Over the last 5 years, I’ve logged quite a bit of air travel with my daughter (most of which I’ve done on my own), and I like to think I’ve gotten quite good at it.
And I never (ever!) fly sober.
But since I’ve never flown halfway around the world with 2 (or more) kids in tow, I really can’t claim to be an expert on the whole “traveling with kids” thing.
My mum can though.
I just did a quick calculation, and she did that horrendous 30+ hour journey from Canada to Singapore with my sister and me at least 10 times before I hit my teenage years.
And did I mention I was a nervous flyer, and that I used to stand in the aisle and SCREAM when we boarded every flight, and then refused to consume anything other than coke the entire time we were traveling?
It was a lot of fun for her.
And since I know there is at least one other woman out there who is looking for simple tips on how to make air travel with young kids easier (notice I didn’t say “easy”), I decided to ask my mum for some of her tricks.
But before I get to those, I wanted to tell you about a fun book I recently stumbled upon called Items May Have Shifted: How to Travel With Your Baby or Toddler by NJS Kaye. It’s a fun read (the author has a great sense of humor), but it is also JAM-PACKED with simple and practical tips to help you survive the process of traveling with kids. I’ve learned tricks even I didn’t know about after all my years of traveling with my daughter (i.e. how to create make-shift blackout blinds on the go) and I highly recommended it!
And now for my mum’s advice…
1. PAY ATTENTION TO FLIGHT SCHEDULES
For long-haul flights, it’s impossible to schedule around naps and bedtime, but you are much more likely to have a smooth journey if you start off with a well-rested child. So if you can manage it, book your travel for first thing in the morning, and put your child to bed earlier than normal the night before to make sure he’s well-rested.
2. PACK PAJAMAS
My mum started doing this after our 3rd 30+ hour trek around the world, and it made a huge difference. She’d simply wait for me to show signs of being tired, then she’d change me into my favorite pair of jammies, tuck me in with a blanket and pillow, and let me watch whatever movie was on the big screen at the front of the plane (I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up at a time when personal DVD players existed) until I fell into a blissful sleep. I don’t know what it was, but those comfy Care Bear PJs really did the trick in helping me sleep, you know?
3. DON’T IGNORE ILLNESSES
The problem with kids is that they are always goobering and snotting all over everything, and when it comes to planning a trip, there’s always a high degree of probability your little one is going to get sick the day before you travel. And after suffering through one too many flights with a head cold in my childhood, I highly recommend having your child cleared for take-off by your doctor if she’s under the weather the day before you fly. And if you can afford it, buy travel insurance.
3. STOCK UP ON MEDS
You never know when a your child is going to hurt herself, spike a fever, have an allergic reaction to something, develop diarrhea, or start projectile vomiting when you’re nowhere close to a medical clinic, so never (ever) board a plane without a miniature pharmacy in your carry on luggage.
4. TAKE LOTS OF SNACKS
When we were kids, there was no such thing as getting pizza, cookies, twizzlers, and ice cream sandwiches when we were 30,000+ feet in the air, so my mum always brought a ton of snacks with us. And since you can never predict weather delays and what food will be available on your flight, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if you pack a ton of snacks to take with you.
5. BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES
My mum used to buy my sister and me a brand new outfit before every trip, and one year she had the brilliant idea of getting me a wrinkle-resistant white track suit. She figured it was summery, comfortable, and wouldn’t make me look like a pile of rags when we (finally) reached our destination. The only problem is that she knocked a can of coke in my lap within the first hour of our trip, which left me looking like I’d crapped myself for the remaining 29 hours. The bottom line? Always bring a change of clothes.
6. PACK A LOT OF ACTIVITIES
While iPads and stickers and play doh might go a long way in giving you 20 minutes of peace and quiet to prepare dinner, you’re going to need a lot more than that to keep your kids entertained on a long flight, so do some research before you start packing. You can find 20 easy travel activities to keep kids happy on an airplane RIGHT HERE, and you can find heaps more on Pinterest.
7. ELIMINATE FAVORITE TOYS PRE-TRAVEL
If your child spends hours playing with one particular toy (Let me guess? The iPad?!), try to limit the time you allow her to play with this toy (or completely eliminate it) for at least 3 days before your flight so it’s fresh and new. And if you have older kids, you can use this as a bartering tool when you’re struggling through the hell that is airport security (“Come on, kids! The sooner we get on the plane, the sooner you can watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on your DVD player!”).
8. MAKE A SURPRISE TRAVEL BAG
Once you’ve gathered a bunch of activities for your child to play with on the plane, stash it away in a special backpack he’s not allowed to peek into until you’re on your flight. I’ve been doing this with my daughter since she was about 2, and it’s a lot of fun for both of us. Oh, and I throw a few gift-wrapped dollar store toys in there as well. Works like a charm.
9. CHOOSE YOUR SEATS WISELY
While you can’t sit in an emergency exit row with small children, window seats are great for kids as they can decorate them with window clings and lean against them when they are ready to sleep, and aisle seats (especially those close to the bathrooms) are good if you have a kid that suffers from motion sickness as they can get in and out of their seat easily when they aren’t feeling well. Oh, and just a word of caution – seats behind the wing tend to experience more bumps and turbulence!
Whether you’re traveling on an airplane with your kids for 30 minutes or 30 hours, it isn’t easy, so if things don’t go as planned (spoiler alert: they won’t), take a few deep breaths, order yourself a glass of wine, and write a blog post about it.
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