Flying with kids can be a challenge for everyone involved. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years as a Nanny. I hope they’ll help you as much as they’ve helped me.
Flying with Kids Tip #1: Take advantage of early boarding
While this might seem like an unnecessary expense, I highly recommend early boarding. It gives kids extra time to get situated on the plane. A plane can be an exciting, and sometimes scary experience for a child. That extra 10-15 minutes on the plane before take off can he helpful in getting kids settled and at least semi-comfortable with their surroundings.
Flying with Kids Tip #2: The carry-on
With most major airlines each passenger is allowed 2 carry-on items: A bag and a personal item. I’m a firm believer that each child you’re traveling with should have their own carry-on bag, no matter the age. It helps both caretakers and kids stay organized. Older children can be responsible for their own bags and should assist in packing them as well – that way they know what’s inside. Later on in this post I’ll go over a few things that should go in these bags.
Flying with Kids Tip #3: Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
You can never have enough snacks on an airplane – even as an adult. You never know if you’ll get stuck on the tarmac waiting in line to take off or how long it will take for the complimentary refreshments or the in-flight meal will take to serve. And a hungry child is bad enough on the ground, never mind at 30,000 feet in a tiny space.
A few of my favorite snacks include:
Remember that only a certain amount of liquids are allowed through security. Most juice boxes are too big to bring through and will be confiscated by TSA. Bringing powder juice is easy and can be mixed with water once you get through security.
Flying with Kids Tip #4: Encourage sleeping
This is not going to work for every child as it can be difficult to get comfortable on a plane, but encourage kids to sleep can make a big difference. If you find that your kids can sleep on a plane, and even if they can’t I’d even book a flight that falls during their normal sleeping time.
I know you’re thinking I’m nuts, but for younger kids it usually works. Most young children have pretty regular sleep patterns and are small enough to get comfortable on a plane. Have them board the plane in their pajamas, bring their favorite stuffy or blanket, and even read them a bedtime story. It sounds crazy, but I swear it works.
Flying with Kids Tip #5: Bring ALL the activities
OK maybe not ALL, but enough to keep them busy. Every kid is different, so before packing that carry-on think about what holds your kid’s attention. Are they really into drawing? Then packing crayons or colored pencils and coloring book or sketch pad is perfect. Maybe your kids love games; a deck of cards or travel sized board game is always a hit with my Nanny Kids. Even ask the kids, “What do you think you want to do on the plane?” They might surprise you with some fun and interested ideas.
Here are a few suggestions for activities you can pack:
Flying with Kids Tip #6: Movie time!
As a Nanny I’m not a big fan of just turning on the TV to get the kids sucked in. However, as a big movie and TV fan (and as someone who is on planes frequently) I love watching movies on planes, and I’ve found that kids do too! I can serve as an entertaining distraction from the fact that you’re stuck inside a flying sardine can.
Before take-off check your airline’s website to see if they have in-flight entertainment. That seat back TV is a new experience for kids and they get so excited about having their very own TV. I remember the first time I flew on a plane with a seat back TV as a kid. The fact that I didn’t have to share what I was watching with someone else was the BEST!
Flying with Kids Tip #7: No in-flight entertainment, no problem
Before every flight, I remind my Nanny Kids to download Netflix onto their tablets, if it’s not already there. Many of Netflix’s movies and TV shows are available to download for off-line use. This is perfect if you have a child that likes a specific show or needs to watch their favorite Disney movie for the thousandth time. If there is a movie that puts them to sleep download that thing right now! This can make a big difference when a child is upset or scared.
Flying with Kids Tip #8: Bring some gum or other chewy snack
Over the years, I’ve watched and heard countless children cry and scream because of their ears. The change in pressure, especially during take-off and landing can really bother children. I’d recommend bringing gum for the older kids to chew on or a chewy snack like gummy bears or fruit snacks. For the little ones sucking on a pacifier can help.
Flying with Kids Tip #9: The answer to “How much longer?”
I don’t know about anyone else, but after I’ve been asked the questions, “How much longer?” or “Are we there yet?” for the 10th time I really don’t want to answer it again. Here are 2 things I recommend:
On some flights that have in-flight entertainment there is a flight tracker. Show the kids how to get to it on their seat back TV and they can answer their own question.
For all the children that are not old enough to figure this out, lie. As a Nanny I am not a big fan of this option, but for your sanity and the sanity of those around you, just do it. Some words and phrases to use are:
We’re almost there
20 minutes (even if it’s an hour)
Not too much longer now
Flying with Kids Tip #10: Stuffies can help
I mentioned them briefly earlier in this post, but lets talk about the power of the stuffie. They’re called many things; stuffies, lovies, stuff friends, blankies. Whatever your kids call them, bring them along for the plane ride. If the stuffie is a teddy bear or similar get him ready for the trip too! Do they have a backpack or other travel essentials? Getting their stuffed friend ready to travel alongside them can put a child as ease and even give them someone to take care of during the flight. It can serve as not only an object that can help sooth a child’s worries, but also as a toy and distraction.
Flying with Kids Tip #11: Get creative and give thanks
A few years ago I was on a flight to Orlando with my Nanny Family. We boarded the plane and had some issues with baggage or paperwork or some other thing that delayed us from take-off for over 2 hours. There were several people on the plane that were giving the flight attendants a hard time over something they couldn’t control. One of my 3 kiddos was getting antsy, and he didn’t like the way some people on the flight were treating the flight attendants.
Remember those crayons I suggested you pack earlier? Well, we had packed crayons and paper for him to draw on, so I suggested be make a card for each of the flight attendants. So he did. This also turn into him making cards and drawings for the pilots as well which we gave to them as we disembarked the plane.
Not only did this keep my little buddy occupied, it showed him that doing nice things for people just to make them smile is always a good idea.