Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tips For Air Travel with Kids

What do you do when faced with an 11 hour flight to the other side of the world? This is daunting enough for an adult but add a couple of kids into the mix and things get a bit chaotic. Having recently completed such a trip across the Pacific from Minnesota to Japan with my sister and her two small children, I can say that we all survived very well. But advance planning is key!
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years traveling with my kids as well as on my most recent trip with my young niece and nephew:
  •  Arrive extra early at the airport. This is especially true in light of the attempted bombing of that Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day. Expect longer than usual lines and delays going through security.
  •  Find some good (and somewhat healthy) kid food before you board the plane. I’ve found it’s always best to feed the kids before getting on the plane. The kids meals on flights are sometimes nasty and they will usually just pick at an adult meal. If McDonalds is your only choice, do it.
  •  Let them run around. Probably a no-brainer bit of advice. Let them ride the escalators, run around a corner of the gate area, climb the stairs. Anything to get that energy out. A quick visit to the restroom is also a good distraction.
  •  Bring another change of clothing. Not only in case your luggage gets lost. My kids would end up soiling themselves before we even boarded the plane. Packing  a clean and dry outfit beats sitting in soggy pants all the way to Toronto.
  •  Distract them. Once on board and into their seats, pull out something for them to do. Depending on their age of course. To help their ears during take-off: For little ones, suckers or Life-Savers candies work great for take-off. Bottles or nukies for the babies. My rule of thumb is once you are up in the air, distract them until they fall asleep, which they usually will. iPods and portable DVD players are necessary devices, especially for those long international flights.
  •  Have extra distractions once those batteries die out. It never fails. 7 or 8 hours into a flight the charge dies on the iPod and computer. No more music or movies. Now what? This happened on my last trip. My niece and I toured the plane many times. We delved into the many snacks that we had brought along. We pulled out the sticker books and as a last resort, we read the same three Sesame Street books continuously for an hour. Elmo never bores a 14-month old! Thank goodness sleep prevailed again and saved me from another hour of Elmo!
  •  Bribery. I’m totally guilty of this tactic. If all else fails . . . a special treat once they get onto the ground is always enticing and may even stop the whining and fit-throwing!

I can say we all arrived in Japan with minimal fussing and mess. No complaints, only compliments from our fellow passengers. Good luck on your next journey with your gang!
Stretching out after her flight from Tokyo

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