We are in Spain this week! And while normally we are a road tripping family, clearly we could not drive across the Atlantic, so we took to the air.
The key to flying with children is to prepare. Here are eight things that every parent should consider when on a flight with kids:
1. Make a Bathroom Run – When you get to the gate your flight will be leaving from, insist that everyone go to the restroom. We take two shifts – the guys and the girls – so that one group can stay with the stuff to make for a quicker trip there and back. (Yes, I know that you don’t have to go. Right, I understand that you just went. Please try anyway. Because if you don’t you will claim that your bladder is about to explode as soon as the seat belt light comes on.) Plus, they burn off a little energy on their way to find the restroom!
2. Relieve the Pressure – The change in pressure hurts my ears, I can only imagine what it feels like if it is unexpected. When my kids were babies, I would feed them on takeoff and landing to try to minimize the popping in their ears. Now, they know that they will be getting gum – it’s a treat that they don’t get before we actually get on the plane to ensure that they will chew it when it will be most helpful.
3. Stay Hydrated – While you cannot take liquids through security checkpoints, you can fill up empty water bottles once you are through security. Sometimes we travel with our refillable water bottles. Other times that feels like just too much to pack, so we buy water for approximately $12 per bottle in the airport. Either way, it’s important that the kids have something to drink on the plane that has a top that closes. That way they can sip when they’re thirsty and not have to wait for the flight attendant to come by with the cart.
4. Be Entertained – We live in a technological age, so our kids both have devices, but I still make our kids pack a book of some type to keep them entertained on the plane. I also use the time we have during layovers to find plugs and charge devices so that they have full power during the flight itself. There’s nothing worse than letting the kids play Minecraft while they wait at the gate only to find they have no power to watch that movie they downloaded for the flight.
5. Layer It Up – I have never been on a flight where the temperature was comfortable. It is always too hot or too cold. Our family dresses in lightweight clothing and brings sweaters, jackets, or hoodies along for the ride. Not only does this ensure that everybody will be comfortable on the flight, wearing an outside layer (or putting it in a backpack) saves valuable room in our suitcases.
6. Keep it Comfortable – While we’re talking about clothes, I encourage you to dress your family in the most comfortable things they own. When I was growing up, my dad worked for the airline, so every time we flew, my sister and I had to wear dresses and pantyhose. It is hard to be comfortable when your stockings are sagging down your 8 year old legs. When we fly, I put my kids in clothes that allow them to sit comfortably for long periods of time. This usually consists of elastic waists, t-shirts, and slip on shoes. A long flight with kids is no time to wear your tightest skinny jeans and that super cute silk top.
7. Mind Your Manners – I’d like to think my kids use their best manners at all times. (I’d also like to think that I have a maid who will come do the dishes that are taunting me from the kitchen.) But, I’m smart enough to know that that’s not always true. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who cringe when they see kids on their flight. I want our kids to surprise them. Before we fly I remind them to be on their best behavior – speak politely to the flight attendants, keep their voices low, be respectful of the people by not kicking the seat in front of them, etc. The nicest compliment I’ve ever received on a flight was from the gruff businessman sitting across the aisle from our daughter. At the end of the flight, he leaned over to her and said, “You must have done this before. You did a good job.” So, yeah, basically he told her that she was a traveling superstar. Or, at least, that’s what I heard.
8. Carry It Yourself – We have kids that are old enough to be a helpful part of the family. Our general rule is that if you want to bring it, you must be able to carry it. When we fly, each member of our family gets one carry on suitcase and one personal bag. Of course, when we had toddlers, we had to do more schlepping and they did far less helping, but now they are responsible for their own luggage. So, Luke is on his own when it comes to having the charger for his iPad, and if Ellie wants a pillow for the flight, she packs it in her backpack. This is where that extra layer, the gum, and the device go until we get on the flight, and it is their responsibility to keep up with it all.
With a little forethought, you can make your air travel as a family a great start or end to any of your travels.