The Oh-So Friendly Skies

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Remember when the toughest part of airline travel was figuring out what magazine to read and getting over the fact that you would have to make do with red wine that is cold (because apparently airplanes only have cold red wine? Why is that?)? I am assuming times have changed for you as they have for me. The only thing worse than facing airport lines, smaller and smaller airplane seats, taking off and taking on your shoes over and over again in the name of "security" is, in fact, doing so with a baby. Or two or three.

But it's Christmastime, when many of us will be embarking on various adventures in air travel. Gives the phrase "it's not the destination, it's the journey" a whole new meaning, eh? Here, at the request of several readers, are some of the best tips I've heard and used on traveling with kids:

Before You Leave
  • Less crowds means less stress. If you have the option, book your flights for non-peak travel times: Mondays - Wednesdays, at midday, or in the evening.
  • Pack more food, snacks, diapers, and wipes than you think you will need. Something about planes bring on messes of unprecedented proportions. Plus, you never know if you'll be delayed.
  • As for activities: Pack books, activity/coloring books, travel-sized board games, playing cards, and, if you let your child use a portable video game system or LeapPad®, you will never appreciate it more. (Be sure to charge it the night before.) And remember Colorforms? Those plastic sticky things that peel on or off every surface? They are particularly useful on planes, where your kids can stick and unstick them over and over again to the windows and the tray tables. And each other.
  • If your child is old enough: Prepare your child for the trip. Tell him what to expect at the airport and on the plane, and give him tips for how to behave. (When checking or screening baggage, reassure your child he will get his belongings back — something many kids worry about.)
  • Remind your child that it's illegal to make any kind of jokes about bombs. My friend learned this the hard way--and her family in London was not amused when she wasn't there for Christmas dinner. According to the FAA, even a child's jest can result in fines, delays, and revocation of your tickets.
  • Save room and pack your checked luggage lightly. Okay--lighter. Check out this site and this one to find places near your destination to rent cribs, strollers and any other baby/child necessities you may need.
In the Airport
  • Allow extra time at the airport. As you know, everything takes looooongerrrrr when traveling with kids.
  • Give your child safety rules, such as what to do if you become separated. Should she stay where she is and wait for you?
  • If you are traveling with a carseat, I cannot sing enough praise for the GoGoKidz contraption that turns your carseat into a stroller. If only I had a dollar for every envious stare I get as I wheel this baby through airports...
On the Plane
  • Take-offs and landings can be painful for little ears. For young babies, bring a pacifier or a bottle to use during these times. For older children, bring along ear filters, which buffer eardrums against rapidly changing air pressure. Encourage your child to swallow by offering beverages, gum, or hard candy.
  • For maximum entertainment valve, bring toys out one at a time, and put one away before introducing the next. One odd thing that has worked for me: Individually wrapping a bunch of small toys and presenting them to my kids through the course of the flight--especially when they are getting antsy. Kids love presents.
  • Seat your child by the window. Most kids find the view fascinating. It's also safer than sitting on the aisle, where little arms and legs could get bumped.
  • Remember, not all passengers appreciate the joys of children...even a perfect, genius, wonderful one like yours...! Plan to keep your child entertained and know your kid--some parents of noisy kids, for instance, deliberately choose seats in the back of the plane, where engine noise can muffle piping voices. My friend Suzanne told me two tips to immediately ingratiate yourself to your fellow-passengers, which I still use today: (1) Enter the plane bearing a bag of ear plugs and hand them out (with self-mockery) to the people next to you; and (2) Buy everyone around you a drink.
Tani said...

Yay you put comments back up! I was wondering what happened. Great tips and let me add my own: Get a bunch of small toys/games from Target with a group of friends and rotate whenever one of you has to fly. The stuff will always be new for your child, with minimal damage to your wallet.

Sarah said...

Why is the red wine cold? I love your friend Suzanne's ideas!

Meena said...

As somebody who has travelled with babies ages 2 months to 7 years let me tell you this: The best thing you can do is apologize profusely in advance to everyone around you. Then they have no expectations, and if the flight turns out to be a good one (because rally it is a crap shoot right) then they are just happy and think your kids are adorabel! And yes buying drinks (for them and you) doesn't hurt either!

Jasmine said...

I strongly recommend the two sites you listed for renting baby equipment at your destination--it is a lifesaver and one of those services that make you go "why didn't I think of that"!

Anonymous said...

Dare I say: Benadryl?? I know this may catalyze a bunch of fury but seriously it works if you do it properly...just enough to let your kids drowsily doze to sleep. And moms have been doing it for YEARS.

Naya said...

With all due respect to the above poster: do NOT use benadryl on your children. Make no mistake about it: it amounts to DRUGGING them. There are easier ways to deal with air travel. Take it from me, I'm a doctor and I have seen disasterous results from this technique.

Lyvia said...

To go or not to go. Any thoughts on taking a 14 month old to INDIA? The 22 hour flight is a killer ... without kids. We are bringing our 3 year old and are seriously considering leaving our 14 month old here with my mom. Also, I'm concerned about the additional vacinations that are recommended for India.... (sigh)

Uma said...

Lyvia, I went through the same conundrum last year and we ended up taking our two children. It was very hard I'm not going to lie. It was worth it from the point of view of my grandmother who had never met my kids, but while I was thinking it would be worth it from the point of view of my children, that proved not to be the case as they can't really remember a thing. I am glad I did it. But if i did it all over again I would leave one at home (unless they are both old enough to remember).

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