We recently traveled from Arizona to Louisiana with our three children, ages 9,5 and 2 years old. My daughter only flew once when she was 1 years old and my boys had never flown. To say I was a nervous wreck is an understatement. I prepared for months, so I wouldn't be as stressed leading up to the actual "event." My best advice is...there is none!! Just kidding! There has to be something that helps it go a little smoother right?!
1.Prepare your children for the experience. Kids tend to freak out a bit more, when they are going through unknown situations. I kept showing my kiddos pictures of what the Southwest airplane looked like. We watched TSA videos for children, so I could explain to them the security lines and what they would need to do. We watched YouTube videos of kids traveling and I showed them photo's of the inside of the airport terminals we would be traveling to and from.
2.Pack a goody bag! Seriously, you will want those lollipops for bribery.You can feel guilty about the sugar bugs later! We had short layovers and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to grab them lunch, so I packed muffins, granola bars and other snacks with more substance to hold them over. Since, my littles don't know how to pop their ears; I made sure they had gummi bears when we took off and landed, so the chewing helped their ears handle the pressure. I am pretty sure my 2 year old's snack bag is the only thing that got him through most of the traveling! I decline to share how many lollipops he had throughout the day!
3. Don't stress about what other people are thinking. When our kids are crying during takeoff because their ears hurt, we feel double the amount of stress because we are sure everyone around us is judging us and we hate to be "that parent" on the flight, with "that baby." Seriously, they have heard babies cry before, they will hear babies cry again. Don't compound your stress by worrying about everyone around you. Just focus on your kiddos and making it smooth for them and doing your best to stay calm. They feel and feed off our stress, so we need to model the opposite of the panic they are feeling.
4. Bring interactive things for your children to do. Yes, all my kids had tablets, but we also brought books, arts and crafts and play-doh. After I THOROUGHLY disinfected the tray table, I set up play-doh and some toys for my 2 year old and it kept him occupied for almost an hour. I was so glad I brought it! Also, not gonna lie...I totally paid for the internet on the flight so my toddler could watch Blippi on YouTube!! My motto was "Whatever gets us through!"
5.Try to enjoy the ride. I was so filled with anxiety, thinking of everything that could go WRONG going on 4 different flights with little kids; that I didn't think about the joy and wonder they would feel. I'll always remember my kids gleeful laughter as we got "taller than the clouds" and how many pictures my daughter snapped as she saw the snow covered mountains of Colorado, where she was born. I got a chuckle about how proudly my 2 year old told everyone for weeks that he went on an airplane and how cute it was to see them all marching through the airport with their carry-on's dragging painfully slowly behind them.
Traveling with children doesn't always go smoothly, but do it anyway! Plan the trip, pack up the car, hop on an airplane and take a million pictures! The memories that are made on your trip, will outlast the momentary stress of getting there.