*Images from Amazon.com
I know there are lots of tips out there about ways to make traveling with kids easier, and I also know that what works for some kids won't work for others, but I enjoy getting ideas and reminders by reading lists such as these. We were traveling with an infant and a 3-year-old. Here are some of the tips I'd share from our recent traveling experience:
1. Do your best to reserve flights at convenient times in your child's schedule. Mornings are usually best. Allow yourself more time than you think you'll need. Everything takes longer with kids. If you're dealing with longer flights or inconvenient times, try to plan your "schedule" ahead of time so you know how you're going to manage things like naps and mealtimes.
2. If possible, buy your baby a seat. It's the safest way to fly. However, I know it's not always possible, and we sometimes just keep our fingers crossed for an empty seat on the plane. When we don't get a seat for our babies, we use a flight vest. Just a little peace of mind. If it's so important that we all wear our seat belts, especially during takeoff and landing, why would we let our babies go unprotected?
3. It doesn't hurt to ask. My husband steered us towards the front of the security line and asked the attendant if we could go ahead. Our flight was getting ready to board, and I tried to look as pitiful as possible, managing our kids and stroller and carry-ons. The agent let us through. It doesn't always work, but it never hurts to ask.
4. Board last. If you are dealing with a car seat, and there are two of you traveling, you may want to send one in ahead to get the seat set up. Otherwise, minimize the amount of time you have to keep your kids sitting in their seats.
5. Pack extra clothes. Babies poop, and accidents happen. You do not want to get caught in an airplane with a baby covered in poo and nothing else for him to wear.
6. Extra pacifiers. And although I personally don't like the little pacifier clips, it would probably be a very handy thing to have on an airplane. Those little suckers are hard to find when they fall underneath the seats.
7. Get a small backpack. I happened to have a little backpack that the big boy could use, so he packed his stuffed penguin and a few other favorite items to carry on. He liked having his own bag to carry, and it gave me a little extra room in my own carry-on.
8. Pack lots of diversions, and break them out one at a time and only as necessary to stretch them for as long as possible. Remember to keep a stash set aside for dinners and the ride home. Items that kept our 3-year-old entertained:
- Hands-down the best item we brought: Puzzlebuzz magazine, by Highlights. It's targeted for kid's 4-7, so some of the pages were a little too hard for the big boy, but he loves the hidden pictures, and loves all the sticker activities. It isn't especially cheap, but it was sooooooo worth it.
- Books! I bought several new books - paperback and/or thin, such as little golden books. Bringing a few favorites is always good as well.
- Mini play scene sticker set, such as this one or this one.
- Mini-coloring book and small zipper bag with a few crayons. I like these mini twistable ones - they are a little easier to hang on to and they don't break! (We just brought 4 or 5 with us.)
- Snacks. Sometimes a bag of bunny grahams will go just as far as a book to keep your kid occupied, and it's always good to remember that kids often get cranky when they're hungry and that the onboard options are usually lacking. Be prepared with items you know your child likes.
9. Bring your sense of humor and adventure. This is undoubtedly the most important reminder. It is not easy traveling with kids, but you have to be prepared and stay calm. Your kids pick up on your moods - If you are stressed, they will be too. But if you're waiting in a really long line and can laugh and play with your kids at the same time, they'll see that it's all a part of the adventure of travel!