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Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Traveling On A Plane With Small Children
Just the title of this post might make some of you cringe, feel lightheaded, or maybe even a little nauseous. I recently took a six hour flight with my 3 and 5 year old and it went very well. I thought I would share some of the things that I did for our plane ride.
First of all the most important thing to do is....breathe. Flying alone or only with adults can be stressful in and of itself, but when you add small children to the mix things go up a couple of levels in some anxiety. Kids are sensitive to everything you are feeling and will know if you are having heightened stress levels and will react on how you are acting. Try to act as least stressed out as possible especially if you cannot get rid of inner stress....at least be a good actor with your kids in mind. If you have bad flight anxiety there are forums and websites online with lots of support, tips on making it, and even classes to help with your flight.
Second, come prepared! Just as Miranda pointed out for traveling in the car it makes the trip so much more enjoyable for your child AND you when you're prepared with lots of entertainment. Be sure to pack at least one of your carry on luggage pieces for this purpose solely. Fill up your bag full of anything that you know is a comfort item for your child first. With my boys I let them pick out a favorite stuffed animal. Your child might need a story that always comforts them, blanket, or we all know that sometimes for the littlest children a binky will be the only cure for any kind of a melt down. I also let my boys pick out the toys they wanted to bring. I let them know what size could fit in our bag and they had a hay day with "helping mom pack". Along with a blanket a pillow also. Most planes do have blankets and pillows to give to flyers but they can be small and uncomfortable. The smell of their own pillow and/or blanket will help comfort them and can make it easier for them to sleep on longer flights.
Other ideas for entertainment are coloring books, puzzles, games, new toys they haven't seen that you bought beforehand, laptop for movies...etc. Some planes have small tv's for each flyer to pick their own movie, tv show, or game. They give out little ear pieces on these flights but they usually are hard for small children to keep in their ears so I recommend bringing headphones that you know are comfortable and can easily fit on your child's head and ears. Snacks are a must but be sure to check with your airline to see what restrictions they have.
Don't forget to put in your carry on: diapers and/or pull-ups, wipes, small first aid kit (just in case), children's tylenol and pepto if they get sick, extra clothes, hand sanitizer, and if your child is old enough some gum for his/her ears to help with the altitude changes. If you are traveling out of the country or moving it's important to keep all important documents with you on the plane such as birth certificates, passports, or some form of ID for your child (and you).
Last I wanted to focus on preparing your child emotionally for the flight. It is very important to let your child know about where you are going and how you're going to get there because children are very routine minded. Breaking the routine is going to be hard on them so prepare them as much in advance as you can and remind them often as it gets closer about what's coming up. Make sure to act excited and happy about the trip so your child will be excited for it as well. Besides talking about it one thing that I did for my boys was write a small story about riding on a plane. I made them the lead characters and it was a hit! I also prepared them for where we were going with a story so that landing in a new environment wasn't scary or unsettling. If you like this idea and are not up to the challenge of illustrating your own story you can ask a friend who is good at art to do it for you or simple stick figures will do. It doesn't have to be fancy....your little story books will go down in history with them and surely be kept to look back on in the future.
I also looked up pictures of airplanes (the outside and inside) to show my boys so it was familiar to them before getting on the plane. I found a video on YouTube that showed a "first flight" experience for some small children. The video was exciting and fun to watch. Don't forget to preview videos first to make sure they are G rated for little one's eyes and ears ;).
All of these tips helped make our latest 6 hour flight very smooth. My boys were well prepared beforehand and very entertained on the plane. We even got lucky and they fell asleep! Now that is a successful plane ride with small children!
Watch for up coming posts on Flying With Infants, which we have also done successfully, and Flying With Anxiety. Please share your tips and tricks on flying with children that worked for you and any questions you may have. Happy flying!
Be sure to check out our other articles and projects to help prepare for your vacations:
Traveling Project #1 - Neck Pillow
Traveling Project #2 - Car Mat
Traveling Project #3 - Quiet Book
Traveling on a Plane with Small Children
Road Trips with Small Children