For many families, the mere idea of piling the kids into the car and attempting to take a family vacation is a forbidding one. However, driving may seem like a walk in the park if you compare it to attempting to fly with kids, especially babies and small children. This does not have to be the case though. Proper preparation before leaving and keeping some simple tips in mind help me to fly safely and (mostly) stress-free.
An ounce of preparation
When it comes to choosing seating on the plane, aim for the bulkhead area. I have found that bulkhead seating is the best choice, whether flying with an infant, toddler or small child, providing added space to stretch out, change a diaper more comfortably or get down on the floor to play.
Plan ahead for security requirements at the airports, paperwork requirements and security. Pack bags so that going through security will be as quick as possible.
Finally, confirm your seating, confirm the confirmation and then reconfirm again. Mistakes may still occur, but making the effort to triple check seating can save a lot of headache later on.
During the flight
If your infant is a sleeper, you are extremely lucky. Mine was not. However, even a wide-awake baby can be content on a long distance flight if you know how to handle it. First, regardless of age, stick to your normal daily routine as much as possible. That includes sleep time. Whether it is a nap or sleep for the night, I get the kids into pajamas and we snuggle in with our favorite stories and stuffed toys.
Keeping the kids busy during the flight may seem daunting, but I’ve found that routine again saves the day. Avoid snacks and drinks with a lot of sugar; toddlers especially could become belligerent. Prepare kid-specific activity kits that include a variety of activities such as books, coloring pages, a deck of cards, and some travel-size board games.
Also, be polite to the attendants and crew. I have found while traveling that a few kind words and understanding gestures on my part have opened up a world of polite and helpful attendants. Beyond pleasantries, I found a great deal of tips on etiquette while flying as well as tips on how and what to pack, how to entertain a child and even what to do in emergencies when flying with babies and children.
Infants are usually contained in seats, so the issue of safety restraints is solved. For older children, the option to use a car seat or other safety seat is always available but not required, though many airlines are implementing child safety seating on their planes.
Another important safety issue often overlooked is hydration. Flying on an airplane severely dehydrates my body, so I can only imagine how dehydrated an infant or small child would become after flying for a long period of time. Bring bottled water and juices from home and keep them sipping; it will keep them hydrated and keep them busy as well.
Traveling with kids, particularly flying, does not have to be a trial or experience worth fearing. Instead, flying to a vacation destination can be a great way to make a family vacation even more memorable.