Attempting to not have your offspring drive an entire airplane crazy. No Pressure.
Some people like to fly… those people are called pilots. For the rest of us, it is a means to an end. It is a means to see our family, take a much needed vacation, or do something important for work. Few people actually enjoy flying; most just tolerate it because it’s a heck of a lot faster than a car, train, or boat. And for the select few, such as myself, our rational brains take a leap out of the window on takeoff and we spend the entire duration of the flight pondering our impending demise. Flying is great (said no one ever).
Now, let’s sprinkle an already less than delightful experience with small children and you have a recipe for disaster. There tends to be a few attitudes towards flying with children that I have observed over the years:
The “I DGAF” parent. This parent lets their kid(s) run amuck, kick seats, and generally act a fool throughout the flight because the parent(s) is either too tired to care or they think that their child is expressing themselves and how dare the rest of us not accept and cherish their outbursts. Don’t be this parent.
The “I’m SO Sorry” parent. This parent is wholly apologetic to the entire airplane for the fact that their child 1. Exists and 2. Has the audacity to fly on an airplane before the age of 18. They will hand out ear plugs, treats, a cute little apology note, and possibly (if you’re lucky) drink tickets to complete strangers because their baby is in the same vicinity as them. Your heart is in the right place, but please don’t ever apologize for the existence of your child, thanks for the drink ticket though.
And then there’s the rest of us. The vast majority of parents who would like to bring their kids places but also recognize that sometimes kids act like, well, kids. We want to be mindful of our complete stranger neighbors and also keep our kids sane and in their seats as much as humanly possible.
I’ve traveled with my kids more times than I can actually remember and now that they are the ripe old ages of 4 and 6 I would like to share some thoughts on traveling that have worked over the years. I am by no means an authority on the matter but I did have a lady on a recent flight say to me after we landed that she forgot there were kids in front of her because they were so good (boo yah!). As GI Joe would say “knowing is half the battle.” So, here is what I know:
Pack a carryon that fits underneath the seat in front of you. It’s no fun to constantly have to get up and try to find snacks, toys, headphones, etc in the overhead bin. Also, if there’s turbulence or you are taking off or landing, the flight attendants will be frustrated if you’re out of your seat (these also seem like the times that my kids always need a snack or really have to go to the bathroom… of course)
Essential carryon items:
Snacks-on-snacks-on-snacks! Whatever snacks you bring, have enough for the number of kids you have. Just because your daughter has never liked a particular snack that your son likes, if you don’t have one for her she may magically decide at 30,000 feet that she really wants that particular item. I put all of the snacks in a gallon sized, clear plastic bag so that it’s easy to access while going through security. Also, I’m not above packing a few sugary snacks as bribery. I’ve actually started making a backup snack bag that I put in my checked luggage for the trip home since my kids seem to eat everything while we are away and then we don’t have a perfectly curated selection of snacks on the return flight when they’re already sad because we have to get back to reality.
A headphone jack splitter. This way you can let your kiddos share one device so that you’re not lugging around half a dozen ipads (my neck! my back!).
Space saving games & writing materials (depending on the age of your kids) such as Spot It! and small coloring books that can be found in the discount section at the entrance to Target.
A time consuming new activity such as a LEGO Junior set that will take your kids a long time to put together on the plane. Then, once it is together, hopefully your kids will play with them for some time before moving on to an electronic device. Shopping Link
Gum. Full disclosure, I don’t let my kids chew gum regularly (long story) but on flights it does help to relieve the pressure in their ears on takeoff and landing. If you have a newborn, nursing or giving a bottle during takeoff and landing can also help with this problem. If you child takes a pacifier, I recommend using it as long as you can keep it from falling on the floor of the plane or airport since those floors just cannot be sanitary… eeeewwwwww.
A change of clothes for the kids and baby wipes, even if your kids aren’t babies anymore. At the least appropriate time, such as takeoff or walking through security, your kids may have some kind of bodily fluid “situation” that requires attending to, cleaning, and possibly an entire wardrobe alteration.
Charge your devices! If you’re on a super long flight there are often chargers built into the seats on newer planes so bring a charger as well.
Make sure that the movies or shows that you want to watch are actually downloaded properly on your device. Double check that you don’t need to be connected to wifi in order to play the latest cartoon movie that you downloaded.
If possible, choose seats close to the back of the airplane. This way your kids can get up every thirty seconds to go to the bathroom without disrupting too many people.
Now, you know what they say about best laid plans… so just remember that traveling builds character and that all flights, even the most turbulent (literally and figuratively), end eventually. Enjoy your next big adventure and don’t hesitate to put that drink ticket to good use.