An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you travel with children. And if you’ll read these tips, I bet your fellow passengers will thank you for being on top of the game! Take advantage of the one-on-one time with your child by giving them 100% of your attention. After all, isn’t that what children want most from adults?
Several days before the trip start talking about your adventure and give details about what is going to happen. Have children close their eyes as you describe the trip – checking in at the airport - going through security - waiting for your flight to be called – getting on the plane and fastening your seatbelt – taking off – looking out the window – landing – how much fun you’ll have on your vacation, etc. Explain that there are many other people who will be sharing a small space on the plane and that everyone needs to be respectful and use their best manners and quiet voices. The pilots and flight attendants are there to keep everybody safe, so you will have to listen carefully to them.
Let your children pack a bag full of special objects that they want to carry on the plane. (You’ll have to give some guidelines for this so they don’t try and bring their entire collection of stuffed animals.) A few books, a tablet and markers, a card game, a bedtime buddy or blanket, and some healthy snacks should do the trick. You might also suggest a change of clothes, tissues, and bandaids in case of emergencies.
After going through security, walk around and look out the windows at the other planes. Look at all the passengers and guess where they might be going. Talk about special things that your child hopes to do on the trip. If the flight is delayed you can play “I Spy,” “Tic Tac Toe,” “Hangman” or another quiet game. Oh, and don’t forget a last minute stop in the restroom!
When boarding a plane, you’ll find most pilots enthusiastic about meeting children and letting them take a “peek” inside the cockpit. Can your child find her own seat? Once seated, encourage your child to explore her space. (It’s fine to open and shut the window shade a few times, look in the seat pocket, talk about the airsick bag, etc.) Playing with the flight attendant call button is NOT ALLOWED! When the boarding door has closed, then everyone must buckle up!
Up in the Air
Once you are in the air, it’s time to open the backpack and read some books, play a game, draw some pictures, or eat a snack. Too often children have gone through their bag of tricks before they get in the air. If a beverage is served, show your child how to put down their tray and discuss their selection. Keep on talking and engaging your child.
O.K. Now, it’s time to get out the iPad or computer and watch a movie. Wait until the last possible moment to do this. This is like the 8th inning stretch on the plane. (I might also recommend a bag of M & M’s – for emergencies only!) Before you know it you will hear those magic words, “Please make sure your seatbelt are fastened. We will be landing shortly.”
Remember, YOU are the parent and you are directing this event. With a happy, positive, attitude you’ll have a great flight and the other passengers will as well! How many opportunities do you have to give your child 100% of your attention? That may be the best part of your trip!