It’s no secret that there’s a camp that believes children don’t belong on planes at all and have little to no patience for parents doing their best to manage a crummy situation. Most people fail to recognize that a miserable flight with miserable kids is most miserable for the parents trying like hell to diffuse the situation. (After all, all you really want is to read your Kindle and have a bag of overpriced chips in peace.)
With kids, however, there’s never any peace; but the truth is that not only can you handle this, it’s going to be so worth it when you see your little guy attend his first snowboard lesson or splash in the ocean for the first time. There are some things you can try to make the flight go more smoothly for everyone involved.
1. For Heaven’s Sake, Pack Snacks!
There’s nothing like a hangry kiddo to make any flight a horrible experience for everyone within ear shot—so basically everyone—and you never know when the flight attendants are going to make it around to your seat with that tray of half full snack bags. Come prepared with your own arsenal of snacks from home or buy a meal at an eatery near the gate and start munching after take off. A full belly makes everyone feel better, and a full array of snacks can keep little fingers and little mouths occupied for longer than you may think.
2. Sometimes You Have To Suck It Up
Speaking of snacks, there are a few more specialty food items you should always have on hand when you fly. We (adults) chew gum on planes because it encourages saliva production which makes us swallow. The act of swallowing forces a tube in the ear to open and helps relieve the pressure caused by the change in altitude we experience when flying.
Babies, toddlers, and young children can’t and shouldn’t be chewing gum, so they don’t have the same coping mechanism for this sometimes painful experience that accompanies flying. You can help your baby or toddler manage the pain by offering a bottle or pacifier—something that encourages them to swallow. For older toddlers and young children who can have hard candies, pack Life Savers or Jolly Ranchers to help them manage the ear popping. These little candies double as a helpful solution and a reward for good behavior.
3. Know When It’s Time To Move
Let’s face it, staying still has never been any child’s strong suit—like ever. This is a distinct problem for plane travel as there is nowhere to go, nothing to see and nothing to do until the plane lands. When the seatbelt sign is off, however, there are a few things you can do to help your little one stretch her legs.
First, let smaller kids unbuckle and stand in yourseat area. They can look out the window, munch on pretzels, sing a quiet song or simply stretch. This little change may be enough to refocus younger kiddos or distract them with a new activity. You can also take a walk to the bathroom. It never hurts to check the baby’s diaper or to give the toddler another chance to use the potty and, added bonus, everyone gets to move about a bit.
What’s even better than needing to move around while in flight? Tiring the nuggets out so fully that they aren’t interested in budging after take off. Depending on the time of day you are flying, make time to head to the park, take a long walk together or jump on the trampoline before you hit the airport. Some airports, like Boston Logan, are equipped with play areas in the terminals as well. If you know that you can expect to see these at the airport you’re traveling through, head there a bit early and let the kids climb and run like little beasts to get out their energy before it’s time to board.
Prepare Like It’s Your Job
I repeat: you’ve got this. Really, you do! You’ve already got all the books, art activities, games and movies that one travel bag can hold. Now you just need to think ahead to those moments when your child will decide that none of the wonderful things you packed is enough to contain her energy. Use the space and the people around you to manage her experience (siblings can actually being super helpful) and you will survive this flight and many more.