The mere thought of flying with children may make your stomach turn. After all, you know that once you approach the gate, fellow passengers will shift uneasily in their seats, sigh with disappointment, and start imagining how miserable your children will make their flight. But we don't have to view flying with children so negatively and planning ahead is key. Here are ten tips that will help you sit back, relax, and enjoy flying with young children.
Talk about the trip ahead of time. It helps to discuss your travel plans with your children. Tell them how long it will take compared to something they're used to ("It'll take two trips to grandma and grandpa's house to get there"). Also, discuss your expectations for how they will behave on the plane. Don't forget to mention that they'll have to stay in their own seat - this can be particularly hard for 2 and 3 year-olds.
Plan your trip around your children's schedule. Whenever possible, plan your flights around your children's daily routine. No one wants to have a toddler wake up from his nap right before the plane takes off. All that energy strapped in a seat belt isn't going to be pretty. Instead, consider meal and nap times when you search for flights. Remember that layovers are important, too. Will there be enough time to grab lunch and get everyone in and out of the bathroom or will you just be that crazy family running through the airport, kids bobbing up and down on your hips, sweat dripping down your forehead?
Make packing part of the fun. Allow each of your children to pack a small backpack with activities and snacks for the plane ride. (You'll of course want to review the contents later, but this helps your child get excited for the trip.) Odds are you'll end up lugging everyone's carry-ons (plus a kid or two) at some point, so keep this is mind with size and weight.
Explain security procedures before you go. The airport can be a daunting place for children. Not only is it huge, but everyone is rushing from one place to the next. TSA officials likely won't get down on your child's level and sweetly explain why they have to walk through the scary security machine - without mom and dad! The more you can explain ahead of time about what they should expect, the better.
Go at your children's pace. Little legs can't keep up with businessmen shuffling by with briefcases in tow. They also don't want to be trampled on the super cool escalator. So take your time. Your pace is not your children's pace and those little legs probably aren't used to walking that far in one stretch.
Board early whenever possible. Most airlines allow early boarding for families with young children - that's you! Take advantage of this. You'll want the extra time to make sure everyone is happily buckled in their seats with snacks and activities within close reach.
Keep children busy with hands-on crafts. Nothing passes the time like arts and crafts. Once you settle into the flight, suggest a craft project to help pass the time. The skies the limit with options that are sure to tap into your little ones interests.
Take your own snacks. Little ones get hungry when they're bored. You shouldn't rely on the airline to feed your children and peanuts aren't many kids' snack of choice anyway. Those cabin snack and beverage services are also subject to Mr. Turbulence. When he comes on strong, no one will be permitted to walk down the aisle, flight attendants included.
Stay calm. When the going gets tough, take a deep breath and relax. Remember that tension tends to multiply. Your children will need to see that you remain calm and cool no matter the circumstance. This will be true both in the airport and while aboard your flight.
Remember this is an adventure. Young children tend to be fascinated by airplanes and all things flight. Make flying a fun experience for them. The more excited you are about the trip, the more this will be reflected in their behavior.