You know that look you get from others the moment you board the plane. The rolling of the eyes that says “oh no, there is a child who going to sit behind me, in front of me etc”. You can almost see the stress beads form along their brow line. It is in that moment that you begin to stress as well. This is going to be a long trip, you may think in your mind. However, it doesn’t have to be. Below you find some quick, easy and helpful tips that can make your trip more enjoyable for yourself, your child and everyone around you.
- Preparation is key! Begin talking your child about the trip approximately 2 weeks prior to your departure regardless of their age. This is an important area that many parents of very young children overlook. Many times they feel that the child won’t be affected by the change in routine, schedule or that talking to them about won’t make a difference. I promise it will! Begin pointing out airplanes in the sky letting them know that they will be going on one very soon. Explain various aspects of the trip; who is going, when you will leave, where you are going and how long you will stay. Buy a toy airplane and begin explaining how an airplane works. You can also go online and find video of airplanes taking off and landing. Encourage your children to draw or paint a picture about an airplane and/or about the trip in general.
- Verbalize expectations. For children 3-5, verbalize your expectations. While you may not receive everything your asking for, verbalizing your expectations can help set a precedent for how you expect them to behave during the trip. Again, this is not foolproof but it is far better than falling into a self-fulfilling prophecy that everything is going to go wrong.
- Ask for early boarding. Unfortunately, many airlines seem to have discontinued their policy on early boarding for children and families. However, if you explain that you need additional time to get your child (children) acclimated and/or settled, airline officials will usually work with you to accommodate your needs.
- Come prepared! Food, games and entertainment! Don’t rely on the airline for this! Again, unfortunately most airlines these days do not offer food (at least not for free) so sandwiches and plenty of snacks are essential (drinks are usually no problem, however, a bottle of water in your bag is always a great idea). Choose healthy snacks that have variety. Treats are fine, but remember that you want to maintain blood/sugar levels and not have your child on a roller coaster of hunger/crashing. Entertainment can be hit or miss. Some airplanes have video screens on the back of every seat, while older aircrafts may have a screen hanging every 4th or 5th row (children generally cannot see this type of screen). Additionally, programming for children on airplanes can be sparse. Bring your laptop or tablet (along with your own headphones) and download movies prior to getting on the plane. Don’t rely on the plane to have Internet access, as some still do not. For younger children, prior to you departure, go to the dollar store and pick up a bag full of small fun surprises. Each half hour bring out something new and praise your child for good behavior on the plane (instilling positive reinforcement). Toddlers love it because they are receiving something novel every half hour and you will love it because it will keep them occupied and interested! This is a very inexpensive, yet effective way to get through the air smoothly and easily.
All in all try to remain as calm as possible throughout the flight and remember to take care of yourself. Your attitude and mood will affect your child’s behavior during travel. Make sure that you eat well and stay hydrated throughout the day. If your child falls asleep or is interested in a movie, try to take a few minutes for yourself for some deep breathing, relaxation, or listening to music. Praise yourself for being brave enough to travel with children because anyone who has done it know…it isn’t easy!