, talk to your kids, set expectations, and do your best. That’s all you really can do! Even in the worst of times, try to remember: This too shall pass.
Author Bio: I’m Aliza Sartor, a mom of two children, founder of BabyInform.com. I love reading, cooking and doing meditation. To become an intelligence mom is not easy, I rely on the support of other blogging moms like me to help along the way. You can read more of my writing at Babyinform.com