by Erin Gifford
Few people really looking forward to flying with kids. Between flight check-in, security lines, delays and cramped space on the plane, there are a lot of opportunities for kids to break down. Fortunately, a well-prepared family is a happy family when flying with kids. Take a look at these eight tips to help make flying with toddlers to tweens a snap.
- Work with your child’s sleep schedule
If you think your kids will nap on the plane, book a flight that takes off just before that coveted nap window. On the flip side, if you have kids that absolutely will not nap on a plane, avoid that window at all costs or risk having tired, cranky kids with you the rest of the day.
- Pay extra to fly non-stop
It’s not always possible to get a direct flight to your destination, but life is so much better when traveling with kids if you can go non-stop. It’s often worth it to pay extra or even fly into another airport (e.g., fly into Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami) if you can get a direct flight.
- Give each child a backpack
Every child should have and carry their own backpacks filled with the coloring books, crayons and snacks they want to bring with them. The smaller the kid, the smaller the backpack to help ensure they don’t cram too much in. They can bring all they want, but they need to carry it themselves.
- Get to the airport early (really early)
Long security lines and slow-moving children can crush even the best plans to get to the gate with plenty of time to spare. Set a time to leave for the airport, then back it up by 30 minutes. If the lines are short and your kids move quickly, plan to get lunch or play games near the gate.
- Keep them entertained
It really is okay for kids to have screen-time, especially when waiting at the gate or sitting on a flight and there’s not much else to do. Load up on kid-friendly movies and pre-populate your tablet with fun, educational apps (that don’t require wi-fi) to entertain your kids.
- Snacks, snacks, snacks
Wait, did I mention snacks? Snacks are critical. Bring along cracker packets, granola bars, cookies and goldfish crackers, maybe even grapes or strawberries. Kids are always hungry and they can rarely wait for the snack cart to roll down the aisle of your flight.
- Plan for your kids to get sick
It really is best to assume that your kids will get nauseous, experience ear pain or spill all over themselves on your next flight. When you make this assumption and plan ahead by bringing meds, chewing gum and quick-change clothes, nothing will happen. It’s pretty much a guarantee.
- Potty up before you get on the plane
If your kids say they don’t need to go to the bathroom, they’re probably lying to you, so take them to the restroom nearest your gate. It’s so much easier to potty up in the terminal than once your plane has left the gate. Plus, how easy is it really to fit in an airplane lavatory with a three-year-old?
Erin Gifford is a Washington, D.C.-based travel writer and founder of Kidventurous, an award-winning family travel resource. Her writing can also be found on TravelChannel.com, TravelAge West and Fodors.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Kidventurous, connect with her on Facebook or get the latest tips and tricks for traveling families at http://www.kidventurous.com.