Holiday Air Travel With ChildrenWritten by Linda Hill
Traveling with children can be the BEST of times or the WORST of times. Travel has always been a passion of mine. We've travelled with our 5 children all over the staes and even overseas, so I've gained a few insights from those experiences.
My Tips For More Relaxed Travelling
Recently I sought out a job in the airline industry to get a jump on my travel-rich bucket list. It is a fun job and every day is different. With my previous experience and newfound knowledge I thought I might offer a few holiday travel tips that, hopefully, will make your travel experience the BEST of times:
- KNOW before you GO - Visit your airline's website to check out baggage allowances, maximum weight on bags, what you can check for free (ie: strollers, car seats, etc.) and what you'll pay extra for. You DON'T want surprises when you get there. Airlines charge for EVERYTHING these days so make sure you know what the restrictions are. Paying an unexpected $100 for an overweight bag or having to open up everything at check in and re-shuffle WHILE keeping track of the kids is NOT good way to start a trip.
- Less is More - Try to be more of a minimalist when traveling. If there's any way you can have the port-a-crib, car seat, highchair, etc., at your destination instead of trying to take it all with you, you'll have a much more pleasant experience. It might be worth asking the car rental place, hotel, Grandma, or whomever you're visiting if they have these items (they can borrow from a neighbor). See if they can be rented, or are available at your destination BEFORE you go so you can leave more of your "necessities" at home. Also, LABEL everything! Bags should have your full address, phone number and email both INSIDE and OUTSIDE of the bag. If you accidentally leave something at a gate, etc... it will be much easier to retrieve that item with a name on it.
- EARLY = Less Stress - Give extra time for holiday traffic, parking your car at the airport, passing through security, that extra potty stop/diaper change, etc. If you're a parent, you should know by now that EVERYTHING takes longer with children and you can't HURRY a toddler (well, you can try, but good luck with that!) Checking in bags isn't allowed if you arrive 30 minutes or less prior to the flight and doors to a flight CLOSE 10 minutes prior - no exceptions. So, don't push your luck... get to the airport EARLY (minimum - 60 minutes for domestic, 90 minutes for international)
- Communicate Expectations - Start communicating with your children a few days before about what to expect at the airport. Help them see this as an "adventure." Maybe you can talk to them about what they'll do at the airport - park a car, take a shuttle bus, check in the luggage, go through security, and then watch airplanes while they WAIT. Then you can talkto them about how important seatbelts on the plane are... how to use inside voices on the planes, how they can look out the window, etc. I strongly believe that children understand far more than we think they do and it will allow for a more pleasant experience if they have an idea of what to expect.
- Be Courteous - All travelers should be conscious of those around them. There's so much we can do to make things easier on others, as well as ourselves. When you're approaching security, make sure you prepare BEFORE you get to the security area. have all your boarding passes and ID's/Passports in one place and READY to sho. Have all your liquids together and in a place easy to pull out. Have laptops out, shoes unlaced (in many airports, children no longer have to take off shoes, thank goodness!), belts off, etc. Trust me... people will think your kids are so much more delightful if YOU'RE on top of your game!
- Entertainment - If kids are old enough, let them carry their own SMALL backpack with fun things to do... some crayons and coloring book, a small hand-held game, etc. Of course these days there are Ipads, smart phones, etc., which can be a great "mesmerizer" in travel, but don't rely solely on those. It's a good idea to have a few "new" things that you save for the plane when there's no escape for the cranky child or infant. Also, I'd recommend packing a few wet wipes, Kleenex, and an extra shirt. Also, chewing gum, a pacifier for an infant or something to suck on to help with the ears when the plane changes altitude is a good idea. One thing I learned the hard way... pack an extra shirt for mom and/or dad because inevitably you'll end up with some sort of smelly bodily fluid all over you, which doesn't make for a pleasant trip for you OR those around you.
- Finally, pack a GOOD ATTITUDE! - Realize that air travel is a bit unpredictable at times. Weather, mechanical issues and delays happen. This is a good opportunity to teach your children PATIENCE. Your kids will mirror your emotions in stressful situations. I see far too many travelers who look like adults, but, in reality, are overgrown toddlers who throw a tantrum when they don't get their way. Your children will learn at a very young age how to respond to unpredictability and stress by watching how YOU react. Teach them well. Air travel might possibly give you far more time with your family than you imagined - make the most of it! Learn a few games that take no equipment such as "I spy with my little eye," "20 questions," "the Alphabet game," "Name a famous person (name the person and the next has to name another one that starts with the first letter of the last name)," "Charades," etc. You might find that some of these unexpected opportunities will turn into some of your favorite and cherished family memories.
Remember, the JOY can be in the journey (even in air travel)... it's up to you!
Do you have a favorite family travel story? Share it with your children! For ideas, check out our Vacation Story Starter.
Linda Hill is a native of…well, nowhere really. She grew up as an Air Force brat and currently claims Littleton, CO as her home of 8 years (the longest she’s lived any one place in her life so far!) She is the mother of 5 children, two sons and a daughter who have already “flown the coop” and 2 daughters in high School. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University in Family Science and put her degree to use as she raised her large family and operated several home-based businesses while serving in many volunteer positions in her church, community and the schools. She has been married to Kent Hill for 25 years and they look forward to at least another 125! Currently she is an instructor to teens for a daily early morning religion class. She is passionate about her family, storytelling, politics and when she gets the time – locking herself in her sewing room with a chick flick and getting her “creative” on!
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