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Taking a trip with kids is like a ride on a rollercoaster complete with ups and downs. However, if you love to travel, you certainly want to introduce children to all of the joys that it brings. Our family started traveling with both of our kids when they were only one or two months old.
Along the way we picked up some great ideas on how to make it easier to travel with infants. As our daughter has grown older (she just turned five), we have found that she loves flying and exploring new places. With that said she is still a youngster, so our trips are not all smooth sailing. We have found that we can improve our odds of an enjoyable trip on our way to our final destination if we plan ahead. Here are 11 ways to make your flight with a young child an easier process.
1. Bring Your Youngster’s Birth Certificate or Passport
Make sure you have the kiddo’s birth certificate or passport. If you are headed out of the country make sure you have their passport and that it is not expired or close to it! You generally should renew a passport nine months before expiration and bear in mind that some countries require a passport remain valid for six months after travel. This may be an issue if you applied for a passport when your child is an infant and they are now four or five years old.
2. Fly Direct or Give Yourself a Longer Layover
Kids change the dynamics on the importance of flight times. Flying direct is well worth the extra money if it helps avoid a melt-down. Conversely, a slightly longer layover gives your youngster time to play in an airport play space or to run off some energy in the terminal and means you will arrive less stressed.
3. Talk about the Trip and Travel Beforehand
Youngsters often understand more than we give them credit for. We have had a lot of success with our daughter in talking about what to expect when a trip is coming up. She really enjoys knowing what will happen ahead of time. It seems to make her more comfortable being aware. We can tell her for instance that we will take “two flights and each one will be as long as two movies”. It lets her feel in control and she even gets excited about the process particularly if we tell her that she will get “plane cookies” (the Bischoff ones) on both flights.
4. Bring all the Snacks
Besides “Mama”, the second most used word in my daughter’s lexicon is without a doubt, “snack”. The amount of eating that goes on each day boggles my mind. This is something that a parent can use to their advantage while traveling. Snacks keep kids happy and occupied.
It also means they will behave as they stuff their face. Bring double the amount that you think you need and bring a little variety to keep them interested. Also, a small treat or two can always help add to the excitement of the journey or as I will shamefully admit be used to buy some obedience if the situation turns dire.
5. Pack Extra Clothes and Essentials
This includes extra hand sanitizer, wipes, food, toys, and a change of clothes (for you too!). You want to be prepared in case someone gets sick, has an accident or your plane gets stuck on the tarmac for multiple hours. Pack the clothes in zip lock bags to seal in any stink from accidents and to protect the rest of your carry-on stuff. Also, make sure to dress your kiddo in comfortable layers and shoes without laces. This helps keep them comfortable in changing temperatures.
6. Bring Surprises, Toys, and Other Distractions
Bring small toys and stuffed animals that your child is comfortable with. Bring a tablet and add some new interactive apps that can engage your child. Also, download several new movies or their favorite show and use it to keep them happy. It can also pay off to bring some surprises.
I had no idea what a “blind bag” was until my daughter taught me and it seems like most youngsters are really into them (do a quick YouTube search if you don’t know). The diversion of opening something new and being able to play with it will help you buy some time. Art supplies like crayons, paper and coloring books don’t take up a lot of space and will keep all kids busy for a while as well. It’s all about finding ways to keep them happy and occupied to make the flight easier for you and the other passengers.
7. Make it a Grand Adventure
Do you remember your first flight? Were you excited? The great thing about a kid is that they are so much less jaded than we are. Everything is new to them and they are likely to take a cue from you on how they should react. Talk about the destination and how amazing it is going to be once you get there. Talk about the treat you will be able to get or the cool playground that you saw. Kids are amazed by “things that go” including airplanes.
8. Have TSA Precheck
TSA Precheck vastly expedites the security process with a youngster. The lines are quicker, you don’t have to remove liquids and laptops and you can keep your shoes on. Our daughter loves to put on and take off her own shoes and is currently extremely slow. Being able to zip through security is always a nice perk but TSA Precheck is even more important when traveling with kids.
9. Bring a Stroller and Gate Check It
Bring a stroller if you have a long layover or late flights. We use the stroller to walk our child through the airport if she’s tired and it doubles as a holder for passports or IDs as we go through security. If she is feeling energetic and doesn’t want to ride it can hold a backpack or other necessities. During a long layover, we will ask the airline to drop the stroller at the gate during our stop, so we have somewhere for her to sleep in the connecting airport.
10. Make a Pre-Boarding Restroom Stop
Navigating a tiny plane lavatory with a youngster can be quite an experience. Most plane restrooms are not very clean and there are lots of germy surfaces for the little one to touch or rub against. While it is inevitable that at some point you will have to take a child for a mid-flight bathroom break it should be avoided if possible. The best way to lessen the odds of this happening is to go to the airport restroom right before boarding.
11. Bring a Positive Mindset
While a toddler or Pre-K child is easier to travel with than a baby, there will still be challenges. Kids will get tired, cranky, and sick of travel (I think we all do!) and they are apt to let you know about it. The younger the child the higher probability you have of experiencing a meltdown. You have to keep in mind that it will not always be easy. However, most people will be understanding and at the end of the day, you are giving your child the gift of travel and new experiences. Remember to bring a great attitude, do the best you can and enjoy the ride!
What other tips would you add for parents flying with toddlers or preschoolers? Let us know in the comments below!
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