Travelling With Kids for the Wanderlust Parent: Part 2 (The Flight)

In part 1 of my blog, I outlined our family's tips on how to prepare before leaving on your family vacation. We have learned a lot from our travels with our 3 year old and 17 year old children, travelling to over 14 countries! Below you will find our tips on making your flight with your children a smooth one!

The Flight

1.    As soon as you board the plane, decide who goes where. Our littlest (3yr) usually gets the window as it gives us extra in-flight entertainment tools and gives me peace of mind that he won’t be getting bumped by carts or people travelling down the aisle, or bumped by falling items from people opening overhead bins during the flight.

2.    Settle into your seats. Remove young kids’ shoes so they don’t get everything dirty and find a spot for everything you need for the flight (the activity bag you prepared, sweaters/blankets you brought, water bottles). I find this initial, intentional distribution of items reduces the risk of forgetting items on the plane on your way out.

3.    Do double check you have found the correct seats (the seats indicated in your ticket), before settling into your seats. I can tell you from experience it is not a happy moment when someone shows up at your seat claiming that’s their spot and you have to remove quickly everything you’ve so neatly organized, and your kid’s complaining because they’d already warmed up to the idea of the other seat, even if the new one is identical…sigh.

4.    Hydrate yourself and your kids continuously. I also make it a point of giving my kids water on take-off and landing, as swallowing relieves pressure in the ears. I find this works better than the trick of chewing gum, especially for toddlers. I advise bringing your own water bottles (you can refill after security before boarding at the gate) or buying disposable water bottles near the gate before boarding. This way, you won’t depend on the flight attendants bringing you water, which they won’t be able to do every time someone is thirsty or eating a snack and definitely not at take-off and landing.

5.     Don’t assume the airline’s inflight entertainment will cater to toddlers or that it will be working/available. I’ve been on flights where all of the games were too advanced for my toddler. I have also found myself on a 3-hour flight on an old plane that didn’t even have screens on the seats, just a plug on the armrest for music. Yeah, those still exist. Some airlines cater to families, and those will provide better coverage, but don’t assume. You can visit their websites in advance to check but better yet, bring your own back up for screen time (i.e. a tablet or device that is charged and loaded with appropriate content and works offline).

6.     Pace your child’s activities. Don’t let your kids see all the items you’ve prepared all at once, as that will do away with the element of “new” and surprise, which is highly engaging.

7.     Change your child’s activity periodically, alternating between sedentary and dynamic, fine motor and gross motor activities.Depending on your child’s attention span, the appropriate time to change activity can vary (for my 3yr old it’s around 20min), but generally once he starts to get restless! So, I will give him something to color, then switch building blocks, then to walk down the aisle, then a snack, then a screen time activity, then silly putty (use with supervision, I find it’s small and not sticky like playdough, therefore not as messy), then tangrams, then “head, shoulder, knees and toes” stretching over by the bathroom sections of the plane, or yoga poses, or a potty outing. I hope this paints the picture. When you are on 6-10hr flights or more, you have to be creative and have variety. There are plenty of ideas available online, prepare in advance. Here’s one I liked: http://www.toddlerapproved.com/2010/03/airplane-traveling-with-toddlers.html 

8.    Find the appropriate time on the flight schedule to get your child to turn everything off and wind down enough to sleep.A tired child will be cranky, fussy and uncooperative. I find that with all the stimulus onboard (other passengers, overhead lights including plane mood lights which passengers can’t control, so many screens on the seats, noises, unrequested meal times) my son needs help shutting down, so I use a large scarf or pashmina to attach to seats as possible to build a little cocoon over him in order to tune the world out. When he was a baby, the breastfeeding cover did the trick.

My final blog post will cover what you can do to make your travels easier at the destination. 

Stay Tuned! 

Fanny - Passionate Mom, Stepmom, Godmother