If you’re a parent with a child below five years old, you might be thinking that flying with young kids is virtually impossible. After all, even just a simple trip to the mall already leaves you exhausted, right?
Well, the truth is, plane rides with little kids can actually be a fun experience — as long as you’re well-prepared, of course. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Ask your airline if you can choose your seats in advance. Take note that children are not allowed to sit in exit rows, and that some airlines may not allow you to select your seats. If the latter applies to you, ask the airline personnel which would be the best seats for you and your child.
It may also help to check if your airline gives priority boarding to passengers with babies and young children. Although most airlines do so, it’s still best to be sure.
2. Hang on to your stroller until you board the plane. Having a stroller will be extra handy when you’re still roaming around the airport, waiting for your flight. If your flight is delayed, your child will have a comfortable and clean place to rest. Your stroller can also double as a “cart” where you can place some of your carry-on luggage.
In most cases, passengers can keep their strollers until it’s boarding time. The airline personnel will then ask you to leave it with them before you step into the plane.
3. Babywear if you can. If you’re not a fan of lugging around a stroller during your trip, you might want to wear your child instead. With so many types of baby carriers available these days, you certainly won’t be lacking on choices.
Whatever carrier you opt to use though, make sure that you have practiced wearing your child before your actual flight and that you follow the instructions for safe babywearing.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of wearing your little one, you’ll find that doing so makes everything — even long airplane rides — so much easier.
4. Pack everything you’ll need… and then some. Make sure that you have everything you need in your carry-on bag or baby/diaper bag. Below is a list of some things you should definitely bring:
• Diapers (if your child still uses them): To help you determine the number of diapers you need to bring, think of how many diapers you’d normally bring for a day out with your child, then add three more.
• Change of clothes: For babies and toddlers, three or four sets for a 3-4 hour flight should suffice. For preschoolers, the same applies, though you might want to include extra underwear, especially if your child is already toilet trained but still prone to “accidents.” Of course, you’ll need more clothes for longer flights. Don’t forget to bring extra clothes for yourself, too, in case of emergencies (like diaper “blowouts”!).
• Feeding gear: If you’re breastfeeding, a nursing cover might come in handy, although some nursing moms prefer not to use them. The good thing about breastfeeding is that you don’t need to worry about bringing along bottles, formula, and other things when you travel.
If you’re not breastfeeding and bringing along formula, make sure that you are aware of security rules in airports. You are usually not allowed to bring bottles of water through security gates, but can bring empty bottles or cups. If you’re going to purchase bottled water for mixing with formula, make sure that it comes from a reputable source, and that you have clearance from security to use it.
• Snacks: As much as possible, feed your child before you board the plane. You would also do well to bring his/her favorite snacks with you. Most airlines allow parents traveling with infants and young children to bring their kids’ food on board. If you want to make sure you’re not violating any airline rules, call ahead and ask them about it.
• Zipped plastic bags: These will come in handy when you need to keep soiled diapers or clothes.
• Empty food containers: Young children are known to leave meals half-eaten or untouched, so having an empty container on hand will be useful when you need to keep the food your child didn’t finish. (They also double as “toys” for the child with a good imagination!)
• Baby wipes: These will prove extra useful not just for diaper changes but for cleaning dirty hands and faces, wiping up spills, and even cleaning surfaces at the airport or in the airplane that your child may come in contact with.
• Toys, books and other “distraction devices”: Bring along two or three of your child’s favorite toys and books.
5. Take your “distraction devices” out one at a time. Don’t take out all your packed toys, books and other items all at once. When your child starts becoming fussy during your flight, give him one toy, or read him one book first. This way, you can be sure that you have enough “surprises” to last him the whole trip.
6. Nurse or bottle-feed your baby. Prevent ear pressure problems during take-off and landing by breastfeeding your baby or toddler, or having him/her suck on a bottle. Older children can suck on a piece of candy or chew gum, as long as they already know how to do so.
If your child can follow instructions, you can also tell him to open his mouth wide (show him how to do so) to help prevent ear pressure problems.
7. Relax and rely on the kindness of strangers. As a mom who has taken a good number of plane rides with either a baby, toddler or preschooler, another piece of advice I can give parents who plan to fly with their little kids is this: “Relax.” Enjoy the ride as much as possible, even if you’ll be spending most of it tending to your little one.
Also, don’t underestimate the kindness of your co-passengers. During the rare times when one of our kids acted up during a flight, it was usually a fellow passenger who “saved the day” for us — by distracting him with funny faces and sounds, or even just a simple smile.
So, don’t be afraid to take plane rides with your little kids! Traveling with your children is one way to make meaningful memories together.
What tips can you share for surviving plane rides with kids? Let us know by leaving a comment below.