Flying with Kids
You love the idea of traveling with your child. But the idea of air travel with that child raises your anxiety levels. It’s not an impossible journey. Flying with young kids requires preparation, flexibility and patience. Jennifer Denniston, co-author of Lonely Planet USA’s Best Trips (Lonely Planet, 2010), and Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor of wejustgotback.com, offer these tips for smoother air travel with kids:
• Remember, you know all about flying; your child doesn’t. Find a book about your destination or airplanes to build excitement and minimize surprises. Explain the day’s possibilities: You’ll wake him up early. He’ll have to stand in lines, sit around others and talk softly. There could be ear pressure and plane noises. His stuffed animal will need to be scanned but he’ll get it back. There might be delays. Stress that this is all part of going on vacation. Explaining all of this puts everyone in “travel mode” – a term you can refer back to as a reminder to act efficiently and to be ready for the unexpected.
• Let her pack and carry her own small bag. She can put in whatever she wants. It’ll give her buy-in, control and security. She’ll also learn about bringing only what fits. Making her tote something sets an early standard that everyone has responsibility and that you’re not the family sherpa.
• Have a bag of tricks. Whatever he likes, buy new versions and parcel them out – when he fastens his seatbelt, when a flight attendant announcement is made, when it’s 4 p.m. – anything to keep traveling fun and the child distracted. (Flap and coloring books highly engage, for example.) Figure 30 minutes of interest per item. And don’t forget snacks, especially lollipops for takeoff and landing. They’re longer lasting and will help with ear pressure.
• Have an essentials bag. Whether it’s a blanket or rubber turtle, respect what makes her comfortable. A flight is not the time to believe that she can do without it. Always keep the bag with you – it’s hard to recover from losing a key item.
• Keep to the bedtime routine. Have him brush his teeth and change into pajamas. Read him his books and quietly sing his songs. Do whatever is necessary to have him sleep, even at the expense of your own. When he’s rested, the stress of travel will be less.
• When faced with a snag, talk it out. “I don’t know what’s happening, but we’ll just have to wait.” Externalizing your dialogue will settle you – anxiety can spread – and reiterate that travel is an imperfect process. Also realize that what bothers you doesn’t register with your kids. “They don’t know enough to be stressed out. Their world is you,” Denniston says.