How to navigate holiday air travel with kids

December 12, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

If you’re traveling by plane without children this holiday season, good for you. But if you’re like many tired, desperate-to-get-to-your-destination parents with small children in tow, take heart.

The thought of bringing small children on a plane can put the most laid back parents into panic mode. But you can travel with kids and still keep your sanity.

Here are 7 tips for a smoother flight when you’ve got little ones on board:

  1. Plan ahead – Try to schedule flight times during your child’s regular nap time if possible. Choose seats at the back of the plane, where you’ll be near the bathroom, there is more space, and noise is better contained.

  2. Build excitement – Build positive anticipation for your child in the days leading up to your trip. Point out planes flying in the sky and talk about the upcoming “adventure in the sky.”

  3. Pack wisely – Knowing what to pack can make all the difference. If your child brings a small backpack, avoid the pull bag, which often creates more hassle. Have these items handy in your carry-ons:
    • An extra outfit – Kids are notorious for spilling stuff, and you never know when air sickness will strike. Always pack a change of clothes for you and your child.
    • A comfort item – Bring your child’s favorite blanket (planes can be chilly) and favorite stuffed animal/toy.
    • Snacks/drinks – Snacks (cheese, breadsticks, bananas, etc.) can satisfy hungry bellies and serve as a good distraction. Avoid sticky or messy foods. Have water bottles/juice boxes on hand.
    • Medicine – Bring a small first aid kit with medicine, Band-Aids, etc. Try out medicine ahead of time so you know how your child reacts to it.
    • Games/entertainment – You’ll need some toys/activities (doodle pads, crayons, stickers, little notebooks, etc.). Bring one for each child to avoid fighting. An iPod with kid-friendly apps/games and headphones is always a plus.
    • The element of surprise – Throw in a few surprises, like a new book or toy that your child hasn’t seen before, and break it out when you need it. This, my friends, can be a lifesaver.
    • Wipes, toiletries – Wipes/hand sanitizers are essential for washing hands and sanitizing. Don’t forget pull-ups, if needed, and large Ziploc bags/plastic bags for trash/soiled clothes.

  4. Burn energy before boarding – Most kids have a difficult time sitting still for an extended time, so walk your little one around as much as possible before boarding the plane to get his/her energy out. Have everyone use the restroom before boarding.

  5. Play it safe – Fast moving kids in a crowded airport can be nerve-wracking. Some parents opt for a stroller, carrier or a backpack with a leash (yes, we said it).

  6. Time for take-off – During take-off and landing, have your child drink something to help with ear popping. Make it into a game where your child tells you when you’re finally in the air/on the ground.

  7. Breathe – In and out. It’s important.

Even if you follow all of the above, flying with small kids can be unpredictable. Just remember, if your child is an unruly mess on the flight, most people will understand — especially if they see you making an effort. Some parents have even resorted to handing out peace offerings (aka candy and earplugs) to nearby passengers.

If you still encounter some grumpy folks, don’t sweat it. Soon you’ll be off the plane … and hopefully you’ll never, ever have to see those people again!

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