Airplane Parenting: Tips for Trips with Kids

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It seems like forever since I last posted – it’s been about a month – the reason being that my family and I just returned from a prolonged, yet planned vacation to Europe.  While away, I gained some amazing insights, and learned some clever things parents do to make traveling easier and more enjoyable. 

To note, I have 4 grandchildren – 3 of which are from one family – and have done quite a bit of traveling with them, mostly on planes.  My daughter has done a great job of finding ways to keep her kids entertained during cross-country flights, and as a result, this post will focus on air travel with kids, ranging from the ages of two-to-eight years of age.  

All kids should have their own backpacks!

Even if the child is as young as two, he or she should have their own pack to store all of their own items, as it gives them a sense of control.  Even young ones seem to rally around the idea of having their own big girl or big boy luggage for their playthings.  Here are some tips to selecting the right backpack for your children:

  • The backpack should be big enough to hold several items they will use, but not too heavy, as they’ll need to carry them for those sometimes long walks to different gates.
  • You can also opt for a backpack with wheels, which can be easily pulled by kids, and make those long walks a bit easier.

 

Bring surprises

To avoid having to purchase new things for your kids to take, simply hide some of their books or games away a few weeks in advance, so they’re not able to read or play with them for a while; once the items resurface, they will seem new, or like a fun old find.  Of course, you can always buy a few new surprise items that will be fun treats for them to try.

Let the kids choose some items.

Perhaps your child would like to bring a treasured stuff animal, a favorite blanket, or a book they read over and over and over again… let them, so they have some control over their own items.  You’ll find that the familiarity can be comforting and a pleasant reminder of home.

Videos are great.

Nothing helps make the time go faster than a good movie.  You can either download movies to your iPad or computer, or bring along a small DVD player.  If you have more than one child, don’t forget to bring enough plug-ins for two earphones.  Make sure to bring a few new videos and one or two that your children select because they are old favorites.  If you know what those are, put them away for about a month before you leave so they become a fresher view.

Planes make kids hungry and thirsty!

The most important items to include in your kids’ backpacks are snacks!  It’s always best to stick with healthy treats, such as freeze-dried apples, baby carrots, raisins, or applesauce in the squeeze packs.  And nothing beats goldfish, graham crackers, peanut butter crackers ,or whole grain chips of some kind.  In my family, we always put some turkey sticks in my grandkids’ backpacks, as the protein keeps them satisfied longer.  Also, bring water bottles for their packs.  You can fill them up from a water fountain after you make it through security, as it seems as if everyone gets thirsty as soon as the seat belt sign comes on.  

Gum helps during landings.

Nothing is worse than when a little one is in pain as the cabin pressure changes during landing, causing their eardrum to bulge.  If you know your child is congested, before flying check with their physician on the best decongestant for him or her, and make sure to administer it about an hour before landing to give it time to work.  Also, gum chewing helps with “popping your ears,” too.

Mama might need something too!

And, I don’t mean a glass of in-flight wine! It is important to prepare for yourself, too… something that is often forgotten as you get everyone else ready for the flight.  Bring along some snacks you like, and your own water bottle.  Also, if you are having your period or think it may come, wear a pad or liner as a back-up, or in anticipation.  It is a real bummer to think that you might have started, and can’t get to the bathroom with all that is going on.

Take loads of patience with you!

Flying today — with delays and long walks through crowded terminals — can be trying, for even the most seasoned travelers.  When you add kids into the mix, getting to your destination with a smile on your face becomes an even greater accomplishment. Kids get tired because, it is tiring, and they may get irritable because they don’t quite understand all of the restrictions and airline protocol.  Other people may stare at you as you try to quiet down a screaming, tired three-year-old who can’t be comforted.  I say, ignore them – the starers, not the kids – and, work your magic to calm your child.  If you can’t get the crying to stop, and the child comforted, bribe them.  Note: this is the grandmother talking.  I do sometimes, when there is nothing left to do.  If it works, whew!   If not, try something else, or just hum and hug.

Since summer is just about over, and I’m sure many of you have traveled.  Any ideas to share, or to add to the list?

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