It is the stuff of parent nightmares – flying with your little ones.
It is a fact – air travel with kids is just not easy. Between germy airports, inconvenient flight times, and your screaming toddler annoying the passengers sitting around you, it is no wonder traveling with your children has a reputation for just being the worst. Here are six tips that have helped me whenever we fly as a family.
- Bring antibacterial wipes.
I am not a germophobe, but I have always found antibacterial wipes important when I travel. They are especially useful for wiping down the arm rests between seats (where Lavender will rest her head for a mid-air nap) and the tray table (from where we will all eat), as well as the changing table in the bathroom before I change Lemon’s nappy (where she will be trying to grab and touch everything within her reach). Keeping my girls germ-free and preventing them from getting ill, especially at the beginning of a family vacation, is important. When we get to our destination, I always have Lavender change her clothes and give her hands a good old-fashioned scrub with soap and water.
- Slowly distribute snacks.
Before I knew better, I used to offer all available snacks at once. Near the beginning of our hours-long flight, I would take out a giant bag of snacks and ask Lavender, “What do you want?” She would look over all her choices and pick one. By the end of our trip, Lavender would be bored of her snacks and my food-for-entertainment strategy was shot. (Important note: I am not typically a believer in food-for-entertainment, however, once on an airplane with a toddler I very much am.)
Nowadays, I give Lavender two choices of snack at a time and she picks one. A couple hours later, a new and exciting snack will appear in the rotation. Repeat again later, and then again later. I also try to buy new snacks that Lavender has never had before in advance of our trip. I find that the novelty of seeing and trying new snacks will keep Lavender occupied and happy.
- Dole out toys and other sources of entertainment.
This is the same strategy as giving out snacks, but with toys. I wait until certain levels of desperation while flying thousands of feet high in the sky to finally break out Lavender’s favorite Barbie that she didn’t know I brought along. I show Lavender the new set of stickers in the last few hours of the trip, when boredom is high and patience is low.
Making exciting offerings throughout the trip gives Lavender bursts of entertainment that will help carry her through long hours on a boring flight. I have found the items that provide the most “bang-for-your-buck” entertainment are play dough, books, crayons and notebook, stickers, and dolls (or action figures).
- Be mindful how you pack.
I have two things to say about this. One, know where everything is packed. I cannot tell you how many times my helpful husband has packed for our entire family. I then find myself asking him from the beginning of our trip to the end, “Where are Lavender’s headphones?” “I can’t find the phone charger.” “Where did you put the bibs?” Not knowing where the million-and-one little things I need for my girls while we travel drives me absolutely nuts. Nowadays, I either insist to my husband that I will help pack, or I intentionally educate myself on where everything is packed before we leave so that I don’t find myself relying on him to locate every little item.
Secondly, be strategic about where you pack things. In your suitcase, pack items you definitely will not need until you reach your destination. In your nappy bag and carry-on items, pack things you will need en route, putting the “high-mileage items” at the very top. I know that I will be reaching for Lemon’s nappies and wipes, Lavender’s snacks and toys, and my lip balm and water bottle many times over the course of a flight. I place those items in our bags strategically, knowing that I will need them again and again.
- Wear a scarf.
This one is simple. A scarf is my traveling mummy must-have. I have used it as a baby blanket, pram cover, spit-up wiper, stain-hider, dirty airplane seat cover, and so on. Make sure you choose one that is cozy and machine washable.
- Have a flexible attitude.
My best advice for parents traveling with kids is to simply have a flexible attitude. Traveling with little ones can be horrible. Hopefully, usually, it will not be. But many factors can mess up your best-laid plans. If you can accept from the get-go that everything – your child’s sleep schedule, your clothes, your luggage, your plan to make it home at a reasonable hour – is subject to getting absolutely and utterly messed up, you will be more likely to feel okay about it when it does.
What is your best advice for traveling with your little ones? Leave them in the comments below!