By: Justina Scharf (Guest Blogger)
I remember when I was young and single and flew a lot. I hated it when I saw a mom with children waiting at my gate. I knew that I would end up seated next to a screaming child or in front of a kid who kept kicking my seat. I would think, “Why do they have to travel? Can’t she control her kids? When I have kids I’ll never let them act like that.”
I was so wrong. And dumb — O, man, was I dumb. Now that I have kids of my own, I dread the looks I get from passengers when I arrive at the airport with my kids in tow. I think to myself, “I was you once. I know you hate me, but we have to fly!”
So how do I try to control my kiddos and keep them from annoying the other passengers too much?
Location, Location, Location
I always opt for seats toward the back of the plane . This works for a few reasons. First, most other passengers are trying to get as close to the front as they can so you aren’t bothering as many people if it’s not a super full flight. Also, I’m closer to the bathroom. Which is super important when you have a toddler who has to ‘go potty’ every few minutes, because I can actually sit with my other child and be able to watch my toddler enter and exit the bathroom.
Sitting toward the back also lets me let other passengers off first so that I don’t get the stink eye from others who are trying to get off quickly, because lets be honest corralling my kids toward a plane exit is not a quick process.
When booking my tickets I always book the aisle and window seat on the flight. If three of us aren’t traveling this means that that middle seat is left available to be booked by another passenger. Often, no one books it which gives us room to spread out a bit more. And when someone does book that seat, I just ask to switch seats. I’ve never had anyone turn me down.
Make it fun
We play lots of games looking out the window of the plane. We make up stories about the ant people below us. Or we’ll try to count the number of cars. We create magic kingdoms out of the clouds.
I also bring our set of magic markers and a few coloring books along. Even the most well behaved kids tend to try to color on the walls and seatbacks if they’re cooped up too long. The magic markers give me peace of mind.
Of course we also have the iPad full of games and videos for my older child to play with. Technology has certainly made things easier!
“Mommy, I’m huuunnngry.” Almost impossible to resolve when you’re 30,000 miles in the air, unless you’ve planned ahead. I pack granola bars and trail mix for the kids. I also will bring animal crackers because we end up playing zoo with them at some point. Make sure to bring wet wipes to clean up your kids sticky fingers and wipe off the tray and window so you’re not leaving it for the next passenger.
Don’t forget to bring an extra bottle for kids that need bottles and an extra sippy cup for your toddlers. Inevitably, one always goes missing. You can’t get sippy cups through security most places when they’re full so make plans to fill them with water or buy juice or milk when you make it through security. We’ve also found that single serve kool-aid packs work great as well as I can just mix them up with water once we get through security.
*Side note: Pack an easy to access extra change of clothing for everyone, including yourself, just in case someone spills or gets airsick.
Prepare them for flying
The first time your kids fly can be a bit traumatic for them if you don’t prepare them for all of the waits and that their favorite stuffed friend will have to go through the x-ray machine. The TSA has a really great animated video for kids to watch before they fly.
Make sure to give your kids very clear expectations of what you expect from them and their behavior before you leave. Going over this beforehand gives less wiggle room for them to tell you they didn’t know.
Give yourself time
I have nightmares about being the mom from Home Alone. I set multiple alarms for this reason, so that I am not rushing to make it to the airport in the morning. I try to get there with plenty of time before we board because getting through security, especially with kids, isn’t quick.
I also like to get there before we board so that I can talk to the gate person and find out of they allow families with young children to board earlier. Many airlines do this in order to help parents and to help other passengers that board after us not have to be held up by our walking circus.
Also make sure you have plenty of time between connecting flights. Dashing from one flight to the next is next to impossible with children because they will need to stop in the bathroom and it’s also easier for them if they have a bit of time to stretch their legs before the next flight.
What tricks do you use when you fly with your kids?