I love to travel. Before becoming a proud parent of three darling cherubs everyone said to me, “Enjoy traveling now because once you have kids, you won’t be able to do it anymore.” Well, I proved all the naysayers wrong by hopping on that plane with three kids in tow - sometimes internationally. I didn’t let their age stop me either; they all flew before the age of two. It wasn’t always easy, though. In fact, it was downright disgusting at times but definitely worth it! I’m going to share some tips with you to save you the headache and messes I suffered traveling with kids in tow. Plus, I threw in a tip which will shower you with compliments - that’s not always easy to find, especially being a parent on an airplane. So buckle up, buttercup! You are about to hear extraordinary (and possibly humorous) international travel tricks with kids.
Bring a car seat. The first time our twins flew internationally they were 18 months old. Most airlines do not require you to purchase a ticket if a child is under the age of two at the time of departure, so this seemed like a no-brainer to me - of course, I saved the money and didn’t purchase tickets for them. (I wish I recorded this plane trip because I know I would’ve won first place in America’s Funniest Home Videos.)
The entire ride both ways was a wrestling match between us (me and my husband) and our boy/girl twins - they definitely won in case you were wondering. There was no way they wanted to sit quietly on our laps for five hours; they wanted to roam freely through the exciting new airplane. As you can imagine, I still have nightmares about it.
When we traveled with their younger sister, I purchased a ticket for her, which meant I could strap her into her car seat. Do you think there was a wrestling match then? Nope, she slept the entire flight both ways. It was worth every penny spent on the ticket to save my sanity.
Pack a change of clothes for the plane. Sometimes you learn the hard way and other times you learn in a downright repulsive way (don’t worry, you are going to hear all of the gory details). When my son flew for the first time, we didn’t know he is prone to motion sickness (we now also pack Dramamine). I bet you are wondering, “How did you figure it out?” I’ll tell you how.
We were cruising at an altitude of 36,000 feet since I remember the friendly captain making an announcement when my son vomited his egg and cheese sandwich all over the person to his left. And who might that have been? You guessed it, me. Of course, I had nothing to change into for the rest of the five-hour flight.
Your child doesn’t have to get motion sickness - there could be a variety of other issues (I’m sure you can envision it if you try) which could require a change of clothes, so be sure to pack at least something to change into or you will wish you did (and wondering if an egg and cheese sandwich was a wise breakfast choice).
Pack a change of clothes for your destination. Along with packing a change of clothes for the plane, you should also add clothes for your destination (such as a bathing suit, summer clothes, etc.) to your carry-on bag. Your luggage could get lost or it could take time getting to your hotel room so if you have other clothes accessible, you will be ready to go swimming or whatever fun adventure you planned during your trip. You don’t want to be the family dressed in a hoodie and pants by the pool because you couldn’t change your clothes. Besides dripping with sweat, you will have three whining kids repeatedly asking, “When can I go swimming?” Trust me, that is no way to start your vacation.
Bring a pen (or two). It took me at least three international flights before I remembered to add two pens to my passport holder. On the plane, you receive immigration and customs forms which you need to fill out for each child (if they are too young to do it themselves) and the airlines will not provide a pen for you. Sure, you could wait until you get there, but if your child is strapped into their car seat (which I know you brought because you used my previous tip) then you will have time to fill out all of the forms.
Bring lots of food. I can’t stress this enough. I pack an entire carry-on suitcase of just snacks. Have you ever gone to the zoo or a farm and fed the animals? It’s fun, right? The animals are happy to receive some food and you feel happy that you made the animals happy; it’s a win-win situation. Well, traveling on a plane for hours in a confined area requires some moments when you want to ‘feel happy,’ so food is a great way to achieve this effect, even if it only lasts for five minutes. You have to save up these moments for when your child is about to lose it because even if you bring a whole carry-on suitcase filled with food, it’s going to run out if you overuse it. And you don’t want to have to use your change of clothes from them vomiting on you because you overfeed them.
Play old-school games. Let’s face it, things can go wrong with electronics (your battery dies, no Wi-Fi or glitching (whatever that means) but it must mean something bad since my son screams the word in frustration when using electronics a lot) and kids can get bored with it. If you are relying on that cool TV in the seat, don’t because I’ve been on at least three flights where none of the televisions worked.
There are lots of old-school games like a deck of cards, Tic-Tac-Toe, or “I Spy” that are easy to play in a confined space, yet don’t take up much space in your carry-on bag. Kids of all ages usually love these games. You could even learn a card trick or two and wow your little ones with your sleight of hand.
Put each family member’s name on the outside of each passport. A fellow traveler told me this tip, and I’ve received numerous compliments about it from security and airline personnel. In fact, I’ve probably heard more compliments about my passport cover than any other parenting technique I’ve tried. So, if for no other reason, you could put the label on just to hear, “What a great idea!” It will make you feel like a good parent while standing in the three-hour security line.
The main reason for putting your name on the front cover is when you are in charge of five passports (at least I am) it prevents you from having to open each one to figure out who it belongs to. And, of course, before I labeled, I always ended up opening all five passports to get to the correct one. It makes things a little easier which is something you need when traveling with kids. And it only took less than five minutes to put a label with the name on the cover, no crafting ability necessary, I promise.
Who’s ready to hop on a plane?
Me, me! Now that I have shared my mishaps and admirations with you, hopefully you can have a fun flight with your wee ones. Yes, I did use the word fun and flying together - you have to make the best of it because once you get to your destination, it will all be a distant memory, unless you forgot your change of clothes.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in Parents Magazine, Upworthy, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, and Twins Magazine. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05. This article was originally published in Saesee Magazine.
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