Anyone who regularly travels with children knows the experience can be filled with drama, stress and frustration. That’s why we’ve gathered some great advice on how to make flying with the family less aggravating and more fun–really! Try some of these tips the next time you take off.
1. Prepare everything required for your trip in advance. We mean EVERYTHING.
From gathering more snacks than you think you’ll need to making sure your child has packed his or her bag correctly, being organized at least several days before heading to the airport can save your sanity. If you don’t already have one, make a master packing list for the entire group. The day before you leave, slip important documents such as passports and plane tickets into your purse, have luggage at the door ready to go, and lay out what each family member will wear. For families taking super-early flights, book your transportation to the airport several days in advance.
2. Board early. Or very late.
Want to be sure your family’s carry-on gear gets stowed in the overhead bins? Take advantage of the priority boarding some airlines offer for parents with young children. However, if your kids bounce off the wall when confined in small spaces, you might want to board at the last minute, letting them run around the departure lounge to get their ya-yas out first.
3. Curb colds and flus before anyone touches anything
Yes, I get some odd looks from other passengers when I whip out disinfectant wipes the second I get to my airplane seat, but a quick swipe on the seat belt clips, tray tables, armrests and in-seat monitors sets my mind at ease. Did you know that some bacteria can live on surfaces for up to a week? Ewww. My family knows not to touch a thing until I say “all clear.” Tip: Rather than making your way down the aisle and waiting to wash your hands in the bathroom before eating, bring along a small bottle of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes, too.
4. Be prepared to ease blocked ears.
Nobody needs to hear your child howling because her ears are blocked after takeoff. If your kid is prone to ear pain, give him a dose of ibuprofen a half-hour before boarding, and offer lollipops, gum or something to drink to help with swallowing.
5. Tote these must-have items in your carry-on bag.
Of course, you’ll have already thought of stashing a change of clothing in everyone’s carry-on, but to avoid spills and chills, toss a handful of bendy straws in with your food to make it easier for your kids to drink. Tuck a travel blanket inside each family member’s backpack. Airplanes are almost always freezing cold, and there are never enough blankets to go around. Bonus: A warm child is a sleepy child–and the easier it is to get a kid to nap during a flight, the better!
6. Bring along books to read with your child.
Books–especially ones that take place in the destination you’re traveling to–are a great way to pass the time onboard an airplane, and a snuggle with younger kids during story time soothes even the most-fussy traveler. Older kids will enjoy audio books–be sure to pack along some ear buds so you don’t have to fork over the cash to purchase ones from the flight attendant.
7. Dole out a variety of snacks. Often.
Most airlines allow you to bring food onboard. Choose nibbles that pack easily–granola bars, trail mix or crackers. Avoid the packaged, processed meals and snacks offered on-board; most are loaded with sugar, salt and fat. Pre-made sandwiches or muffins from home are more affordable and healthier to have on hand.
8. Break out the surprise bags.
Maybe you’re OK with your kids zoning out in front of the screen for the entire duration of the flight, but if you want to add some excitement to your trip, hand each child a bag of small toys, puzzles, crafts or art supplies that you packed up prior to leaving home. Compact magnetic games are especially good to have on hand. Bonus: You can break them out again on rainy days during your trip.
9. Catch a nap yourself.
Once everyone’s settled in, fed and comfy, feel free to lean back and close your eyes, too. Even a brief rest will recharge your internal battery and prepare you for the next leg of your family adventure–the harrowing taxi ride to your Caribbean hotel on narrow, winding roads…
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