Like many other families this summer, we’re heading off tomorrow for a trip to see family. We’ll have two flights out and one flight back, making for lots of hours of airplanes and airports with three children. Although this is my baby’s first flight, her brothers have logged lots of airline miles over the years and we’ve come up with a few strategies for successful flying.
1. Bring extras of everything. Instead of my normal diaper bag, I carry an overnight-size duffle for flights so that I can fit everything. I’m putting in two more bottles than I think we’ll need, extra snacks for the boys, two spare outfits for the baby and a spare shirt for the boys, plenty of diapers and wipes, a spare pacifier, and lots and lots of small (but not loud!) toys. flying
2. Make some things special for travel. I have a bag of small toys—a kaleidoscope, flip book, finger puppets, wind-up toys—that only get played with on an airplane. Even at 6 and 9, my boys still love those toys because they only get to play with them during these limited times. I often buy a new movie or little toys at a dollar store that they don’t get until we’re actually on the plane, just for everyone to have something new to watch or play with. I also allow them to have a little bit more decadent snacks than they would otherwise—chocolate, their favorite chips. flying
3. Don’t depend just on electronics. I learned this one the hard way, when I tried to turn on a brand-new portable DVD player we’d borrowed for a flight only to realize it wasn’t charged. We’ve had various other electronic mishaps over the years, such as the new kid-friendly headphones not being loud enough to hear over the engine and the flight attendants not letting the boys watch a movie without them. Tablets and phones and other electronic devices are great for airplanes, but sometimes they run out of batteries or break down, so make sure you have a low-tech backup plan—coloring books or stickers, books or stuffed animals. Play-Doh is great for airplanes. One or two little tubs are lots of fun to make shapes with on a tray table, and it’s easily cleaned up and put away again.
4. Make friends with your fellow passengers. I’ve seen lots of instances of passengers getting irritated with children on flights, and it’s understandable. We’re all trapped in a small space, and there’s nowhere to go. I have made a habit of trying to defuse any situation beforehand by introducing myself to the people who are sitting in front and behind my children and letting them know that my child is sitting behind them and to please let me know if they accidentally kick their seat or are too loud. Despite lots of noise and seat-kicking, I have yet to get a negative report. It’s amazing how far this little step will go to help people react more favorably to irritating behavior.
5. Don’t forget about the flight attendants, who can be so helpful to traveling parents. I’ve had flight attendants go far out of their way for me when they see that I’m traveling by myself with small children—from making sure I had an empty seat next to me for my baby to bringing me extra water before takeoff because they saw I was nursing. I choose to sit in the back of the plane with my kids because we’re closer to the bathroom and there’s a little galley where I can stand with them if they get really antsy, so we’re always right next to the rear flight attendants. I always try to talk to one or two them a little bit before takeoff. This seems to make it easier if I need to ask for anything or we have an emergency bathroom need. Just being friendly and smiling at the people around you can help tremendously. If you want to go one step further, I have a friend who travels with a collection of $5 Starbucks gift cards and passes them out as thank yous to flight attendants or fellow passengers who are really helpful. flying
What are your best traveling with kids tips?
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Click on Julia’s book, Mom Seeks God, to read more or order a copy.