I'm not going to lie. I dread flights with my kids. They cry, throw food, kick the seats in front of them, stare awkwardly at the people behind them. During boarding, I literally run down the aisle to our seats and avoid all eye contact with my fellow passengers, because I know, at some point, they are going to hate me, and I can't bear any type of interaction beforehand or I begin to feel guilt (okay, I'm being a bit dramatic - there are always a few tolerant, helpful passengers who are, themselves, parents, and to them, I could not be more grateful. But I emphasize the word "few.") Even when traveling on a private plane a parent does not have the luxury of taking it easy.
However, that is not going to stop me from traveling with my family. Because to me, exploring the world, learning about other cultures, giving my children life experiences, and teaching them at an early age that they are blessed, is one of the most important things my husband and I can do for them. So, in an effort to help other parents view it the same way, I have compiled a list of helpful tips for airplane travel, for both commercial and private flights. Read it with an open mind and a glass of wine for courage.
1) Book flights as early as possible
This way you can pick seats close to the bathroom if you are in the toddler phase, and you will be able to reserve a coveted bassinet on longhaul flights if traveling with infants - typically only a handful are available, and allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, needless-to-say, tickets booked early tend to be cheaper.
2) Try to book domestic flights in the middle of the day
This way kids will not have to get up extra early or stay up late, thus disturbing that ever important necessity we parents call a schedule. And if your kids still nap, hopefully they will do it on the plane.
3) For red-eye flights, comfort is key
Pack a pillow, blanket, pajamas, loveys - whatever will help them get into a semblance of their nighttime routine. Never forget a swaddling blanket for newborns or a beloved stuffed animal for toddlers.
4) Get to the airport early
There is nothing worse than being late for a flight and having to rush. We all know how slow kids are - they're doing this on purpose, aren't they?? - and ample time will be needed to get them through security (especially if strollers are involved,) stop for juice, milk or forgotten snacks, make them use the restroom one more time in case taxiing to the runway takes a while, and get them situated on board. Rushed parents and kids equals stress.
5) Bring a carry-on full of surprises
The biggest issue we face flying with kids is boredom. I like to bring a variety of brand-new toys and simple objects, and pull out a different one each time I start to see movement. These can range from iPads loaded with movies and games, to coloring books and crayons, to thin, paperback picture books or stories. Even completely random items will do the trick, like a mirror from your handbag or a calculator from dads briefcase. Kids will take anything they think is a "present."
6) Snacks, snacks, snacks
A well-fed kid is a happy kid. So I have NO problem whatsoever plying them with goldfish, fruit pouches, pretzels, you name it. Plus there's the chance they will pass out after a meal.
7) When all else fails? Benadryl
Controversial? Perhaps. A desperate solution? Absolutely. Many parents swear by it - I'm merely suggesting what I've heard (promise...)
On a serious note, here is one final, helpful piece of information. I have traveled with my kids dozens of times, overseas and back, and I promise that once the flight is over and they have had one night adjusting to a new time zone, they will bounce back to the delightful kids you once knew, and you will immediately begin to enjoy your vacation. It's getting through the flight that is the hard part. Don't let that stop you. They serve wine.