Traveling with children can be stressful, and traveling by air can strike fear in the hearts of even the most brazen parents. Boredom, whining, and meltdowns at 30,000 feet are difficult to contend with. But employing just a few easy tricks may ward off this behavior and make your flight smooth and stress-free.
- Visit an actual passport photo studio. Yes, your local pharmacy or supermarket may provide a passport photo service, but the staff may be unfamiliar with the requirements specific to a child’s passport. Don’t risk having your passport application returned due to faulty pics.
- Start early, if you can. Getting kids accustomed to the sound and the feel of being in an airplane from a young age, as well as introducing them to the idea of staying put, being patient, and respecting the peace, quiet, and privacy of those around them, will make them better passengers as they get older.
- Set your kids’ expectations. Before you embark on your trip, talk with your children about the airport, the various steps including check-in, security, boarding, and the flight. When the big day comes, talk to them about what behavior is expected from them and how long each part of your trip might take. Taking the uncertainty out of air travel helps kids cope.
- Be ready for the TSA. As a parent of a young child, you are permitted to bring breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk that exceeds 3 ounces, but be prepared for a bit of scrutiny. Some TSA agents will wave you right past. Others may want to test your liquids and will pull you aside to do so. Make it easy for them to test liquids by storing them in containers that are easily opened and closed. While bringing shelf-stable milk or formula may seem practical, remember that it may end up being opened, so you may want to have a small cooler handy. Many people prefer simply pouring all of the liquid you’ll need for your flight into a large Thermos that keeps liquids cold for 12-24 hours.
- Don’t pull a muscle. Once you have kids, your days of carrying on one lightweight bag are over. Ask your kids to pitch in by buying them rolling luggage of their own that they can tote. If your child is not a walker, consider wearing him, and checking the bulky stroller.
- Make time for screen time. We don’t normally recommend hours of screen time as a method of entertaining young children, but on a flight, a movie marathon is sometimes just the ticket. Download a few flicks onto your iPad, and bring headphones that are child-safe, restricting the decibel level. These cute animal ones are a favorite.
- Remember “quiet” toys. This is not the time for your child’s new favorite toy that lights up and sings the alphabet at the push of a button. Coloring books or Magna Doodles, favorite books, or hard-to-lose Magnetiles are perfect for quiet, in-flight play.
- Do you have enough snacks? Since many airlines do not offer in-flight meals and only have a limited selection of snacks, remember to bring your child’s favorite snacks. Bring more than you think you’ll need, and choose a variety.
- Make napping comfortable. An hour of quiet time on your next flight? What a luxury! If your child has a favorite pillow, blanket, or lovey, be sure to bring it along for an impromptu nap. Does your little one fall asleep easily in her car seat? It may be worth bringing the car seat on board, as long as it is airline approved.
- Banish ear discomfort. No one likes the feeling of popping, plugged up, pressure-filled ears. If you have an infant, allow him to drink from breast or bottle during takeoff or landing, to relieve pressure in the Eustachian tubes. Older kids can munch on chewy snacks to keep ear pressure at bay.
Are you a frequent flier, with kids who have racked up thousands of miles? How do you keep kids happy in the air? We’d love to hear your answers in the comments section!