Planning a family trip can leave you feeling exhausted before you’ve even taken a step out the door. Here are a few tips and tricks for flying with young children so you can relax on your family vacation.
- Let them pack their own small backpack and carry it – Most kids love doing this and stuffing in as many toys, crayons, etc as they can. Their backpack becomes their personal portable toy box, keeping to the rule if it doesn’t fit inside the bag, it doesn’t go on the trip. I’ve used this with my own child when he was 2 yrs old grinning ear to ear and showing off his backpack for every fellow traveler willing to glance his way. By letting him carry it he learned about taking care of his belongings and I had less luggage to manage – win-win!
- Try to book non-stop or one-stop flights – On long trips from one continent to another it’s best to avoid the milk run routes. Everyone ends up tired and cranky and who wants to wrangle a whiny tired child, while keeping track of luggage, through airport after airport. It’s worth the few extra bucks to book the shorter route; believe me.
- Find an empty area and let them run around – If you do have a layover along the way find a space where the kids can run, play hide and seek or spread themselves out on the floor. Kids need space and traveling in a plane, bus, train or car keeps all their natural energy bottled up.
- Bring a new toy – Surprise your child with a small gift once aboard as these tend to capture their attention for longer than the “old” toys. If you feel comfortable enough to ask the flight attendant to gift it to the child once you’ve settled in it’s a great way to build relationship between the staff and your child, which leads me to the next tip.
- Ask for help – Once you’ve established a connection with an attendant don’t be afraid to ask for help they more often than not want to help you get settled in as smoothly and quickly as possible.
- Introduce yourself to people around you – Again making a quick connection can be invaluable down the road if one child is sound asleep and the other needs a potty break if you feel comfortable with the people around you ask them to keep an eye on the sleeping child while you whisk the other off to pee.
- Accept help – When I’m traveling alone I always offer to help a fellow parent traveler put their bags up in the overhead compartment and it’s surprising to me how often I hear “no thanks.” As a mother myself I’m not about to let a stranger take my child to the bathroom for me but if you’re arms length away in a confined area (i.e. a plane) let the grandmother sitting beside you hold your infant while you stow your belongings and buckle your seat belt, you’ve just made her day and a new friend. Of course common sense goes a long way here if everyone around you seems to be avoiding eye contact find the flight attendant instead.
With these tips for flying with young children you can make the travel portion of your vacation go as smoothly as possible. Always remember to be flexible and understanding, your children are not in their normal routines or environments so keep your expectations low and start your vacation off right.