Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a time for us to gather with family and friends, eat delicious food, and celebrate all that we’re thankful for. Though the traditions and meaning behind holidays are important, there is no doubt that they can still be considered a stressful time of year. Traveling with kids requires a lot of headspace and patience, especially when you have younger kids who require tons of equipment like strollers and diapers. As a mom of three who has traveled across the country for family gatherings many times with kids in tow, here are some of my best tips for flying with kids:
Choose your plane times strategically. Do your kids still nap? Are they happiest in the morning? It might be worth the extra splurge, if applicable, to decrease your stress level and choose flights that work best for your family’s schedule. That way everyone is stress-free and well-rested during travel time.
Dress appropriately. Have you ever seen how tiny those plane bathrooms are? Now is not the time for elaborate buttons or zippers. Dress your kids in comfortable clothing that can be easily removed or swapped. Choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and make sure that you have some socks for chilly feet -- not to mention that planes aren't the cleanest of spaces.
Babywear over dragging the stroller. Save yourself the hassle of going through security and having yet another item to drag to the gate. Check your stroller or even better, borrow one from a friend or family member while you’re visiting your destination. Wear your baby instead! You’ll be hands-free, and with less items to keep track of.
Bring the sanitizer. Airplanes are notoriously filled with germs. Make sure you travel with hand sanitizer so you can wipe down little hands during the flight.
Pack a Busy Bag with new toys. My daughter and I used to fly at least four times a year from coast to coast. I always ran to Target the week of a flight and bought her a bunch of new, low cost toys and other items to keep her busy. Our lineup for each flight included: a new coloring book, play-doh or clay, magnetic dolls, sticker books, a few new books that fit in her backpack, and one new movie. This was back in the era of portable DVD players! Now that we have iPads, you can just download a new movie or show series for the plane ride. You do not have to spend a lot of money to keep your kids entertained. Scope out the Dollar Spot at Target, rent movies on Amazon or iTunes to keep costs lower, and borrow books from the library!
If you can, get the baby a seat. I know that kids under two are free, and it’s amazing to save the money – but if you can swing it, having that extra seat is priceless. Having a space to keep my kids in their carseats helped make the flight much smoother, not to mention that it’s much safer. However, I have had to travel without an extra seat plenty of times, too, and we survived!
Prepare for any discomfort. Do you have a child who is prone to nausea? Consider chatting with your pediatrician about remedies you can turn to before and during the flight. Do your child’s ears pop? Make sure you’re stocked up on chewing gum, and request bottled water during take off and landing to swallow. Prepare for the discomforts of flight, because you never know which ones your child will be susceptible to.
Pack extra diapers, and don’t forget the trash bag. You just never know how many diapers you’ll truly need, and having a few plastic grocery bags and ziplock bags – just in case – might end up being the best decision you’ve ever made.
Stock up on snacks. Everyone has different philosophies on this. I used to treat any plane ride like a vacation, which meant letting my kids choose some fun junk food that I wouldn’t normally allow them to have. I found that this kept them quieter and well behaved, but some people find the opposite to be true. Do what works best for your family, but do anticipate that your kids are going to need a lot of snacks! It’s better to overpack and be safe on this one.
Remember that this too shall pass. Sometimes we do everything that we possibly can, and flights still go terribly. Maybe it’s a screaming baby or an overtired, whiny kid, but inevitably, some flights just won’t go your way. Give yourself grace and know that not only will you likely never see any of these people again, but you and your kids are human! Now go pour yourself a glass of wine and hand them off to the in-laws.
What do you think, Austin parents? Are you traveling with your kids this holiday season?
About the Author:
Jessica is an East Coast girl originally from Boston, MA but recently transplated to Austin, TX. She is a Content Manager and Brand Strategist, helping businesses with their social media presence, SEO, and brand strategy. When she’s not busy blogging or strategizing, you can catch her chasing around her three busy kids and rescue fur baby. You can also follow her antics on her personal blog or Instagram.