Airplanes can be a stressful experience, and that stress can be felt tenfold when flying with children. When you bring your kid along, you will have so much extra stuff to carry, organize, and keep track of, and you’ll have to deal with your child’s inevitable irritability they’ll feel after being kept in one place for a long time.
However, it doesn’t have to be all bad. By following a few simple tips, you can prepare both yourself and your child for a smoother airplane experience.
Here are some tips for flying with children:
Bring ample entertainment
Coloring books, crayons, leap frog, stickers, playing cards, movies; bring it all. You don’t want to be that parent asking the flight attendant for activities because you left all your child’s favorite toys at home.
Stuff your sack with snacks
If your child is at all a picky eater, then don’t rely on the snacks the flight attendants hand out. Bring an assortment of healthy snacks, and if it’s a long-haul flight, something more substantial.
Bring a pillow
It takes a special, and very lucky, type of person to be able to get in a serious snooze on a plane. While this generally applies to kids as well, you’re going to want to make them as comfortable as possible. Bring their pillow, blanket, and pyjamas from home, so that when sleep time comes at least they’ll be met with some familiarity.
Side note: whenever possible, avoid using the pillows and blankets the flight attendants offer. These are not brand new, and are definitely not washed between each use.
Take advantage of early boarding
There is a reason that all flights are split into zones, and that is so people who require a little extra time getting settled have that time. While it may feel like letting your kids burn off energy in the airport terminal for as long as possible will be the best option, you don’t want to add stress to your day by holding up the queue.
Seat kids away from the aisle
A simple safety tactic that has big payoffs. If they’re not in the aisle seat, they can’t slither out of their seatbelt and be free around the cabin, they won’t accidentally get hit by the food and beverage cart, and they will be less exposed to other passengers.
If the seating arrangement is two seats wide and then the aisle, let your child have the window seat. If the arrangement is three seats wide and then the aisle, it’s best to have them in the middle.
Airplane’s are germ-infested scuzz-boxes. When a plane stops in multiple cities over one stretch, the airline crew rarely wipe down every surface with a bacteria killer, and instead opt for a more superficial clean. Don’t let this compromise your child’s immune system, and wipe down the tray table, seat, and arm rest with a wet wipe.
Even if your child is potty trained and is usually out of pull-ups, it’s a good idea to bring them anyway. When a kid’s gotta go, they gotta go pronto, and it’s not worth an accident in the seat or kicking someone else out of the loo.
Kids, like adults, can only sit still for so long before they need to get up and burn some energy. When the seatbelt sign is turned off and the food and beverage cart is nowhere in sight, take your child up and down that narrow aisle.
Help their ears when landing
Kids ears are more sensitive than adults, and if they aren’t frequent flyers, then they probably haven’t learned how to relieve the pressure that landing puts on them. Tell your children what to expect, and instruct them to yawn, swallow, or, if they’re old enough, give them some gum to chew to help the pressure.
Tell your child what to expect
Have a conversation with your child before you head to the airport about what exactly will happen on the airplane, and get them excited about it. If they feel prepared for this new experience, they’ll be more likely to remain calm throughout.
Have some patience
I’m putting this point in here for all those child-free passengers on the airplane. Remember that no parent wants their child to scream while mercilessly kicking the back of your seat, and that 99% of caregivers are trying their absolute hardest to settle down their children. Practice your breathing techniques, and show a little compassion.