How to Make Family Travel Easier on an Airplane
The first time I traveled with my first child on an airplane was when he was 7 weeks old. A pediatrician gave permission and we embarked on a 2 hour flight from San Francisco to Seattle. Fast forward to 2018, we are a party of four that includes a 4 and 5-year-old. My kids have been on more flights than some of my adult friends! Like many families, we didn’t want to give up exploring new cities or visiting our families because we had little ones. It’s hard to get past the anxiety of traveling with kids. How do you make family travel easier? It can all be wrapped up in one word…..preparation.
Here are my tips based from my experience traveling on airplanes with my kids. There have been times when I’ve been shocked about how easy it was and there were times when I couldn’t look anyone in the eye as we de-boarded the plane. All we can do is our very best, be present with our kids during the flight and shake off the bad vibes!
Divide and Conquer
As we’ve plotted our plan of attack for making family travel easier I’ve considered many different seating options. I’ve heard of one parent getting a break while the other handles the kids and then switching off as all hell breaks loose. Personally, I need all hands on deck and my husband and I can split a bottle of wine later. What has worked best for us is my husband and my oldest son sit directly in front of me and my youngest son. My youngest son insatiably kicks the seat in front of him, so this seating arrangement allows me to focus on entertaining just one child and he can kick his brother’s chair the whole way if he wants!
At first, I thought boarding early was a great benefit, but really it just prolong’s the inevitable. My kids are going to eventually get antsy and start fidgeting and asking for stuff. The longer they are in those seats the faster it’s going to unravel. What has worked really great for us is to have one parent board early with the best behaved child and the carry on’s that need overhead storage. This way, you are guaranteed over head space for your belongings and the wild child can take a few more laps around the waiting area to burn off some energy. Of course this strategy doesn’t work if you are traveling alone with your kids, which happens to me a lot. In that case, I still do not board early and make sure to only have one small bag that can fit under my seat so I don’t have to stress about overhead room.
Minimize Your Load
This brings me to my next tip to make family travel easier. Only pack your essentials and consider baby equipment rental for your traveling moments. kidtrip families have everything from pack n’plays, strollers, bouncers, baby swings, boxes of toys and books to humidifiers, snow pants and beach toys. By packing less, we help reduce our carbon footprint. Did you know if takes 1 gal of jet fuel to transport 100 lbs? That is easily a stroller and a pack n’ play! On average, 1 gallon of fuel produces 20 lbs of CO2 so by using a baby equipment rental service, we can help in small ways.
This one is pretty obvious. Airplane food is expensive and it doesn’t always qualify as healthy or satisfy picky eaters. Put some thought into what your kids enjoy eating. My kids like carrot sticks, cheese sticks and yogurt so I use one of their insulated lunch boxes with an ice pack for those items and then a zip lock with individually packed crackers, pretzels or grams. I also found a really fun Captain America and Batman lollipop holder that opens and closes over the lollipop in case they drop it or don’t eat the whole thing. You can stick them back in my bag without the sticky mess. Also, consider tiny juice boxes for take off and landing in case they have discomfort in their ears.
How much time do you think your little ones will spend coloring….maybe 10 minutes? I have fallen in the trap of packing way too many activities for my kids because their attention span is limited! Take time to think about activities that last long and will entertain them over and over again. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Ipad – these were made for kid travel right? Check out kidtrip’s favorite apps here.
- Busy Bags – we’ve compiled a bunch of ideas for busy bags on our Kids On Planes Pinterest Board
- Post It’s & Sticky Bookmarks – small size in different colors! My kids love to stick these all over and they don’t ruin any surfaces.
- Reusable Stickers
- Thank You or Birthday Cards – bring crayons or colored pencils to decorate
Make Family Travel Easier by Distracting
Use your surroundings, the airplane, to find distracting things to do. Take a walk back to the flight attendant to get a cup of ice or a juice. Walk to the restroom to wash hands. Read the safety manual. Moving around is rejuvinating. It’s better to get up even for a few minutes to take the edge off. The kids are better behaved when we return to our seats.
If you are successful in planning your flight during a potential nap time make sure to have a blanket or a pillow. Better yet, I found a blanket that folds up into a pillow pouch! Airplane seats are not comfortable so be prepared with how you are going to orient your kiddo. Most of the time, I flip-up the arm rest and they lay their heads in my lap.
Invoke Good Energy
Mind over matter right? I’ve had so much anxiety before and during flights and those always end up the most chaotic. Having a mindset that you can handle whatever your kids are serving up that day will help make everything better. Ignore people who can’t sympathize and know that most people have been there before and are even willing to help. I’ve totally had a stranger hold my baby for a second as I shuffle through my bag for a toy. Stay present with your child, as we all know, a good situation can turn at a moment’s notice.
As they get older, traveling with kids gets easier. I actually enjoyed a glass of wine on our last flight with kids! Don’t stress out over planning, but do think smartly about how to make your flight as good as it can be. Baby equipment rental is a great way to free up your hands for more important things. A good attitude will make things go your way and being prepared will ensure your kids have plenty to do while traveling.