Let’s face it. Traveling with children can be a daunting task, especially when you have a long flight to reach your destination. Will they cry? Will the other passengers be patient with us? Will we have to travel to the opposite side of the airport during our 45-minute layover? While every outcome can’t be predicted, traveling prepared definitely makes life easier when the big day arrives.
Have your tech ready.
Load new episodes of your child’s favorite television show, new movies, and even a few new easy-to-use apps to a tablet. Be sure your tablet has a stand of some sort, so you don’t have to hold it for hours on end. I also highly recommend headphones. You may be able to tune out the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song by now, but the other passengers would probably rather not try. If your child is too young or unable to keep headphones on or in their ears, try one of these adorable fleece headbands with the headphones inside.
Have your non-tech ready.
No-tech activities. Stickers, colorful bandages, lacing cards, books, and Crayola Color Wonder coloring books have been some of my kids’ favorites through the years.
Have your snacks ready.
I keep a gallon Ziploc bag in my carry-on filled with my kids’ favorite snack foods, and I let each child put two or three in their own backpack. Portion everything so you can grab a single serving easily. If you have younger children, no-spill snack cups are a fantastic idea. Pack bottles and sippy cups if you’re flying with a baby or toddler. You can bring formula, breast milk, and baby food through security in reasonable quantities, and it will have to be taken out and screened separately. Visit www.tsa.gov if you want to check the rules for a specific food item.
Have extra necessities ready.
Diapers, changing pad, wipes, hand sanitizer, extra clothing. When traveling with little ones, I tend to over-prepare. Calculate how many diapers you will actually need for your travel day, and throw in a few extra. Bring a brand-new package of baby wipes. Fill up that bottle of hand sanitizer. I like to pack extra clothing in Ziploc bags, separated into outfits. If your almost-potty-trained toddler has an accident mid-flight, you’ll have everything handy for a complete change, as well as a waterproof bag to put the dirty outfit back into. Throw in a couple of empty spares to stuff dirty diapers into before throwing them in the lavatory trash. When my children were young, I would also always travel with an extra change of clothing for myself as well. Accidents happen…and sometimes, they happen ON you.
Have sleep aids ready.
Favorite blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal. If you’re on a long flight, chances are your travel time will overlap some (or all) of your child’s naptime. It isn’t always easy to get comfortable enough to rest on an airplane, but having those naptime necessities should help speed the process along. If you are traveling with a child younger than the age of two, book the bulkhead bassinet seats. We flew to Hawaii with both kids when they were 3 and 5 months old. When the fasten seatbelt light turned off, the flight attendant set up the bassinet in front of our seats, and our 5 month old was able to lay there for a majority of the flight. It was fantastic to get a break from holding her on that 8-hour flight.
Have your safety stuff ready.
CAR SEAT. If you intend to use a car seat for your child during a flight, the car seat must be FAA approved, and you also must purchase a seat for the child. This is important to note, because a child can fly without having to purchase their own ticket until they reach the age of two. If you want a seat to use the car seat in, it must be purchased, regardless of the child’s age. Aren’t sure if your car seat is FAA approved? If it is, the seat will have a sticker that reads, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” Flight attendants are trained to look for this information. If your seat is not approved, you will be required it to check it rather than use it on the aircraft.
STROLLER and BABY CARRIER. Strollers are excellent for hauling your baby, and all that extra gear, through the airport. I especially prefer to have the stroller if we’ve got a quick turnaround between flights. Grab a gate check tag from the gate agent, and leave the stroller at the end of the jet bridge to be loaded underneath the airplane. It will be returned to the jet bridge at your destination, ready to go! I also suggest bringing your favorite baby-wearing gadget for times when the stroller can’t be used or doesn’t make sense.
Have your patience ready.
Patience is the most important thing you can bring along when traveling kids – no matter their age. Unexpected mishaps will happen. Your flight will be delayed, and you’ll miss your connection. You might even have to stay overnight in a strange town with a preschooler and no luggage. Be patient and know that no matter how prepared you are, something may come up that you didn’t think of beforehand.
While you may be a seasoned traveler, your kids probably aren’t. Do your best to show them kindness and understanding in unfamiliar surroundings. Stay calm, and your little ones will usually follow suit.
When you arrive … Celebrate and enjoy your vacation!
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post by Audra Owens