Tips to help prepare you, mentally, for flying with kids
Flying with kids
Flying with kids can sound painful to the inexperienced parent. Whether by choice or circumstance, children take short and long haul flights every day and come out the other side in one piece. Parents, on the other hand, I’m not so sure. There are tips and tricks to making it out alive. This is how to fly with kids.
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Tips for going through security
Going through security can be a bit of a challenge, and kids can sense that. Make it less painful by staying calm and preparing them for what is about to happen. Depending on destination/origin, they may be required to take their shoes off. They will need to take off their coats, hats, back packs and lovies need to be placed in the basket. Show them and reassure them that everything is going through the x-ray; a giant machine that looks at the contents without physically touching it, because we know how kids feel about other people touching their lovies.
Stick together; have one parent go through the scanner, send the kids, then the other parent. You want to sandwich them through so nothing and no one is left behind, or given the chance to wander off.
Keep in mind, there is a liquids limit, even for the little ones. 100 ml limit on any container, including drinks for the kids or sealed juice packs (Capri Sun is 200 ml) There is, however, no limit to the amount of Breast milk or pre-made formula, if baby is present, and under 1 years old. No baby? 100 ml (3.3 oz) limits for all expressed milk.
Prepare and plan ahead
Carry-on: Packing List
There is a number of things that you will want to have in your carry-on, regardless if kids are in the picture; medication, electronics, a change of clothes and maybe your toiletry bag in case your checked bags become temporarily misplaced. This includes entertainment, snacks, change of clothes, comfort items, and sleeping items. Sleep items are a good idea regardless of flight time or length; you never know when someone needs a nap and but can’t sleep because their blanky is in the checked bag. Waiting around is tough work.
The kids are angry/frustrated/loud because they are bored, tired or hungry. If you can anticipate their needs before leaving the house, you are that much more likely to have a successful (quiet and calm) flight. Munchkin is a bottomless pit when he is bored, and the Baby girl likes to copy him. I need to pack foods that are small, preferably in reusable bags (no bulky containers), and that they can both enjoy. Even if she doesn’t like broccoli, she will get upset that he is eating them and she isn’t.
Gate check stroller and wear baby on board – keep them immobile during waiting times and easy to board.
Board first or last?
The ultimate question. Do I want to board first and guarantee a space in the overhead bin, or board last and not get pushed around?
We have tried both and to be honest, they both suck and both are great, at the same time. Boarding first, like I mentioned, means I get to take advantage of the free overhead bin space and not be forced to have everything at my feet. Even worst, risk the chance of being forced to check it if it doesn’t fit. Being comes with the downside of being pushed around a lot. While we aren’t struggling to find our seat with a hundred legs sticking out into the aisle (honestly, people, keep your legs in, and don’t give me that look when I bump into you), we are being bumped and pushed by others that are rushing to find their seats and take their overhead space.
Boarding last means I am not rushed. I don’t have to compete with anyone in the line, my kids can continue running around the terminal gate and board at the back of the line. This does mean, however, that I am bumping into those aisle-legs and squeezing my carry-on bag into the overhead, or placing it at my feet. I would hope that if the Flight Attendants require carry-on bags to be checked, they would ask for volunteers instead of picking on the last bodies on the plane, or at least leave the family with small kids out of the lottery.
Do I really want a Lap baby?
While having a baby on your lap only pays the taxes for that seat vs having their own seat is 75% of the full price (plus the hassle of whatever restraint system you are using), one is definitely safer than the other. From the overly detailed information I have received from various airlines, the baby lap belt is purely to keep baby from flying around the cabin in the case of an emergency. The baby is no safer on your lap than if they were sitting in their own chair without a car seat. This is due to the pressure being exerted on your body during turbulence.
There is another option, the travel bassinet. If you book tickets for the front of the row – a bulkhead in front of you instead of another chair, they can lend you a bassinet for the baby to sleep in. This is attached to the wall, and baby is properly secured within the device at all times. During takeoff, landing, and turbulence, however, the baby must be taken out and placed in either their seat or on someone’s lap with their seat belt attached. I have never used this option before, only because the idea of waking a sleeping child every time the seatbelt sign turns on scares me to death. Make sure to check weight and age restrictions, as they are only allowed for the little ones.
For more information on Flying with Kids, check out these Long-Haul Flight Essentials Guide
How to fly with kids- Helpful tips to think about
Making your expectations clear to the children is key to a successful flight. How will they know what to do if you never tell them?
Training from an early age
While this sounds a lot like “Need more experience to gain more experience”, you aren’t wrong. Start them young and start the journeys small. If possible, have a 1-2 hour flight booked a few months or a year before your giant 12 hour long-haul across the Ocean.
Distract them from their fears
Should they have some preconceived notion that flying is dangerous, have a few distractions set up. This can be anything from a favorite movie to play during turbulence, a mantra to repeat to help settle anxiety, or fact-based information to let them know what they are experiencing is normal and nothing to be afraid of. You would be surprised how many 5-year-olds are afraid of take-off and landing just because they don’t understand where the noise is coming from.
If you have a lap baby, try to book seats that accept a travel bassinet, be sure to reserve your bassinet from the airline well in advance. This will allow your baby a comfortable sleep giving you the opportunity to rest as well.
Remember when the seatbelt sign is lit, baby must be on your lap with their seatbelt on
Just because everything is in your carry-on, doesn’t mean you are organized. Have compartments, labeled Ziploc bags, or even divided amongst the children themselves – I made them both a lunch box and snack packs and left it in their carry-on bags.
Surprise bag of treats
If they aren’t going to sleep for the majority of the time and you don’t want them watching in-flight movies for too long, prepare a few surprises to be released every hour. In theory, these goodies should last the whole hour and a new one is brought out just as the old is getting boring or used up.
Go for walks in the aisles
Stretch those legs and take potty breaks. With the forced air being so dry, they will need to drink more than usual, which means more pee breaks. Take that time to go for a walk and say hi to a few new people on the plane.
Have as much as you feel necessary to keep the kids busy and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Be it quiet activities, distractivities, a movie marathon, card games, whatever it takes.
Feel free to ask for help from the staff
Don’t count on it though. I needed help attaching my baby carrier, that was about it. They have a whole plane full of people needing their help and a list of things they need to do to run a smooth operation… but they also aren’t willing to let your kids sit and scream for hours on end. If they need a drink before the drink cart comes along, just ask. They are usually more than willing to take the time before the situation becomes loud.
Logistics of changing a baby diaper
Some toilets do have a baby change table in them, but it is a tight squeeze. Try bringing a mix of pull-ups and regular diapers, just in case you need to remove a diaper while standing.
Feed to avoid ear pain during takeoff and landing
You may know how to pop your ears but they can’t figure out how to yawn on command just yet.
Book your travel times around nap time.
Always the safest way to guarantee no arguing. If they are overtired, it may be hard to settle them down, but once they are out – they are out.
If you do happen to rely on electronic devices, make sure the battery is fully charged, cables are ready to charge more if need be, and their movies have been tested. My old Ipad2 can’t play all movies but it loads them just fine. The last thing I want is to promote a show he selected from the thumbnails and not being able to deliver.
Limit the number of carry-on bags
I can not stress this enough. A. You only have so many hands to drag it out of the plane – if they refuse to take it for themselves. B. Are you going to remember how many pieces you have stored overhead – I have heard of people forgetting 1-2 carry on’s in the bin and they will not let you get back on the plane to retrieve it. C. Sometimes the problem is too many options. If the kids are told they only get 3 toys to play with, they will be happy. If they have 20 toys, you will be spending your whole flight getting up and down, grabbing a new toy from the bags and putting another away.
Back in the day, flying was a special occasion and you dressed as such. Today, with the seats being so cramped and flight times anywhere from 45 min to 24 hours, bringing comfortable clothes and a change of clothes is essential. No one will judge you for making a quick change in the morning to feel fresh for landing. On the other hand, there is such thing as too comfortable – this is not your home, it is a public space. Keep your bits covered please, I beg of you.
Bring spare clothes for baby and mom
Especially for mom. Who do you think will be holding the baby for the majority of the flight? Mom. Who is going to get spit on right after feeding time? Mom. And who is going to forget a change of clothes and forced to sit 5 hours in baby-sick? Mom! Bring a change of clothes if there is any chance your kids can spill anything on you that doesn’t wipe away clean.
Most importantly, medication in the carry on. Checked bags get lost, flights get redirected for who knows why. Life happens. Keep medication and all valuables in your carry on bag and rest assured that they are safe for when they are needed.
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