Last week, we shared a ton of tips for flying with littles (click HERE if you missed it!). As we were putting the finishing touches on the post, we kept thinking of more things that we do/pack/plan! So here are some more that we thought of and wanted to record.
1. If the airport has a kid’s play area and you have time, GO THERE. Yes, it may be germ-infested. But grab a coffee on the way there and enjoy watching other parents have a break while you do, too. No play area? Find a corner where your kids can run and jump and be a little bit louder than normal. They. Are. Kids. And traveling with them for 20+ hours does not eliminate their need to move and have some freedom – it highlights it. Another idea: find the moving sidewalks or escalators and ride them over and over and over.
2. Communicate well with your spouse about the kids! If you go off to check the flight status, make sure you both know which child(ren) are going with you. We had a terrible scare in an airport one time because Ruth came running after me and Clara when we went to check on our flight and I had no clue she was behind us. When we returned to our seats and Ruth wasn’t there, we panicked. Praise the Lord that an airline employee saw her standing in the concourse alone and took her to the counter before starting to call around on the radio. The whole ordeal lasted less than two minutes, but is seared in my memory.
3. If possible, reserve food on the plane. Alaska Airlines food is quite tasty, so we reserve something for each of us. It beats having to buy food at the airport and carry it onto the plane because the food they serve is hot (or cold, depending), fresh, and a good variety. Alaska Airlines also has a kids pack with lots of fun snacks in it.
4. Make a super big deal about getting a coffee, smoothie, or juice box in the airport. Allen and I always get coffee when we travel (not just because we’re exhausted – though we are – but more because having coffee together has always been one of our ways to connect) and our kids know this. But we make it a big deal: “We’re getting coffee! Do you want a juice box? That’ll be so yummy! What juice box do you want? Hold it please! Great, now put it on the counter! Say thank you!”
5. Smile encouragingly at other parents. They may be totally frazzled. I’ve told other parents with littles in a stroller, “You’ve got this! Solidarity!” and I think it embarrasses Allen, but everyone likes knowing they aren’t alone in whatever venture they’re on.
6. Talk to your kids about what to expect and what your expectations are for them. We always tell our kids, “As soon as we get off the plane, wait for mommy and daddy to get the stroller. Then we’ll go potty.” Or, “After we go potty, we’ll get some snacks and play!” Or, “The airport is very busy, so we need you to sit patiently in the stroller while we find our gate. Remember, patience is waiting quietly until its your turn.” This helps them know what’s going on, but also makes sure Allen and I are on the same page.
7. Buy travel insurance. Once, we were trying to fly home from Oregon and due to storms in Portland, our flight was cancelled. We ended up overnighting in Seattle and our travel insurance paid for a (really really nice) hotel room and all of our meals.
8. Use the family bathrooms. We’ll go out of our way to find a family bathroom and we all crowd in with our stroller and bags. We change diapers (and clothes, if necessary), everyone goes potty, and we freshen up a little.
9. Give yourself more time than you think you need. Coming home from Alabama one time, we had to drive from Prattville to Atlanta, GA. We ended up running late and one thing led to another (it’s a long, funny story) and before we knew it, we were literally SPRINTING down the concourse to get to our flight, only to be told they had just removed us from the flight and were seconds away from closing the door. I asked breathlessly, “Well, can you put us back on?!” And they graciously did! When we got on board, our seats were the only ones left open. And when I pulled Ruth out of the carrier she’d been in, she had leaked out of her diaper and onto both of us. But the plane was literally pulling away and taking off, so I held a messy baby for about 30 minutes before we reached cruising altitude and I could get up. It was so bad. So anyway, give yourself extra time: getting to the airport, checking in, getting to your gate… inevitably, someone will need a diaper change or need to go potty or get hungry. Build in a buffer.
10. Put shoes on your kids that will stay on. Our girls usually wear tennis shoes with Velcro straps. We’ll sometimes take them off when we get on the plane and put them somewhere secure, but we do not want to chase shoes all through the airport and all over the plane. Little kids don’t have to take their shoes off for the TSA screening, so that isn’t a worry.
11. Speaking of TSA screening: Allen and I usually each have a carry on, but we put all the snacks, toiletries, and baby wipes (which they always want to check) in one bag. That way, we only have to open one bag up to go through security. While one of us is getting those things out, the other is holding/corralling kids and keeping them entertained.
12. Notice I didn’t mention taking iPads or other electronics out in the previous tip. We don’t always have our iPad with us when we fly. We only bring it if we think one of us adults will use it; we don’t typically bring it for our kids to use. Now, we know that iPads can be lifesavers when it comes to long flights and layovers. And the times we’ve had it, we’ve used it. The times we didn’t, we never thought, “Wow, I wish we had that iPad.” Our kids have just adapted and played with whatever they could find.
13. We pack a ton of Velcro straps and elastic straps to keep things together (literally and figuratively). We mentioned before that we strap our luggage together, we attach the kids’ backpacks to our stroller, etc. This leaves our hands free for other things (like coffee – see number 4).
14. We also have our girls pack their own carry-ons now. They choose a book or two and whatever toys they want for the plane. It’s so funny what they pack. On our last flight, Ruth put in a stuffed animal that she never plays with and Clara packed some bath toys. But whatever. They packed it, they carry it (unless it is strapped to the stroller). We always have veto power, but for the most part, we let what they pack slide.
15. We are pretty laid back travelers, but there are a couple rules we enforce:
– We DO NOT EVER let our kids kick the seats in front of us.
– If we are sitting by a stranger, we make sure our kids stay in their space, not oozing over into the other person’s seat.
– When that seatbelt sign is on, we make our kids sit down and buckle up. We explain that the pilot asks us to so that we are safe. And sometimes, yes, they throw a fit about it. So we distract them with something else and continue to enforce that rule.
– We also try to have them watch the flight attendants’ safety demonstrations out of respect and kindness.
Other than that, most things slide. While at cruising altitude with the seat belt sign off, we let them play on the floor, stand up and play on their seat, walk to the bathroom, stand on their seats, etc. If they start talking or laughing semi-loudly, that’s okay. If they start screeching, that’s another story and we stop that right away.
16. We always try to get seats together, but there was one flight when Allen and Clara were in one part of the plane and I was in a totally different section with Ruth and Hudson. The plane was packed and there was no way we could switch things around. But halfway through the flight, we switched kids! It allowed them to have a change of scenery and gave them something new to see and experience. We’d still prefer to sit together (obviously), but it was a nice way to make the most out of something that wasn’t so great.
17. Generally, people on planes have been kind and understanding about our kids. (Though there was one time, when Ruth was itty bitty, that she was trying to make eye contact with the guy across the aisle and he wanted NOTHING TO DO with her. He asked to change seats as soon as we boarded – rude – and was just super standoffish, even though Ruth did so well on that flight.) We’ve had people offer to hold Hudson while I helped a kiddo deal with a tough travel moment (see below), give our kids little toys or candy (after asking us), help with our stroller, point out if we’ve dropped something or left something behind… at the end of the day, people just want to get to their destination as smoothly as possible and most of them want to help others do the same.
18. Finally, when our kids get really upset about whatever-it-is, we usually just snuggle them. They aren’t acting out because they’re terrible people (though they are indeed born with a sin nature). They’re usually acting out because they’re tired or hungry and everything is different and they want that one toy they didn’t pack in their carry-on. On one flight, Ruth woke up from a nap really abruptly and just freaked out. She was crying and trying to lay back down but couldn’t get comfortable. She ended up in the aisle of the airplane, just crying. A passenger across the aisle offered to hold Hudson, so I got out of my seat, knelt down with Ruth, and held her on my lap in the aisle for a couple minutes while she calmed down. The plane was packed and I’m sure some people thought, “Just pick her up! Get back in your seat, crazy lady!” But I am Ruth’s mama and I’ll do what’s best for her, not for Roger in 27D. After a few minutes, we stood up, got back in our seat, and carried on. Another time (actually, this was the same trip…), we were in line at Starbucks in Seattle and Clara had a meltdown. She just laid down on the floor of the café, crying. So I bent over, gently picked her up, rubbed her back, and just talked with her. She calmed down relatively quickly and drank her smoothie.
If we think of more things, we’ll be sure to add them in a future post. Of course, these are mostly geared towards toddlers/preschool age kids (because let’s be honest, traveling with infants is a piece of cake. They eat and sleep the whole time.). As our kids age, I’m sure some things will change.
Do you have older kids? What are your travel tips with them?