Take Your Kids Traveling – How to Fly with your Kids and Not Go Crazy

Flying high above the Pacific

Credit: Jyri Engestrom

A lot of people think the arrival of a child immediately means the end of your adventuresome days on the open road, that parenthood suddenly disqualifies you from any further cultural discovery. While there may be certain aspects of travel you must throw in the closet with the old coats, there’s simply no reason why parents should cease to get on planes.

Our Take Your Kids Traveling series was created to help combat the misconception that having kids immediately precludes enjoyable world travel.

I felt the best way to do this is to provide evidence. I went out and solicited stories and tips from real-time parent travelers to see how they did it. I was delighted to be greeted with a chorus of voices that told me people actually do love traveling with their kids. And they weren’t just saying it.

Coming in with a reassuring voice almost immediately was new mom and perennial Francophile, Claudine Musgrove Pedersen from Seattle. Claudine managed to get the hang of baby life on a plane quickly and now feels comfortable flying with her one-year-old, Bailey. But always with preparation.

She had this to say:

I have always loved to travel. Countless trips to Europe and all over the states. I loved the experience of seeing the world and getting on a plane with a good book, lots of movies and some Valium! That has completely changed since I had my son a year ago. Gone are the days of watching movies and dozing off. Forget sleeping on a plane anymore! I have traveled with my son on two separate trips to Europe and a flight to and from Utah. As far as travel advice, my biggest advice is to BE PREPARED. Have everything completely organized before you go. I pack separate zip lock bags for everything, so I can just pull out whatever I need in a flash. A zip lock bag for toys. One for snacks. One for extra clothes. One for formula/bottles. One for liquids that will need to be taken out at security. The thing you learn is that you no longer have a carry on for yourself. Your baby’s stuff takes up ALL the room.

Traveling with a child is an exhausting adventure. But it’s invigorating when it’s over. Knowing you survived it and you were able to take your baby through that experience of seeing different parts of the world (even if he won’t remember.. you’ll have pictures at least). I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment when the trip is over. It’s a test of patience and endurance. During the whole trip, you find yourself saying “I am NEVER” doing this again. But once a couple of months have passed, I always find myself checking out airfares to the next destination. If you survived it once…surely you can do it again!

Kids on a plane

Kids on a plane. Credit: anyjazz65

Jeremy Branham is a dad of two and has far from slowed down since becoming a parent. He gives some very comforting advice about how to keep kids occupied while on board a long flight, which, I might add, could be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but also the most satisfying – because you managed to not kill them along the way!

Jeremy has distraction tips for the two kid versions: the half < 3 and the half > 3.

On board entertainment (3 and under ) – Kids age 3 and under may not understand what is going on, so the flight, while something new, may be a major interruption to their schedule. Be patient and be willing to spend a lot of hands-on time with them.  Trade off with your spouse, partner, friends, or family if they are traveling with you.

For younger kids, pack a bag just for them filled with new toys, games, coloring books, and snacks.  Give them something to eat or drink when you take off and land to help the pressure in their ears.  Entertain them by pulling out new things to play with.  And when they are tired of that, pull out something else new and exciting (dollar store gifts are great for travel).  Take the little ones for a walk up and down the aisle if necessary (and when safe to do so) and meet the flight attendants.

If you can afford it, bring along the car seat if it will make your child more comfortable (it’s also safer).  The key is to make this as fun as possible.  There may be some rough moments but realize that sometimes a tired child is just going to be fussy.

On board entertainment (3 and older) – For older kids, this really isn’t a problem as they have their iPods, iPhones, video games, and in-flight entertainment to keep them entertained.  If you have kids still used to a nap time, set aside a nap time on the plane.

While long flights can be tough, be creative.  Make up stories using the safety manual giving the characters names.  Make your air sickness bag a puppet and have your child draw and color it.  If they are old enough, provide some reading material on your destination and learn some facts about where you are going.  Make up games or plan “to do” lists for when you arrive and let your child have input.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be adding more to this series from people who will very likely change the way you feel about hauling all the gear to the airplane door, all by folks who know it well, the best parents and family bloggers on the Web.

If you are looking to start planning your big trip with the family, click on the red banner below, map it, price it and submit it!

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