Traveling with a child can be terrifying. For us, Ella’s new talents, a horror movie-caliber scream of delight that could damage eardrums, along with throwing or spitting liquids out of her mouth like a fountain, were worrisome. But there is hope! Being prepared has made for great travel experiences so I want to share my preparedness with you, in 7 easy steps!Here are some that have worked well for our family.
- Get to the airport in plenty of time to feed them a healthy, filling meal. They will be much more relaxed with a full belly. This is not the time to try new foods. Give them their favorites – ensure that they’ll eat well.
- Pack toys & books that are new to your child, or resurrect toys and books that they haven’t used or read in a while. A child is going to be much more attentive for longer with something that they haven’t seen before!
- Try to hold off on nap time, even if it’s a shorter flight. Our recent trip to Arizona was only an hour & a half and it worked like a charm. You may have a cranky baby when you board, but you’re much more likely to have a sleeping baby once you’ve taken off. **This has been the source of most of our success when we have flown.**
- Tell your kiddo about the trip that they are about to take, no matter how young they are! Explaining that we were going in the car, then a shuttle bus, then to eat at the airport, then UP in the airplane(!) was very interesting to her, and she wasn’t freaked out by any legs of our trip. I was also pleasantly surprised by her ability to recall everything that I told her as we moved along. Our kids are smart. Talking with them about what is happening is empowering to them.
- Know where to go for help. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a co-parent/someone to help, there are a few things that are very helpful to know. Check the TSA regulations before you go www.tsa.gov. You can find out how to handle strollers, shoes, electronic devices, etc there. When you check your luggage, ask the attendant if your airline has family pre-boarding. We recently flew with Southwest & their family pre-board happens after group A & their VIPs, and applies to families with children under the age of 6 – very helpful! Double check at the ticket counter when you get to your gate. Things change rapidly at airports, so it’s best to ask every step of the way. Yes, it can be exhausting and redundant, but it will save you a lot of waiting around and struggling to find a seat that you’ll all be comfortable in once you’re on the plane. If you’re traveling with another person, have a plan to divide & conquer. Open lines of communication work miracles!
- Fill your water bottle before you board & have plenty of snacks for the flight. I love to feed people so this is always at the top of my list. Some airports now have stations where you can fill your water bottles while you wait for your flight. I have started using reusable snack bags and having small portions pre-made to dole out when necessary. If I pull out the whole back of crackers, or the entire bowl of berries, she may inhale the entire supply & I cannot! let that happen, man. I need those snacks to last and so do you.
- Keep your cool.. As always, our children pick up on our moods & that energy can be contagious. If parents are stressed out, angry, anxious or upset, kiddos probably will be too. Try to see the experience through your baby’s eyes and it will be much more fun. You won’t always get to travel with them so enjoy it. Drink in these moments; they go by so very fast.
These strategies, when applied together, have ended every flight with everyone around us gushing about how well-behaved & quiet Ella was on the flight. No spitting, no horror movie screams; just great memories and a happy family.
What has worked for your family travels? Share your tips in the comments below!
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