I have read so many articles and blogs about how important it is to travel with your kids especially when they are young. It helps them to be well rounded, experience other cultures, see the amazing wonders our world has to offer and to be confident in their abilities to explore and enjoy new things. Check yes! I want all these things for my kids even if they are 2 years old and content with their regular daytime routine. I want my kids to learn to be flexible, appreciate and be excited for change and I want to do everything I can to fuel their imagination and love for adventure. These kinds of posts send me into daydream mode as I plan amazing vacations and adventures for my family. However the reality of this daydream sets in once you add the actual tiny humans into the equation.
Don't get me wrong all those goals are good and possible in every way but let's not forget the reality of traveling with tiny humans. I have 3 so it's very real. There are many aspects to consider and outcomes to expect when traveling with young children. The first mental block I have to overcome is the actual traveling part. How are we going to get there and how painful is it going to be? Our family has traveled by plane and car, there are pros and cons to both. For the most part I prefer traveling by car but being able to fly is nice if the driving time would be over 10 hours. Entertaining kids and retaining your sanity on long trips can often be challenging and taking that long trip on a plane adds a new set of challenges. If you are in your car and your kid is screaming you can just deal with it, but on a plane you will start to imagine angry glances and frustrated whispers from the other passengers, or there may actually be real angry glances and whispers. I will share a few things that my husband and I have found to be helpful when flying with young kids.
Bring their car seat on the plane
I have found that bringing our kids car seats on the plane with us makes things a lot smoother. Having their car seat allows your child to be contained in a way that they are used to and comfortable with. They are already used to sitting in their car seats for long periods of time in the car so having them on the plane is calming and comforting. Being buckled in their car seat also helps to prevent the idea that they can get out of their seat from ever forming, which is always a bonus.
Wait to board the plane till the last minute
Many airline companies provide early boarding for families. This is really quite nice as it takes a long time to get everyone situated on the plane and settled in. However the downside is that once you are boarded on the plane there is usually several minutes before the plane actually takes off. In that amount of time your child's excitement of flying on a plane can turn to frustrated squirming, angry outburst or tantrums which are never fun. For these reasons we have found that waiting till the last minute to board our kids is the best solution for anyone with in hearing distance of our child's screams. Don't get me wrong, you should still take full advantage of early boarding. If you are traveling with another adult have them board early with the carry on bags and car seats. They can get everything ready so when it's time for your kids to board the process is calm and smooth.
Pack a surprise pack for your child
Any time we go on a trip I pack a surprise pack for my kids. I get their backpacks and pack books, doodle pads, and maybe a few toys that do not have the potential to roll away. I prefer the travel size magnetic doodle pads over a coloring book and crayons. I just picture my child accidentally spilling her crayons and watching as they roll all over the floor of the plane. I try to pack items that are new or rarely used so they are exciting, thus hopefully increasing the attention my child will devote to it. To make this possible, without having to buy new books and toys every trip, I keep a tote full of “travel” books and toys that I can use in their surprise pack.
Save the electronics for last
Thanks to electronics I feel like entertaining kids while traveling is a lot easier. I could give my kid the tablet with a long list of downloaded shows from Netflix at the beginning of the trip and that would most likely entertain them for hours. However, I am of the opinion that doing so would be a disservice to my child. I feel like my child can benefit greatly from learning how to entertain themselves by looking out the plane window, people watching, looking at everything around them on the plane or looking at those magazines that are filled with things we all want but would never really use. After they have done all this I pull out their surprise pack, we read books, draw and play. Snack time on a plane is always fun and exciting. Only after we have used up all the other entertainment possibilities do we get out the electronics along with our child friendly headphones. Please bring headphones. As much as the other passengers don't want to hear your child crying they also don't want to hear Elsa singing or Talking Tom being punched over and over again.
With all this being said, flying with kids really isn't that bad, hopefully most kids find it exciting and fun like mine do. Being prepared always make the trip smoother and hopefully your child will hunker down and take a nice nap at some point in the flight.