Once you have kids, flying becomes a whole new adventure. If your kids are under the age of four it is a potentially dreadful adventure.
When Bubba was fourteen months old we flew from the East Coast to the West Coast. After that trip my husband and I swore off flying with him until he was older. Everyone told us that he would nap on the flight. He did nap. The only problem was it was the half hour when we were waiting for the flight to take off. Ten minutes into the flight and he was awake the duration of the flight. I think the excitement of the flight kept him up. This was before we had the electronic devices we now own.
In my opinion, I think it is easiest to travel with a child before they can crawl. Once they can crawl I don’t think I’d want to be flying on a long flight with a baby….you cannot let a baby crawl around on an airplane. If they are walking, then at least you can walk your child up and down the airplane aisle if necessary. You cannot do this with a crawling child.
However, around the time your child learns to walk becomes the age when you never know what to expect. I didn’t really start to relax when flying until my kids were three and a half. Here are some things I have learned through the years:
- Pick out your seats ahead of time if you can. Remember – if you are going to bring a car seat on a flight the car seat needs to be in a window seat if you are flying in a one aisle aircraft. If you are flying in a two aisle aircraft it either needs to be in a window seat or in the middle of the row. I will usually find the best flights using a tool like Kayak, but then I will go to that airline’s website to book the flight. This usually allows me to pick out my seats as I make the reservation.
- If you can book a bulkhead seat, book it. First, if you have young kids then they cannot bother the people in front of them by kicking their seat. Second, there is generally a little more legroom in the seats than in other rows. More legroom = more room for your child to play in.
- Do not book seats in Exit rows. You must at least 15 to sit in an exit row, so if you have a child with you then you will be forced to move your seats and you run the risk of being separated.
- If you bring along an entertainment device such as an ipad/DS/etc., PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE only allow your child to use these with headphones or with the volume on mute. There is nothing more distracting to other passengers when we hear these devices. If you at least have your child use headphones when using these, it at least sends the message to other passengers that you are trying to be considerate. Practice using headphones before your trip. Make sure you have child size headphones as well.
- Talk about the airplane ride before your trip. Every time we fly I remind my kids how we are expecting them to behave and that flying is a privilege. Good behavior on flights equals more trips in the future. If they repeatedly behaved poorly I am sure we would have stopped flying with them years ago.
- Take your kids to the bathroom in the airport shortly before you start to board. This past January we were on a trip and I took my daughter to the bathroom before we got on board. However, she still needed to use the bathroom on the plane. Those bathrooms are not meant for two people. She is still too young to go in there by herself, but it was pretty tough maneuvering in there.
- Read up on the TSA’s website about what you can and cannot bring on a flight. I believe you can bring juice boxes and milk if you are flying with young ones. But take a minute to google it on the actual TSA’s website before you go.
- Remember that airlines are not responsible for providing you with water for your formula, warming bottles, or having enough milk on hand for your toddler. If you need these items, bring them. Bring extra formula in case weather delays or mechanical delays delay you from reaching your destination. Once you get through security you can always get ice from a restaurant – make sure you bring a bag or a cooler to put it in.
- Post-it notes, old magazines, a coloring book and crayons go a long way with toddlers. Both of my kids loved to just put post-it notes up everywhere. They both enjoyed grabbing magazines and tearing pages up. To this day both of my kids enjoy a fresh box of new crayons and a new coloring book.
- Clean up after yourself once you land. Flight attendants do not want to be cleaning your mess. If you make a mess, do your best to clean it up.
- Bring your own snacks. Even if a meal is available on a flight, I always assume mine won’t eat it. I pack plenty of snacks. Plus, if your child is in a mood having a snack tends to help things. In addition to things that they normally eat, also pack things in there that they normally are not allowed to have. I rarely buy fruit snacks, but they are a special treat when flying.
- Remember turbulence can happen in the air. And when turbulence happens, the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign goes on. When that sign is on you are not supposed to leave your seat. So make sure you take your kids to the bathroom when that light is out. If you are flying cross-country than half-way through the flight is a good time to have a bathroom break.
- If you are potty training and worry about your child having an accident – have them wear underwear, but put a pull-up on over the underwear. That way if they have an accident or are afraid to use the airplane toilet the only damage that is done is to the underwear.
- If your child is disruptive, remind yourself that chances are you will never see these people again. And chances are the majority of the people on the airplane are parents or grandparents so they have been in your shoes before. That always helped me keep my sanity when one of my kids broke into a scream on a flight.
I hope my list helps you the next time you fly somewhere with your kids. And to all of you non-parents out there – I assure you that when a baby is crying his/her parent’s are doing their best to calm the child. It is very stressful travelling with a child. We are trying to do our best to keep our child entertained. Though you cannot hear it, we are apologizing to you in our heads. We are eagerly awaiting the day when flying on an airplane becomes much less stressful.