We’ve had our share of shmuckin’ around airports with strollers, car seats, and heaps of luggage. Not to mention the bottles of water spilling in my purse, stuffies dangling for dear life, jackets slipping to the ground – you know the scene. And yet, our “free hands” had to hold on to our children, help them navigate the escalators and convince them to keep walking those long, long corridors. We ♥ those moving walkways!
So, how can you prepare for your flight and avoid total exhaustion before you even make it to the plane?
Keep your hands free
If you’re traveling with young children, the goal is to simplify and stay organized. Keep your own hands free of bags and other gear, so you can hold your kids’ hands and maneuver them along. Try to offload yourself of the nonessentials by checking in your bags as soon as humanly possible.
Check-in your car seats with your luggage
Often, car seats don’t qualify as approved safety restraints and aren’t allowed on airplanes. Standards across the globe will vary, so be sure to check with your airline. If you can ditch the seat, do it at the check-in counter. Hold onto your stroller – you can check it in at the gate.
Reduce your number of carry-on bags
It hard to have enough hands for your children, so secure your carry-on bags on backs – preferably not your own! Ask your kids to be “responsible” for their own bag, and remind them not to leave it on the bus, in the taxi, at the restaurant, under a chair, or on the plane.
We bring three bags onboard. One child carries the bag with onboard distractions, like books, games, colored pencils, etc. My husband carries the bag with sweatshirts and stuff we don’t want our kids to lose (camera, iPad, etc.) My bag holds the essentials like, passports, boarding passes, water bottle, chap stick, gum, chocolate (I am hiding from the kids), and a ton of other crap that I am saddled with along the way. My bag never leaves my side.
Have a bottle of water on hand at all times
Someone will get thirsty – don’t forget the water. However, remember to buy the water after you’ve gone through the security checkpoint (they are sticky about bringing liquids through security).
Keep a snack in your bag
Self-explanatory. Airlines are cheaping out now so you won’t always get the free snacks. Plus, their food is usually disgusting, so even though you will nearly inhale their rancid peanuts, it will never be enough. Note: Most flight attendants are nice people and will often give your children extra snacks – just ask them very nicely.
Use the family line when you go through security
Look for the line reserved for families with children. The line is usually shorter and the personnel (and the people in line with you) are often patient people. They know what it takes to get little people to remove shoes, take off jackets, empty pockets, etc., just to put everything back on again. The security officers are usually friendly and help you and your children move quickly through the security check. Also, a major benefit – you (or at least your children) get to bypass the full-body x-ray scanner. This line can be a real time-saver.
Make sure your children pee before you get on the plane
If you are a parent, I’m sure this advice seems obvious, but inevitably, one child will need to pee during take-off. Never fun.
Seat your wiggliest child behind your most patient family member
It is terrible having to worry about your kid kicking the back of someone else’s chair. Getting kicked in the seat is easier to tolerate if it’s your own child. Sometimes. Also, if they sit behind you, it’s easier to pretend that they belong to someone else! I realize this trick only works if you are traveling with multiple family members, like “forgiving” siblings. If your child is too young to sit apart from you, put them in the window seat. It is your best chance of containment.
Hope for sleeping children
If you skip the nap, you risk a meltdown, but a sleeping child is a godsend. Some people keep their kids awake on the day of a long flight. Tiring them out with activity could help too. We rely on hope and it has worked out fine for us. Well, hope and the Melatonin. (We aren’t doctor and aren’t recommending this medicine to you, but we’ve been known to use it here and there.) That said, many children can easily sleep on an airplane. Never wake your sleeper for the free nuts!
Bring your own ear buds for the in-flight movie
On a long flight, watching movies kills a major amount of time! You can buy headsets onboard your flight, but the cost adds up, so bring your own earbuds and enjoy the show!
Wear layers. And shoes.
While you might walk on the plane with flip-flops and shorts, you may get off in the cold, wet, snow (aka home sweet home). So layer up baby! You can get chilly on a flight and you won’t always get a blanky. There are also times you might feel hot and stuffy (especially if one’s partner happens to be the least bit claustrophobic and afraid of flying – not mentioning names here).
Whether you are flying to a warmer or colder region from where you just came, imagine that first breath of air as you exit the airport. You’ve got to be the Chuck Norris. Anticipate the punch-to-the-gut feeling of icy snow on bare ankles or the hot, wet, humidity you were dreaming about when you booked that flight.
So, wear shoes and socks, wear pants and a short sleeved shirt and bring a sweater or sweatshirt. Bring a coat if you’re headed for snow.
I hope you and your kids are all filled with excitement about your next trip and your flight will be a fun experience. Just know that eating routines and sleep schedules will be interrupted. Tired and hungry people can be bears. I hope these tips help you all feel more comfortable and happy along your way!
Do you have any tips for navigating the airport with your kids? How do you keep your family organized and happy on a flight? Please share!