Travelling with kids can be a challenge, as any parent knows. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the stress and nerves. Make sure your family travels without incident by following these tips.
1. Book online. Instead of dragging kids into a travel agency where they will most certainly get bored as you look over your options with the agency, check out travel websites online. You can spend as much time as you need once the kids are in bed, or while they are at school.
2. Book everything ahead of time. That means arranging and paying for not only the airline tickets, but the hotel and car as well. When you arrive at your destination, there won’t be any wandering around trying to find a vacancy, you’ll just pick up the car and go straight to your hotel. You can even take a virtual tour of many hotels online.
3. Be prepared. Bring along toys and things to keep your kids occupied on the plane. For older kids, surprise them with a fun travel game, new Game boy cartridge or a coloring book. If the flight will be particularly long, buy several treats beforehand and store them in your carry-on bag, pulling out a new item when the kids get bored and whiney.
4. Build the anticipation. For kids age 2-10, you can build up the idea of flying, especially if they haven’t been on a plane before. Learn about the kind of plane you’ll be flying on and talk frequently about how exciting it will be before you leave.
5. Pack snacks. Sure, the airlines give out snacks, but some companies are cutting back on freebies such as peanuts (which aren’t appropriate for children under 2 anyway) and cookies. To make sure your child doesn’t get grumpy waiting for his meal, bring along Cheerios or a sandwich.
6. Separate siblings. If your kids tend to squabble, it might be a good idea to sit between them! This keeps them from fighting over elbow space at least and keeps them at arms length so they can’t smack each other. Switch seats halfway through the flight if there is a window seat involved to avoid problems.
7. Play music. Bring along an iPod or Walkman for each child so they can listen to music. It helps ease nerves and keeps them occupied for good chunks of time!
8. Layer clothing. When flying from one hemisphere to another, there are climate changes to take into consideration. If you are leaving from a warm climate, but will be landing in a colder place, remember to bring sweaters for everyone onto the plane. They won’t help if you have them all packed away in the suitcases. And, if you will be landing in a warmer place, remember to wear light clothing under your winter wear.
9. Hang on to them. In a crowded airport, it is all too easy to lose a little one. Even if you lose sight of your toddler for a few seconds, it will give you a heart attack and it’s best to avoid the situation. All kids under the age of 10 should be required to physically touch a parent at all times. If you have varied ages, you might assign older kids to be responsible and hold the hands of smaller ones. This might also be a good time to buy a child-harness and use it on younger children who have the tendency to stray.
10. Stay hydrated. On airplanes, it’s very common to become dehydrated since the air is recycled and dry. To avoid this, make sure you drink lots of water and that your kids do, too. This is particularly important for nursing mothers.
11. Carry medications with you. Don’t ever leave medicine in your check-in bags, they could get lost and trying to get another prescription medicine can be a real hassle when you’re miles from home. Even over-the-counter meds like cough syrups and allergy relievers should be packed in your carry-on luggage, the last thing you want to be doing when you arrive is searching for Benadryl.
12. Fly at night. When you’re travelling with a baby, it is often a good idea to take a night flight so the child will sleep during the entire flight. This may work for older kids, too!
13. Keep the kids busy. Bring along paper and crayons so they can make cards and drawings for loved ones. These make great gifts if you are going to stay with family or friends. If not, it can be the start of a drawn travel journal to be shared with friends when they return.
14. Make it an adventure. Look out the windows at the clouds and see what you see, animals, castles, etc. What would your children do if they lived on top of the clouds? Ask the stewardess if your kids can visit the cockpit to see how the plane is flown and have them tell you all about it when they return. Most long flights are perfectly willing to have children visit with the pilots for a couple of minutes once they have reached cruising altitude.
15. Play games. There are plenty of travel games that can be adapted to planes. Word games are best for this, they can be kept fairly quiet and distract children. Memory games keep kids so busy trying to remember the order of items that they forget to fight or squirm.
16. Take shifts. If you are travelling with your spouse or another adult, it’s a good idea to take shifts with the kids. While one adult stays with them in the waiting area, playing a game, the other can go pick up the tickets and make other arrangements. Same goes for picking up your luggage and finding the rental car.
Plane travel doesn’t have to be a nightmare, if you prepare ahead of time. You know best what your kids like to do and what sort of things will distract them, these should be your surprises. For example, if you know that your son adores I Spy books, get him a new one to look at on the plane. And if your daughter is dying to get the newest boy band cd, surprise her with it once you take off.
Remember, keep things fun and safe and everything will go a lot smoother for you and your family.