Like many New England families, yours is probably ready to exchange their skis and snowshoes for bathing suits and sunscreen by the time February school vacation arrives. Unfortunately, in order to get to a warm climate quickly, we have to travel by air.
Instead of being ecstatic about the change of scenery, parental anxiety instantaneously takes over. We lose sleep over questions like: Are the kids going to freak out? How will we manage to carry everything? What if he screams the whole time? Will she refuse to sit in her seat? Well, have no fear! Here are some ideas that will keep your kids happy and maintain your sanity during airline travel:
1) Consider parking off site
Most airports (Manchester included) have off site airport parking. You might think that using these lots add time and stress to your travel, but they are a hidden gem! Not only is it cheaper to park here, but when we use the shuttle service from the lot to the airport departure terminal, it means a shorter walk for me, the kids, and my husband who gets loaded down with the luggage. Besides, taking the shuttle provides one more exciting activity for the kids!
2) Buy a Mommy Hook
This contraption is amazing for clipping onto a stroller when you have several bags to carry. It can easily hold your diaper bag or purse and save your back/shoulders. We have also used it to clip a car seat onto the top of a rolling suitcase when walking from our car into the airport. Google it.
3) Designate one carry on bag for the kids
There is nothing worse than fumbling through various bags when trying to find a favorite stuffed animal or book. If you have all of their “stuff” together, you can easily access it at any time in the airport or on the flight.
4) Always have surprises in store
Whether it’s a lollypop or new toy, surprises are a great distraction when a child won’t settle down. I’m not suggesting to reward bad behavior with gifts and candy, but when you are stuck in an 85 degree airplane with a kid who won’t stop screaming and you have no where to move…well, frankly, it works. Before we travel, I always visit the dollar store to get various small toys/stickers/coloring supplies/notebooks. Sometimes, I also wrap the gifts and allow them to choose one every hour as motivation for good behavior.
5) Bring healthy snacks
Aim to keep their (and your) diets as normal as possible. There is nothing worse than stomach aches and frequent bathroom visits in public restrooms at 30,000 feet. Gross. I love things like squeeze applesauce, frozen Go-gurts (will unthaw on the way), 100 calorie packets of nuts, small boxes of Goldfish, or even a pear (because it takes a long time to eat). Of course, I also pack 1 or 2 goodies such as M&M’s just to keep it interesting!
6) Get moving
If you have a layover, let your kids move! My kids love to stroll on the moving walkway and ride the escalator over and over and over again. This might be the only exercise they will get all day long, so just ignore the dirty looks and from strangers and roll with it. You’ll be thankful you did come the second flight. We have found this to be so important that we sometimes avoid long, direct flights in favor of shorter flights with layovers to break up the trip.
7) Prepare the pants
Always, always change diapers before getting on the plane! Also, keep several diapers and wipes in the seat pocket in front of you for emergency access. There’s nothing worse than frantically searching for these essentials when time is of the essence! And of course, bring an extra set of clothing.
8) “New” movies
Before your trip, go to your local library and check out movies or TV shows that your kids haven’t seen before. It’s free and keeps everyone happy. I also like to borrow thin paperback children’s books that can easily store in the kids’ carry on bag.
9) Sit in the back of the plane and make friends with the flight attendants
Sitting in the back of the plane isn’t ideal, but it is the best place to be if you have a toddler. My husband and I have found that if you are nice to the airline employees, they don’t mind you standing in their area once drinks are served and the seat belt sign is turned off. Toddlers can stretch their legs, make new friends, and maybe even get a pair of “wings” or a coloring book. Just keep an eagle eye out for little fingers touching buttons!
You are headed somewhere beautiful. The sunshine and flip-flops await you. A plane ride only lasts a few hours at most; as parents, we’ve all dealt with far worse. When you stress out, everyone feels it, so take a few deep breaths and think warm sunny thoughts!
What travel tips do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
About the author: Katey Barron is a stay at home mom with her two children – ages 4 and 2. She has a masters degree in elementary education and in her spare time enjoys teaching Zumba, painting, hiking, and traveling with her family.