We’re gearing up for a trip...
...to Portugal this summer, which starts with a 10 hour nonstop flight to London. With a 4 year old and a 7 year old, no less. But, amazingly, I’m not panicking about flying with the kids.
We spent 5 years abroad and our children were born overseas, so we've flown a lot with them, especially when they were small. In fact, Avery flew the three of us from Singapore to Hawaii with her own frequent flier miles when she was 2 1/2. We've had some great flights and some absolutely AWFUL ones.
As I’m packing for this trip, I’ve compiled a few of our best tips for flying with children for you.
- Explain to your kids where you’re going and what the day will be like. We’ve found that it really helped our kids to remain calm if they understood what was happening. For example, “We’re going to wake up really early. It will still be dark out and we’ll take a taxi to the airport. Then we’ll take one long airplane ride. Tonight you’ll sleep on the plane and when you wake up we’ll be in California”.
- Go online and scope out the airport before you go, especially if you have a layover. Look for an indoor playground and kid-friendly restaurants.
- Pack a change of clothes for kids (and parents). We were on a trip from Tokyo to San Francisco and Avery was carsick everywhere in the taxi on the way to the airport. Thanks to the Uniqlo shop in the Narita airport, I had a fresh outfit for the flight. You might not need a change of clothes every time, but you’ll be grateful for the one time when you do. In fact, pack more of everything (diapers, wipes, snacks, etc.) just in case.
- With babies, try nursing or bottle feeding on the descent to relieve ear pressure. Older children can chew gum or sip from a bottle of water. Don’t wake your baby if you’re worried about the descent. Babies won’t notice the pressure change if they’re sleeping.
- Snacks that take a long time to eat are great for passing time on the flight. Think lollipops or bagels.
- Bring kid-size headphones. They’ll be much happier watching movies if their headphones fit properly.
- Forgo your fancy diaper bag and bring a backpack as a carry-on. Because inevitably you will need your hands free to carry your child at some point. And your back will thank you.
- Buy a few new activity books or coloring books or small toys to surprise your kids with on the flight.
- Bring a box or two of colorful bandaids. At age 2-3, our kids would spend hours opening them and sticking them all over their bodies.
- Accept help from flight attendants or fellow travelers, especially if you are traveling solo with kids. Something as simple as a kind stranger offering to put your bag in the overhead bin can make a long trip just a little bit easier. And then pay it forward and help other parents when you can.
What are your favorite tricks for flying with children?