Traveling with children can be great family fun creating strong unforgettable life-lasting moments; however, it can be an exhausting experience as well. At this stage of our life, we have around 5-7 family flight trips per year. But a couple of years ago, when the kids were smaller and we used to live in Romania, we were traveling by plane almost every month to spend a long weekend at our house in Lithuania. Many of these flights I made without my husband, but with two really small kids and a dog on the top of that. It looked something like this: I was holding my baby girl in one hand, the dog in a dog’s bag in the other hand, the backpack or a huge handbag with diapers, baby food, baby bottles and toys on the shoulder and an active happy toddler running around. There was no direct flight option, so we were making one stop in Vienna. It was always a bus transfer to the second plane, and there were always endless stairs to reach that buss and no elevator. If I was taking a baby stroller with me (which I did in most of the cases), my toddler was running down the stairs and I was carrying the stroller, the baby and the dog downstairs by myself. During so many of the flights that I made then, I had someone who helped me only twice, I think. Usually, people are busy with their own problems and tired to see someone struggling. The assistants at the gate were never available to help either, as they were not able to leave the gate. When I look back, I cannot understand how I managed to do this and why I was doing this. I guess I was just very homesick. But, what does not kill us, makes us stronger.
So many accidents happened during my flying with kids experience: the diaper exploded, kids peed in their pants, the dog made poo in the middle of the security gate, kids spilled orange juice on me, kids threw up, I threw up (this was the worst one) …
As you can see, I have certainly lots of experience traveling by plane with kids. Nowadays, we do not travel with the dog any more, as this is not an option in UAE, and of course kids outgrew the diaper age and are not so small. However, traveling with kids is always different from adults only traveling.
Having traveled by plane so much in the past years alone, with both kids and a dog, I feel that I have acquired more experience than anyone should ever have for traveling with children on a plane. Therefore, I would like to share some of my strategies for the preparation to travel with kids by plane, because it is always worth planning a bit in advance.
Check in early
If you are flying with young kids, you’ll be struggling to sit all together if you leave it to late check in. Certainly, the child is not going to sit separated from his parents, but arranging change of seats on board before the take-off is such unnecessary waste of time and damage of your serenity. So do this online as soon as the check-in opens.
Extra pair of clothes
Bring an extra pair of cloths for kids and for yourself as well. I can tell you from my experience, you would not want to spend the rest of the flight covered in orange juice or vomit after a bad accident while flying.
Newer forget wet wipes. Even if my kids are not babies any more, I find that baby wet wipes are the best option to clean the hands, face, wipe noses or clothes on the go. You might take disinfectant wipes instead, but I personally prefer simple baby wipes, because disinfectant wipes horribly dry out and irritate the skin.
Small backpack for kids
Have each child bring a small backpack of their own (if age applicable) because you cannot have everything in yours. Avoid really cute pull bags or kids’ suitcases. Believe me, you will end up pulling or carrying them in addition to your own carry-ons during the walk through the airport. They are designed for children’s height that makes them so uncomfortable to pull for adults, that is why during the tantrum a small backpack is much easier to handle.
Activity before flight
While waiting for the flight, let the kids walk around, let the baby crawl, use this time for exercise. This is not the time to sit still, the whole flight they will need to, so now is the time to use that energy.
De-germ your space
Take a sanitizer spray with you to the plane and treat your and kids seats spaces. It will take just a few moments to de-germ your place but it might be the biggest investment in preventing your family from some horrible illness. No one wants to get a stomach flu, high fever or herpes, especially during the trip. You have no idea who was in your seats before, and having seen so many kids sucking or chewing their seat belts during my flights experience, I can assure you it is better to sanitize everything for your peace of mind instead of having a shock every time seeing your child licking or chewing something. Just spray as much space as possible around you and sit relaxed. Use a sanitizer for your hands during your flight as well, preferably after each toilet use. Even if you wash your hands, there are so many people who did not do that before touching the door handle.
De-germ your body
Use Tantum verde or other alcohol based spray for sour throat during the flight. I know, it sounds strange. But the air you breathe on the plane is a bit different and, the plane has one of the smallest volumes of air per person of just about any enclosed public place that makes exposure of people to airborne germs greater. I find consuming a tiny amount of alcohol works as an inside sanitizer. An alcohol based spray for the throat is a nice alternative that is also safe for kids.
The air in the plane’s cabin is so different from what we usually breathe. The typical cabin is exceptionally dry and dehydrating – around 12 percent humidity only, it is drier than you will find in most deserts. That is why it is very important to drink lots of water (not juice or vine) during the flight as well as apply moisturizer onto the face, hands and lip balm on the lips. You do not want your kids ending irritated because of the dehydration or cracked lips. Well-hydrated skin is a much better barrier to infection than dry, cracked skin as well. Moisturize a couple of time during the flight and after every hand washing.
Make regular toilet stops. First of all, make sure everyone uses the bathroom before departure. “I don’t need to go” can quickly swing to the other end of the scale and believe me, there is nothing more annoying than sitting in a wet chair.
This is one of the most important factors that make a big difference in your flight experience. Give them a cookie, bagel, muffin, candy or soft drink and wait for the endless blood glucose and mood roller coaster and elevated activity levels. And this is the opposite from what you want in the plane – you want them to sit still for at least a couple of hours. Sometimes you need to search for the food that is not going to give you trouble later in the airports, as they like to sell easy and fast foods that are mainly all sorts of desserts or other carbohydrates in the airports. The food that is served during the flight is not the best option either, especially the kids’ menu as. I would suggest to be prepared from home. You can pack a family lunchbox with vegetables, ham, nuts, fruits. Believe me, kids that go sugar high because of the carbohydrates and sugar are not easy to manage. This is where the boredom, unacceptable noise and activity levels are from.
I am not a fan of lots of toys, or gifts during the flight, as they all end up under your seat and either you lose them or ask other people to help to pass them, and at the end, the kids are never interested in them for a long time. I think it is just a waste of money and additional weight to carry. We start the flight with the stuff that is “good for kids” – reading books, coloring, activity books. We make an agreement before the flight for how long they will do these activities. The excuse – it is boring – is not accepted. Later, there is a snack break. And finally, there comes the time for electronics. This is the best boredom buster so far for kids and adults as well. If you are lucky to have an onboard entertainment station, it is very nice, as they can play or watch movies. If no, give them an IPad or IPhone loaded with kids’ games. Just make sure it is fully charged. If you ask them to make a break and read a book while they are playing a game already, it would be mission impossible. But to let them play and watch movies all the time during a long flight is not a good idea either. That is why it is better to make an agreement about these two different types of activities.
At this time of the year so many families are traveling. Airports are busy and crowded. It is so easy to get lost in all that chaos. My final advice to survive traveling by plane with kids and stay calm would be never come to the flight unprepared. The strategies that I have developed during my flying experience and shared with you help me a lot. I hope they will help you, too.
Have a great and easy going flight!