It’s 4 a.m. on Monday morning, and your toddler is happily playing with her favorite toys – in your bed. The dark, still house seems to present no detractor for her imagination, as she happily babbles and clambers around, over and on you as you desperately try to get a few more hours of much-needed sleep before starting the work week.
Every parent has experienced similar situations at home, which is why the idea of flying with young children can seem especially foreboding. However, by following some of our tips in this two-part series, we think the experience can be made at least a little better. Well, hopefully.
Tip# 1 – Packing
Kids need lots of stuff. The younger the kid, the more stuff they need. Very often, you will need access to their things IMMEDIATELY. Here are a few crucial items to remember for your carry-on bag:
- Extra sets of clothes: Pack at least two changes each for you and your child (accidents can, and will happen).
- Extra bottles
- Pacifiers: Plan on brining at least three extras compared to a normal outing as they tend to be misplaced easily.
- Extra sets of clothes: Pack at least two changes each for you and your child
- Snacks: Try to go for foods that last longer with your child, and avoid anything sticky or crumbly. If you have more than one child, pack snacks in sealable, clear bags with the same amounts of food in each to avoid arguing over who has what.
- Toys: Avoid toys with multiple pieces, or that make loud noises.
- Small pillows
- Pull-Ups/Diapers: No matter the stage your child is in with potty training, these are a necessity when on a plane. You can definitely try to keep on schedule by taking your little one to the plane’s restroom when the need arises, but some children might be afraid of the loud airplane toilets and will refuse to use them.
Don’t be afraid to co-op your children’s carry-on bag with your own – even very small children can wrangle a backpack full of diapers and other lightweight necessities, taking some of the load off of you. Plus, they get the bonus of getting to help like a “big” boy or girl.
Also, keep in mind when packing that the FAA prefers for all children weighing less than 40 pounds to be seated in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS).
If you decide to bring a CRS, make sure it is:
- Government approved: It should have “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” printed on it – otherwise you may be asked to check the CRS as baggage, which can possibly void its warranty depending on the manufacturer.
- Is no wider than 16 inches
- Placed in a window seat so it won’t block the escape path in an emergency: Try to book two seats together, or ask the airline if they can seat you next to an empty window seat if you did not purchase a ticket for your child.
Also, you can arrange for your airline to help you if you have to make a connecting flight – lugging your child, bags and a CRS across a busy terminal is no simple feat.
Tip # 2 – Pre-Flight
OK, so you have everything you could possibly need for the flight, and you are now waiting to board. That’s when you notice your children running up and down the lounge aisles, laughing, yelling and generally causing a ruckus. While the disdainful looks you’re undoubtedly receiving from other travelers are probably enough motivation for you intervene on their rowdiness, do yourself (and those snarky travelers) a favor and let the kids play. They are about to be confined in a small space with limited range of motion for an hour at the very least, probably longer. It’s best for them to burn up as much energy as possible before boarding. Besides, the dirty looks will end when your kids are fast asleep on the plane.
Here are a few more pre-flight tips:
- Double check your flight seating arrangement.
- Try to book flights that coincide with your child’s nap or bedtime, if possible.
- Make sure both you and your child are wearing shoes that are easy to take off for TSA checks.
- Make sure everyone has used the bathroom/been changed as close to boarding as possible.
- If you have a CRS, get in line before pre-boarding is called to allow yourself more time to get the seat installed.
Check back for our remaining tips on traveling with small children. In the meantime, let us know if you have any of your own tried and true tips in the comments below, or on Twitter @TandTNews.