Flying with kids...those three words can strike fear and anxiety in the most battle-tested of parents. Here are a few easy-to-follow tips to help make flying with your kids a little easier (for you and them).
1. ARRIVE EARLY
The Frog Family gets to the airport two and a half hours before our flight. While arriving a little over an hour before our flight falls within the recommended check-in time, it leaves us feeling rushed. And feeling rushed leads to anxiety and frustration. Arriving early means there is no running through the airport because parking took us longer than we thought it would, no snapping at Tad and Lily just because they ask to go to the restroom (again), and no getting our vacation started on a sour note.
2. USE A WAIST PACK FOR DOCUMENTS
You may think your purse will work just fine, but having everyone's identification cards and boarding passes in ONE place by themselves is a time and stress-saver. You'll have your hands free and won't have to dig around all those wet wipes that you're about to read about.
3. WET WIPES
Bring enough to use for all types of situations. Finished with your snack? Great, wipe your hands. Spilled some of your drink? That's OK, wipe it up. You wrote on the seat tray with your crayons? Well, I'm not sure if wet wipes will get that off, but you get the picture. Now that Tad and Lily are older and can wipe their own hands, I bring a ziploc bag with wet wipes for each of them. As soon as they take their seat on the plane, I put their bag of wet wipes in the seat back in front of them so they don't have to keep asking me for one.
4. FLY DURING SLEEPY-TIME
Yes, it means you may have to get up at 3:30 a.m., but if you have little ones who don't travel well or if your flight is really long and can test even the most seasoned child traveler, schedule an early flight when the kids will still be sleepy. If they wake up, they will be closer to their normal schedule than if you fly late at night.
5. THREE and ONE
A few years ago, I waited until the last minute to book our flight and ended up not being able to get four seats together. I was able to get three seats together, but one person was going to have sit a few rows away. What I thought was a bad way to start a vacation, turned out to be the only way I book flights now. Three seats together and one seat by itself. This lets one parent get decent rest while the other entertains the kids.
6. HANDHELD DEVICES
As much as I enjoy catching up on reading an actual book when I fly, I have absolutely no problem allowing Tad and Lily to play on their handheld video games as long as they like. These games make the time go by much faster for them. If your little one uses a handheld game or reader at home during situations like waiting to be seated at a restaurant, they will appreciate feeling like they are in "control" of this activity during an otherwise unfamiliar situation.
7. SURPRISE GIFTS
My name is Mommy Frog and I bribe my kids in certain circumstances. There, I said it. If I sense they are getting cranky and impatient and I don't feel like reasoning with them on a crowded plane, I see nothing wrong with changing their mood with a fun gift.
8. EXTRA CLOTHES
If you have a "Lily" in your family (which means you have a child who loves to eat, is prone to spilling but absolutely HATES to have a stain on her clothes) pack an extra outfit. This means I have one more thing to carry onto the plane, but the trade-off is worth it. It doesn't have to be anything spectacular, just a lightweight t-shirt and pants.
9. AIRPORT ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
There will likely be plenty of places to eat and shop while you wait to board the plane, but some airports have activities for children that 1) don't cost any more money and 2) might just tire them out enough so that they sleep during the flight. Philadelphia, Boston, Indianapolis and Chicago all have great kids' areas that are sponsored by local children's museums. With tightened security forcing travelers to arrive earlier and earlier, more airports are trying to keep their customers (even the young ones) happier by offering these types of activities.
10. KEEP YOUR STROLLER
Even though you won't be able to take your stroller onto the plane, most airlines do not make you check it when you check your luggage. When you arrive at your gate, go to the airline representative to get a baggage claim tag. They will take your stroller right before you board the plane. If you have concerns about getting your child to baggage claim in order to retrieve your stroller, you may be able to have it delivered to you at the arrival gate much like they do with wheelchairs. Check with your particular airline about its stroller policies and don't be afraid to ask what kinds of services they can help you with.
I know this was supposed to be a Top 10 List, but I can't stress enough the importance of keeping an open-mind and being patient (with your kids, other travelers and airport security). The more relaxed you are and the more you have a "go with the flow" attitude, the better experience you'll have flying with the kids.
Do you have other travel-tested tips for flying with the kiddos? Funny stories count too!
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