Tips for Travel with Kids – Part 3: When Flying

Here is my last post in my ‘Tips for Travel with Kids’ series.  In this post, I will be sharing tips specific to flying.  In case you missed them, here are the previous posts with tips for planning and tips for packing.

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Our plane ride to Jamaica was 4 hours. L had her own seat but because E was travelling for free, she was confined to mine or M’s lap.

The flight down, the girls were fantastic (which surprised me considering they didn’t sleep and had to get up at 2:30am to leave for the airport). The flight attendant even commented that E was the best baby she’d even flown with! Coming home was another story. L was great but E was so tired and refused to sleep. She was also not happy being confined to my lap. At one point, M was holding her and she was smiling at some people a few rows back. She reached for one of the ladies and the woman offered to take her for a few minutes. M, knowing I would probably freak out about a stranger holding our baby, looked at me for permission. At this point, I was happy to get a break so we passed her along! It was a lovely 15 minutes of rest!

We were all very happy to get off the plane however we then had to wait to go through customs and wait again for our luggage. Gah! An hour and a half later and we were on our way home where, of course, we encountered traffic. Thankfully, by this point the girls were asleep in their car seats.

I’m happy to say we survived our first family flying experience. Here are my tips to make it through:

When flying:

1. Use ‘restraining devices’. Use something that will prevent your child from running off and getting lost in a huge airport with a lot of people (or just running off and making you look like a bad parent when they don’t listen when you ask them to stop and you have to chase them). We used an infant carrier for E and an umbrella stroller (which we could bring right up to the gate) for L. If you aren’t bringing a stroller, consider a child harness (aka leash). It may look ridiculous but trust me, it will be worth it.

2. Pre-book your seats. If possible, look to book your seats before getting to the airport. There is usually a fee associated with this but it gives you the option of choosing where you get to sit on the plan and reduces your stress level if you are running behind. We were certainly happy to have our seats pre-booked when we showed up at the airport to be greeted with 4 flights worth of people all waiting in the same line we were to check-in. Without pre-booking our seats, there probably would have been a good chance we wouldn’t have gotten seats together.

3. Confirm what can be brought on the plane. There are many restrictions you need to consider. The one that will probably impact you the most is the amount of liquid that can be brought on board. However, if you are travelling with a child under 24 months, some items are exempt (like formula or breast milk). We were also able to bring increased quantities of apple sauce, jarred baby food and yoghurt. Check before you get to the airport so you don’t need to get rid of something you need at security.

4. Wear out the kids before boarding. They are going to be confined once they get on the plane so let them crawl/run around the boarding waiting area and burn off some energy.

5. Use washrooms before boarding. Also change diapers if necessary. Sounds obvious but these things can easily be forgotten with the frenzy of checking luggage, going through security and waiting in line to board. If you have a recently toilet trained child, I would recommend putting them in a diaper. We thought we were being proactive putting L in a Pull Ups but she soaked through it after not being able to use the washroom onboard due to turbulence.

6. Confirm where diapers can be changed on board. Some planes have a separate area with a change table outside of the tiny washrooms or only 1 of the washrooms is equipped with a change table. Find out this information before you need it.

7. Bring toys/entertainment. For L, we brought a couple books, a magnetic drawing board (no small crayons to lose) and an ipod loaded with games and movies. Her favourite game was Preschool Monkey Lunchbox which was well worth the $0.99 the game cost. It is educational and she is able to play it on her own.

8. Bring food and snacks. Don’t give your kids an opportunity to get cranky and grumpy because they are hungry. Bring plenty of food to keep their bellies full. Factor in how long your flight is, your child’s feeding schedule (are you traveling during meals or snack time?) and if food will be served onboard.

9. Test medication beforehand. If you are planning on giving medication in hopes of making your child drowsy (sometimes a welcome side effect of anti-nausea drugs), try it out at home ahead of time. I’ve heard horror stories where the child had a negative reaction and was super hyper or spent the entire flight throwing up.

10. Try to relax. Even if you are stressed to the max and about to have a mental breakdown, don’t let your kids feed off of your negative energy. Put on a smile and remember that eventually, the flight will end. Also, you will probably never see these people ever again so try not to worry too much about what they think of your crying, screaming, miserable kids 🙂

Travelling with kids can definitely seem overwhelming but with some planning (and my tips, of course!), your trip will hopefully be a little less stressful!

Happy travels!

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