Monday, December 12, 2011

3 Tips for Flying with Children

"Real courage is taking a bunch of small children on a plane!"

The gentleman speaking looked old enough to be a grandfather and meant his statement as praise of my little family. At least I think he did.

We were disembarking a plane after a 7 hour journey from Rhode Island to San Antonio, Texas. My 4 kids (ages 3-8) had been awake since 5:30 that morning and were exhausted.

To my amazement our flights departed on time, turbulence was minimal, and my children behaved beautifully. You would have thought they were experienced travelers instead of newbies.

So, how did I take 4 children on a cross-country airplane journey and have a fun time?

I planned snacks.

I looked over our itinerary and realized we had a one hour layover at 10 AM followed by a 4 hour flight. That meant no lunch. Not a good thing for young kids! So, I packed snacks, peanut butter sandwiches, and cut-up apples in each of their carry-on backpacks. It took a few minutes the night before to prepare everything but was definitely worth it!

I planned entertainment.

We don't own portable DVD players, smart phones, or tablets so our entertainment was low tech. I packed books, coloring books and crayons, and card games in each of their carry-on backpacks.

But the most important entertainment happened when we INTERACTED WITH OUR CHILDREN on the plane. We read books aloud. We played UNO. We talked about what we could see outside our windows. Most children will sit quietly if mom and dad are paying attention to them. Mine usually do.

I planned for emergencies.

My youngest is mostly potty trained and has been dealing with ear infections lately. Being "mostly trained" I felt Pull-Ups were a better idea than big boy underwear. I could just imagine us taking off and Sam declaring he needed to go to the potty! I also put a complete change of clothes in his carry-on backpack just in case of accidents. Unfortunately, we ended up using them!

A few days before our flights, we visited our pediatrician just to be sure Sam's ears were clear. Thankfully they were but our awesome pediatrician wrote a prescription for ear drops anyway. He explained that they would numb the ear drum for a couple of hours and make take off much more pleasant for Sam (and everyone else on the plane).

I don't think traveling by plane with small children takes courage, but it does take planning. If you pack plenty of snacks, entertainment, and emergency supplies you will also have a great trip with your children!

What's your best tip for flying with children?

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Amanda in RI said...

Steph, you know my kids are much older than yours, but they've never flown. You can bet I'll be thinking of this post the first time they do (even if they're 18!!). :)

Stephanie said...

Amanda, we flew 5 years ago with the 2 boys (I was pregnant with Ellie). At that time they were 2.5 and 1 years old. They behaved beautifully even then. I really do believe the key is for parents to be prepared and stay engaged with their kids.

I admit I am ready for the day they can pack their own suitcases and carry-ons! It would be nice to walk onto a plane and read my own book through the whole trip. :)

Carrie said...

Yup, interaction is the key. All of the things you listed are important but if the parents are paying attention to their kids, they'll generally settle down. At least, mine will (also.) Of course, the flip side of that is that the parents are DOUBLY exhausted! But at least your co-passengers are happy when they get off the plane they've been sharing with you.

Stephanie said...

Interaction is exhausting but it's so important for pleasant airplane travel for everyone! I'm not looking forward to flying home tomorrow BUT at least I'll be sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night.

Lisa said...

Wow! I am really impressed with your organization and how prepared you were for your trip! :-) It is also awesome how you and your husband obviously value paying attention to your children. Unfortunately, so many people in our society do not and they expect their children, in essence, to take care of themselves.

I hope you are having a good trip.
Many blessings,

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Lisa. Unfortunately, you're right that many parents expect their children to fend for themselves on planes as well as in life. That's part of why I blog - so I can help moms find new ways of caring for their children and homes.

Pam said...

When my kids were small, my husband had lots of frequent flyer miles, so we flew with the kids several times. Your post brought back memories for me--the snacks, the games. It's amazing how much the planning helps! My kids still remember those times as so much fun and excitement.

Stephanie said...

Planning really did help! Our final flight home took about 3 hours and most of that was spent playing Uno with 2 of my kids. They loved it! My older kids can't wait to fly again.

2busy said...

And when all else fails, plan to knock them out. ;)

Stephanie said...

LOL!2busy, we flew a couple of times when my oldest 2 kids were quite small. I felt no guilt in giving them Benedryl on the plane. They enjoyed the trip and so did everyone else. Unfortunately they're too big for that now. :)

Jenny said...

I love the idea of playing games with your kids during the flight. Sadly, most of my time on planes these days is spent making sure my lap child doesn't constantly kick the seat in front of him! As expats we're frequent flyers so my older kids are pretty self-sufficient when we travel. Glad to have found you through SITS.

Rachael Heiner said...

One thing that's worked really well for me is getting NEW toys they've never seen before. I hit the dollar bins at Target and visit our local thrift stores and find some toys that are cheap but new to my kids. Then, when they start to get bored on the plane, I pull some out. I also put all the toys into ziplock baggies. One for cars, one for crayons, one for action figures. That way, they're easy to find and to get out and put away. One thing I did for my older son is buy small puzzles and put them into a ziplock, cut off the front of the box and slip it in there. It takes up WAY less space, and it's just the right size to do on the airplane tray table.

Standing for Something said...

LOL! My best tip is not to fly. I have 3 girls under 6 (and one on the way) and last year was the trip from you know where--even though I planned, schemed and planned some more. My best advice it to bring a flying companion (my mother in law is coming with me this time since my husband has to work) and bring car seats for little ones whenever possible. That way, they cannot escape and wreak havoc on everyone in the vicinity. :)

Kimberly Gauthier said...

I hope I'm on your flight the next time I travel!

I've been really lucky with my flights. All good kids with parents who are following your 2 tips :)

Congrats on your SITS day!

Hannah said...

I enjoyed your blog and it reminded me of a cousin who only traveled at night with her children ... because they slept ;-)

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Marie said...

What a perfect plan and I would love to travel next to your kids anytime on a plane. ;)

Venus said...

Excellent tips, thanks! We traveled with our little G, but he was only 6mo at the time, which made him easy. Now that he's older (10mo) he'll definitely need more entertaining. I think the real key is something you mentioned - most kids just want you to pay attention to them. :-)

LOVE MELISSA:) said...

Thank you so much!! You really helped me! I hope my journeys go as well as yours!

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