Airline travel with children is insanity, but sometimes you have to or want to travel. Maybe you have a funeral to attend, holidays with family, or maybe you just want to go on a family vacation and make memories together. Getting through the flight is just the means necessary to get you to your location. In my humble opinion, you shouldn’t totally avoid it for fear of the flight itself.
I have two kids with no family in town. If we want to see our family members or attend family functions, sometimes we have to travel, and sometimes we want to. A few times, it has been me solo with the kids which is a whole other type of panic, but each time we made it through.
I’m not going to pretend like it was easy or like we have this mastered. In fact, we are far from travel perfection. However, I want to encourage you that it can be done!
Here’s a few tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped my family travel.
1. Talk it Up
The talk leading up the trip should be positive with your children. They might be a little afraid to fly, and positive talk can ease their nerves about the trip. Many parents, myself included, have their own fears of traveling, but it is best not to project those fears onto your children. The positive talk can be about being in the clouds, flying like a bird, or just the whole experience of something new.
Also, parents tend to dread airline travel with their children so it’s easy to have a lot of negative nonchalant conversations about it, like, “Ugh, yes we are going to the in-laws for Christmas. I’ll be happy when it’s over!” Kids pick up on everything, and if they know you are dreading it, they will learn to dread it too. You can have all these convos when they are not around.
2. Embrace the Chaos
Rachel Hollis talks a lot about this in Girl, Wash Your Face. Things are not going to go as planned. It will be messy, and that’s ok! The more you recognize that things will not go as planned, the better your attitude will be about it. Roll with the punches, and your trip will be smooth sailing, not because everything is actually smooth sailing, but because your perception about it is upbeat or at least neutral.
On one trip across the country, we forgot our stroller for our, at the time, 18 month-old. Sure he could walk, but he did not to most of the time. We were also trying to haul suitcases, car seats, and a ridiculously large diaper bag. We visited the luggage shop at the airport. As luck would have it, they had one umbrella stroller available for $60. To make matters more comical, the shop attendant could not find the front two wheels. So we begrudgingly bought the $10 in-value stroller (or less considering the missing wheels) for $60. It was not ideal, but we solved the problem and had a few laughs about it along the way. Everything turned out ok as it does most of the time.
3. Bring Snacks
Bring all the snacks. I don’t care if you are usually very healthy and don’t let your kids have lots of processed foods. Now is the time for processed foods! Cheetos, M&M’s, Chex Mix, juice boxes, whatever!
First, you never really know how long you will be on the plane if there are delays. Even if it is a short flight, you might be stuck on the tarmac for much longer. Hungry kids turn to hangry kids really quickly. But alas, you have snacks! This also helps keep things fun and special if an over-abundance of junk food isn’t a part of your everyday.
4. Break out the Electronics
We don’t use electronics that much in our house. Not because we are self-righteous about them, but because it makes our kids crazy. You know in Incredibles 2 when Baby Jack Jack turns into a demon baby for cookies? This is my kids when you take the phone, iPad, or whatever away. So we tend to avoid them to avoid the backlash of when the electronic time is over.
However, being on a plane is different. Plane rides are survival mode. You must break out all the stops. Electronics can be one of the stops for many people. Download a new movie the kids have never seen or get a game they have been wanting to play. Now is the time.
5. Don't Apologize for Being There
You paid for your tickets or you are following the guidelines for a lap baby. My point is that you have the right to be on that plane as much as everyone else traveling. Of course, it is a little annoying when a baby cries or a kid throws a fit, but that is what everyone signed up for when they booked a commercial flight.
I hate when I see viral internet stories about "awesome parents" buying everyone drinks or passing out gifts to passengers that say something like, “Sorry we are here.” Although, I will accept said beverage.
Of course apologize if your kid takes off his shoe and throws it at the person next to you. This may or may not have happened…to a friend. But just you being on a flight with your kids is not something that should require a public apology.
6. You Will Laugh About This One Day
There was one incident where my son and I went the bathroom together when he was two. He was banging on the door so loudly that the flight attendant unlocked the door while I was using the restroom. I’m glad to know that they have the ability to do this in case of an emergency, but it was embarrassing none the less. At the time it was mortifying, but now we have this to laugh about. Yay, glass half full for the win.
Did I scare you away from future travels or help you plan your next trip? I promise the family memories will be worth it in the long run!
Follow my adventures at Outdoorsy Mommy.