Flying with young children may seem liking a daunting undertaking. After all we’ve probably all smiled sympathetically across the plane at a frazzled parent with their inconsolable infant or the bored-to-tears toddler. “Air travel with young children doesn’t have to consist of fussing and crying, with a little planning and a preparation, travel with children can go off without a hitch” says Lesley Keyter, The Travel Lady.
If you are traveling with an infant, try to match your child’s sleep schedule with the airline schedules and routes to your destination and if at all possible choose a non-stop flight. Don’t forget to check the airline’s car seat policy.
Ask about what children's services and amenities are offered. Many airlines offer children's meals, headsets, and activity sets etc. Pre-order your child’s meals if possible.
If possible, take advantage of early seat selection, the bulkhead area offers a little more room than regular seats; try to sit near the bathroom and/or by the window. “If you are traveling alone with a baby or toddler you may want to sit on the aisle seat - this will avoid having to climb over a stranger with your baby - it will also mean you can get up and take a walk up and down the aisle with baby/toddler and this usually serves as a welcome distraction - plus it is advised for long flights due deep vein thrombosis,” advises Keyter.
Often fellow passengers will move to try and accommodate parents traveling with young children. If the flight isn’t full don’t hesitate to ask your flight attendants if they can relocate the third passenger in your row.
If your child is new to flying, a trip to the airport before the big day is in order. Talk with your child about the trip; explain each stage of the boarding process. Also explain about take-off and landing and what to expect during the flight.
Don’t forget to pack medical records and medicines and it’s a good idea to take along a copy of your child's pertinent medical information and the pediatrician's phone numbers.
If your child is on medication, keep their medicine with you in your carry-on and be sure you have enough for the entire plane ride. Include your family’s usual pain relievers, Gravol etc. And always bring lots filler foods with you - crackers, cookies, and juice with you just in case.
Pack a carry-on bag for your child that is full of boredom busting activities. Wrap a few toys from the dollar store and present them through the trip. This is one of our favourite tried and true tips for any kind of travel. Music or book tapes can provide hours of entertainment. Other best bets include stickers and sticker books, crayons, small-wheeled cars and trucks and blank paper, crayons or felts in a pencil case, books, McDonald’s toys and a pack of cards. Don’t forget their cuddly or favourite soft toy
Arrive at the airport early. Sprints down an endless terminal are difficult enough but they are nearly impossible when packing a baby on your back and holding a preschooler's hand.
Turn your children into travel reporters by giving them a disposable camera and notebooks so they can document the family trip.
Take advantage of the pre-boarding. It will help you get settled and allows you to find a nearby space for carry-ons. “During take-off if you are traveling with an infant the flight attendant will help you with the seat belt as the baby must be secured as well - if you are going to nurse make sure you get into a comfortable position and then fasten the seat belt” recommends Keyter.
Dress for comfort. Don't forget to grab blankets and pillows as you board - or better yet, bring your own. “Many flights today charge for food and pillows - so best to take your own - especially food as airlines have been known to run out” reminds Keyter. Children can find take-off and landing especially uncomfortable on their ears, so nurse your baby or give them a pacifier or a bottle. For an older child, candy or gum can ease their discomfort.
Bring along a small umbrella stroller. These can often be stowed in overhead compartments. If not, ask for a "gate-check." This means the stroller is taken from you as you board and given to you as you deplane. Never check your stroller with your luggage. You need a stroller for negotiating airport hallways and as a safe place to put your child when you haul items off the baggage carousel.
With a little preplanning the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination.
Ellen is the publisher of Calgary's Child Magazine, Calgary's favorite parenting magazine. For more information, you can pick up Calgary's Child Magazine free at more than 600 locations in and around Calgary or read it on-line at calgaryschild.com
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