This is a guest post from Allison over at Love Teach Grow.
As the summer travel season approaches, thousands of families are getting ready to pack their bags–and their kids–and head out for the great adventures that await them. The reality is, however, that traveling with kids is an adventure in itself. Here are a few tips to make your next trip to the airport go smoothly–even if you do have a chorus of “Are we there yet?” following you the whole way.
1. Book Your Flight Wisely
Choose the flight that best fits your family’s needs and routines. Mornings are typically when children are in the best moods and, since you can’t guarantee that your child will sleep on the plane, it’s best to try to get the bulk of your traveling done while everyone is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. With that being said, always choose the flight with the least number of stops or layovers if you can afford it. If you have the option of choosing seats, you may want to look for a row at the back of the plane: you’ll have the least contact with other passengers if your child is…ahem…disruptive. Plus, the back row is usually the last to fill on a flight so you may be able to score some extra room to spread out.
2. Pack With A Purpose
Several days before you actually have to pack for your trip, make a list of what every family member will need. Don’t forget important items like your child’s “lovey” that he can’t sleep without and his favorite sippy cup. Some bulky items like diapers and wipes may be easier to purchase at your destination so they don’t take up precious space in your luggage.
3. Prepare In Advance
Do as much preparation as possible for your flight the day before you travel. Check-in for your flight, print your boarding passes, and load your luggage into the car. Any time that you can save on travel day will be time well spent.
4. Dress For The Occasion
This is the time to choose function over fashion. Dress in layers, choose comfortable materials (read: elastic waistbands), wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and bring an extra change of clothes for “emergencies” (cruising at 30,000 feet is a long way from your washing machine. Just sayin’.). Keep these same rules in mind for your kids. If you really must present your kid in some adorable little get-up at your destination, let them travel in a comfy set of PJ’s and pack the outfit with a thousand tiny buttons in your carry-on bag.
5. Get Through Security
Most airports have a separate family line to get you through security more quickly. Once you get to the front of the line, you will be required to put everything through the metal detectors (including strollers and car seats) so I usually like to wear my baby in a baby carrier for this part. Make sure you take out all liquids from your bags before they go through the metal detector (this includes diaper cream, full baby bottles, and even Play-Doh).
6. Take Care Of Business At The Gate
As soon as I get to my departure gate I always ask the gate attendant if there are any empty seats on my flight. If there are, you can usually get an extra seat at no charge so you can bring on your infant’s car seat or spread out with your kids. Take this time before you board the plane to visit the restroom (change baby’s diaper while you’re there), eat a snack, and let your kids run off some energy.
7. Get Ready For Takeoff!
When you board the plane, seat your children closest to the window–they’ll like the view and it is the safest place for them to ride. During takeoff try to have everyone chewing or sucking to minimize the effects of the air pressure change (think chewy fruit snacks for the little guys and nursing or a pacifier for your baby). Sit back, relax, and enjoy (ha!).
8. Survive The Flight
Flying with your kids will probably not be the time you get to catch up on reading that novel or finishing the Sudoku puzzle you started 6 years ago. Hedge your bets and bring interesting games, books, activities, and toys that your kids will not be totally bored with. See my list of 40 activities to entertain your baby or toddler for some ideas.
9. Utilize The Airplane
The airplane and its contents can be incredibly helpful for the traveling-with-munchkins set. You can play with window decals on the airplane windows, do yoga stretches at your seat, take a walking break to let baby look at herself in the bathroom mirror, get hot water in the galley for instant oatmeal or cup-o-soup that you packed in your carry on bag, and even make a shaker toy out of plastic cups and pretzels. The possibilities are endless…
10. Be Patient And Persevere
You are not the only person who has ever traveled with a child. In the end, no matter how stressful the travel day may be, it will all be over in a matter of a few hours. Before you know it you’ll be arriving in that wonderful locale that you’ve been planning for and dreaming about for months. Keep calm, and travel on!
Question: What are your best tips for traveling with young kids? How do you make things run as smoothly as possible and make things fun for your kids?
Allison is a former Kindergarten and first-grade teacher who now spends her days wrangling two small boys. She is always up for an adventure, especially if she can haul her family along for the ride. You can follow Allison on her journey through motherhood over at http://loveteachgrow.
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