More often than not, traveling via airplane is an absolute nightmare, especially where small children and infants are concerned. Long lines at security, coupled with frequent “hurry-up-and-wait” scenarios, can make the task of keeping your kiddo comfortable and entertained seem nearly impossible. Things that you have come to expect, such as uncomfortable ear-popping and compact seats, are absolutely foreign to your child, which can result in an unpleasant flight for you, your little one, and those around you.
Those Around You
Let’s start with the obvious—nobody likes to see a parent with a small child board the aircraft. They may have complimented the baby’s smile or remarked on the toddler’s wobbly footsteps at the gate, but the minute the child enters the aisle of the plane, all adoration disappears. Your fellow cabinmates are so relieved when you make your way past them, evidently aware of the struggles that accompany traveling with small children. Then, you arrive—middle and window seat, please. The gentleman in the aisle seat smiles wanly up at you, asking if you’re sure this is where you belong. You reply with an apologetic affirmation, ready to take-on the challenge of the next two-and-a-half hours.
I recently encountered this scenario on a flight from Nashville to Houston. A young family with a three-year-old boy was seated in the row behind me. Prior to take-off, I was surprised to feel a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find the mother extending a small Ziploc bag to me. Inside was a pair of earplugs, a pack of gum, and a note, asking me to please be patient while she and her husband worked to get their child settled. I was so surprised by their proactive response to what can be a sticky situation! It’s strange to think that such a small gesture can change the way a complete stranger views a situation.
Your Little One
Whew! Now that your neighbors are comfortable, you can turn your attention to your children. First priority? Comfort. There’s little you can do to help them through take-off and landing, but you can offer them water or snacks as swallowing may help their ears to pop. Consider allowing the kiddos to travel in their pajamas or favorite superhero costume—whatever makes them feel warm, safe, and secure. It’s also a good idea to have a stuffed animal or blanket on-hand to help assuage any lingering fears.
Once you’re airborne, then comes the difficult task of keeping them happy for an extended period of time. Take a look below for some suggestions!
1) Coloring Sheets – Every child loves to color, especially when the sheets depict characters from their favorite movies or TV shows. It’s easy to print a few pages prior to the trip, saving you the hassle of packing a large, heavy coloring book. In addition, you may want to purchase a small box of crayons for the flight. The fewer pieces that can go missing the better!
2) Story Time – Does your kiddo have a favorite book? Be sure to bring it with you! The few hours spent in the sky are 100% uninterrupted by phone calls, emails, or texts, making it the perfect time for you and your little one to enjoy an extended story time. If your child is a bookworm with an affinity to LOTS of books, consider downloading their library onto your smartphone or tablet—we guarantee it’ll save your shoulder when walking through the terminal!
3) Doodle Board – A classic doodle board is perfect for playing tic-tac-toe, hangman, or Pictionary. You could also use it to practice sight words with older kids.
4) Destination Imagination – Where are you going? Whether you’re headed to see Grandpa and Grandma, or traveling to Hawaii on vacation, ask your child what they expect to see and do. Encourage them to use their imagination to create a detailed adventure about what lies ahead. Before you know it, you’ll be wishing you could head to their world instead!
5) I Spy – Kids love using their surroundings to play “I Spy.” However, this can be a little difficult to do in a confined space like an airplane. Consider packing the classic hardcover books or bringing along a few child-friendly magazines. Spending a few minutes on each page will make time go faster than you’d think!
Flying can be daunting, but making sure your kiddo is content relieves much of the stress. Creating a relaxed, entertaining atmosphere for your child will allow you to enjoy the travel—not just the trip! Do you have any suggestions for traveling with your tots? If so, sound off below—we’d love to hear from you!