There was a time when I dreaded the idea of flying with my kids. I was a complete nervous wreck the first time we boarded a plane with them and took off for Orlando. I spent the entire flight hissing under my breath “Put your feet down! Don’t kick the seat!” and “Turn down your game! The whole plane doesn’t want to hear it!”
Now that we have a few flights under our belts, my kids have become fabulous travelers. They understand plane etiquette and can even sit through a tarmac delay without irritating each other or those around them. In fact, when I flew solo with the little boys to Disneyland last summer, we got compliments on every flight about how well behaved they were. (If you know my kids, YES, I mean THOSE kids!)
So what have we learned to make flying easier? Here are my best tips:
Travel times – Fly early or fly late. Your mileage may vary on this one if your kids wake up grumpy or get cranky at the end of the day, but for us, early morning and late day flights are a dream. And I mean that literally. If my kids are still a little groggy in the morning or are worn out from a long day, they’ll often doze right off after takeoff.
Talk about expectations – Let kids know ahead of time exactly what behavior is expected and what they can expect from the trip. Talk about the length of the flight, the possibility of delays, respecting the space of those around them, acceptable noise levels, etc. Also lay out specific consequences for having to repeatedly remind them of the rules of the air.
Headphones – For the love of the sanity of those around you (and yourself), PLEASE pack headphones or earbuds for your kids. If your kids are like mine, they’ll want to pass flight time with noisy, bleeping phone apps or handheld video games. Headphones will let them keep their noise to themselves and can also help drown out the noise of the engines during takeoff.
Their own backpack – Let them fill a small backpack with favorite books, games, and other things to entertain themselves during flights. Do a check to make sure that everything they’ve packed is plane appropriate and that they’ve covered all the bases, but let them take the lead.
Separate them – For my kids, there’s nothing that will make them fight faster than being in close proximity to each other. Park yourself in the middle seat and prevent the chaos. It also makes it much easier if someone needs a little parent help than having to lean over whoever ends up in the middle.
Trip planning – Bring along travel guides, park maps, and other planning materials. There’s no better way to pass the time than getting excited about what you’re going to see and do!
Snacks, snacks, snacks – Depending on the flight, there may or may not be snacks and drinks available on the plane. We pack a couple of favorites in their backpacks and pick up a bottle of water or juice once we’re through security.
Interact! – It’s a rare moment that my boys are a captive audience. While it’s tempting to settle in for a flight and read a book or grab a nap, it’s such a great opportunity to spend time together! We play card games, talk about our trip plans or favorite things we did on vacation, and have lots of fun and giggles. Uno and Mad Libs are always stashed in my bag to pull out during a delay or a long flight, just in case their own bags of goodies aren’t cutting it!
What do you do to make sure everyone is content on a flight or long car ride?