Plane travel has become tedious with long waits and increased security, making flying with children a challenge. But even with all the inconveniences of travel, with some preparation, you and your children can enjoy the journey!
1. Check with the airline ahead of time to find out the recommended arrival time to clear security, baggage restrictions and carry-on rules. Rules for bringing liquids, medicines and food on the plane change often and are especially important when flying with little ones who need formula, sippy cups, etc. This is also the time to inform the airline if you will be traveling with a child who has an illness requiring that medication be brought onto the plane or a food allergy requiring an EpiPen® (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors). You might be asked to bring along a doctor’s note. For peanut allergies, most airlines are willing to serve a snack other than nuts if notified ahead of time.
2. Dress yourself and the kids comfortably in loose fitting pants and layered shirts because it is always too hot or too cold on the plane. Slip-on type shoes are best for quick removal at security and for curling up for a nap.
3. If the kids are small enough to spill or have toilet accidents, having a change of clothes for the child (and possibly yourself!) in your carry-on bag is essential. No one wants to see a miserable, wet child on a long flight. If you are nursing your baby, a nursing shirt and drape are helpful for nursing in tight seats. For kids on the edge of being fully potty trained, consider having them wear a pull-up instead of underwear on the plane - just in case. There will be times when they are not allowed to get up and visit the bathroom, such as during takeoff, landing and during turbulence. Little bladders sometimes can’t wait.
4. If traveling with a baby in diapers, pack your carry-on bag with plenty of diapers, wipes and a changing pad. If you need to change a diaper, the airplane bathrooms are often too small. You will likely end up changing your baby on your lap, so a waterproof changing pad is essential. Change baby right before boarding, and consider coating his or her bottom with a diaper rash ointment. This can prevent skin irritation if the diaper isn’t changed as often as usual in flight.
5. Bring snacks for the kids, as allowed by the airline. The kids may not like or want what the airline serves, and this way you won’t have to wait for the food to be brought to you. Some liquids are allowed, especially formula for babies. But many liquids cannot be brought along, so bringing your child’s empty sippy cup or bottle on board for the attendant to fill with juice or milk can be easier than having kids drink from those little plastic cups.
6. Hopefully, the kids will sleep during part of the flight. Bringing the child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal can help make them more comfortable.
7. Most airlines allow you to check your car seat and stroller in addition to the allowed luggage for no cost. If you have a connection or layover, you can bring the stroller to the gate and the attendant will check it in, and have it available for you when you disembark, to use while running for the next plane. (Always check with the airline you are flying with first to ensure you can bring these items on-board with you and that these services are available.)
8. Changes in altitude can hurt little ears, but the action of swallowing can lessen this pain. During takeoff and landing, giving your child something to drink, suck on or chew is a good preventative. For the nursing baby, nursing during take-off and landing will accomplish the same.
9. For young children, be prepared with plenty of plane-friendly activities. Favorite TV shows can be downloaded to iPods, travel DVD players and favorite movies are helpful as well. Ear buds or headphones can allow kids to listen to in-flight radio music. Bring along a variety of activities, such as: new coloring, sticker or activity books, portable travel games or an erasable drawing board.
10. Finally, don’t forget to bring your patience, flexibility and sense of humor. When traveling by plane, many things, such as the weather and flight delays, are out of your control. Just be as prepared as possible - then go with the flow!
Tiffany is a freelance writer and mother of three children who travels often with her children.
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