Traveling with young children during the holidays can be stressful, scary, horrible, and nerve wracking. And that is everything goes well.
I remember my wife was traveling with our sons when the eldest was 4 years old, and the youngest was 3 months old or so.
As fate would have it, the flight she was on was cancelled. I was coming back from a meeting, and she called just slightly stressed out, to tell me of her predicament. Since I was close by, I ducked into the airport (pre 9/11) to help out till next her flight was called. As I was walking down Concourse D of the Atlanta airport, I saw my son running out of the bathroom without his pants. and my wife following with the newborn somewhere between tears and laughter. Traveling with little ones can be lots of work.
I hopped in and helped out, and they got on the next flight fine. But I know for a fact that when my wife arrived at her sister’s home, a glass or two of chardonney went down fairly quickly.
Our boys are older now, but we learned some important lessons about traveling with youngsters:
Tom’s Tips for Flying with Children:
- Start Packing a Week Ahead of Time: We would take over our guest room and lay everything that we needed for our boys ahead of time. There are so many things to bring when traveling with little ones, that it is almost impossible to remember everything at the last minute. And buying diaper wipes at the airport is not easy. I know.
- Bring Twice as as Many Toys For the Airplane: Little children have the attention span of mice. The coloring book will last 3 minutes, the read along book will take 10 minutes, ripping apart the airplanes magazine gets you 5 minutes. We ended up having a small roll aboard that the kids would take just for their entertainment. These days a 2 hour flight really is an hour getting to the airport, 2 hours at the airport, and 2 hours for the flight. Way to long for kids to get bored for. And that is not taking into account delays and cancellations.
- Take an extra change of clothes in your carry-on: even for the 5–7 year old. Spills happen, accidents happen. Our son got motion sickness driving to the airport once, and took out his “perfect for the in-laws outfit” before we hit the airport. Needless to say, we always pack extra clothes.
- Bring baby wipes: even when they are older. See above. Baby wipes are a travelers best friend, we still pack them when we travel as they have been designed to clean the worst nature has to offer.
- BRING SNACKS!: Odds are you will be in seats as to be served last by the flight attendants even if there is a snack available for the flight. Feeding kids through out the flight small snacks burns time.
- Bring chewing gum or a pacifier for smaller children: The pressure of take off and landing affects little ones much more than it does most adults. Chewing helps relieve the pressure, and relaxes your fellow passengers. A screaming kid at the beginning of a flight does not make friends. We get one of the big rolls of bubble gum tape for each trip. The rolls never run out.
- Recognize that your children will not be perfect: Most people will be understanding, and those who react harshly to your kids would have if they had been angels anyway. If you are calmer, so are the children.
We have flown close to 75,000 miles with our eldest, and 50,000 miles with our youngest. It rarely goes perfectly, but teaching your children what is expected of them, and explaining it to them ahead of time, gives you a chance to make your travels much more pleasurable.