Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Family Travel: Flying with Kids

Flying with Kids
Happy Travels when Flying with Kids

You’re on the beach, the beautiful beach.  The sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun, the fruity umbrella drink... the serenity of vacation.  It is absolute Paradise…

**cue alarm clock**  

You wake with a jolt, and remember that you have to get there first.  With your children in tow.  You have to spend hours in a plane - with your children - before you can experience paradise. 

Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart.  Kids just aren’t wired to sit still and be quiet for long; a fact that is directly at odds to being cooped up in an airplane full of strangers.  For hours on end.  But with some strategy and preparation, travel with kids can be bearable… and dare we say … fun?

Flying with Kids Strategy #1: Talk It Up

Kids love knowing what to expect; they tend to handle new experiences better when they have an idea of what's coming.  In the days and weeks leading up to your trip, talk with them about what traveling will be like.  Describe each step, so they can mull it over, get a picture in their heads, ask questions and voice concerns.  

How will the airport experience look?  Talk about getting there, checking bags, going through security, and boarding the plane.  Discuss the plane, how they'll sit in a certain seat and wear their seat belts (especially when the light is on).  Describe what the flight attendants and pilots will do, and how it's important to listen to their direction.  If you have a layover, go over that part too.  What will happen when you arrive at your destination?  Talk it all through.       

Flying with Kids Strategy #2: Gadgets

Once travel day arrives, your first line of defense is probably obvious: electronics.  They are your best friend.  Embrace them.  While you may limit all manner of screens during normal life, a travel day is the day to lift the screen ban.  

Smartphones, tablets, really any sort of gadget with games or movies = invaluable on a long flight.  If you have more than one kid, then for the sake of your sanity, bring more than one gadget (a 1:1 gadget:kid ratio is highly recommended).  Before the trip, find out what new app or movie they’ve been longing for and buy it for your day of travel.  For your readers, download a heap of books into an e-reader or e-reader app.

Flying with Kids Strategy #3: Activities

Eventually, the kids (especially the very young) will grow tired of the gadgets.  Be prepared by having a stash of small, entertaining items – some new surprises and some old favorites.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Classics like coloring books, word searches, mazes, sticker books
  • Small Etch-a-sketch, magnadoodle, etc.
  • Magnetic set, colorforms, reusable sticker set
  • Tiny doll, action figure or stuffed animal
  • A Microfiber Travel Towel will make a nice blanket for putting dolly or teddy down for a nap (it’s also a great plane blanket for the humans!)
  • Hot wheels
  • A Toob set of small animals, knights & dragons, pirates etc.
  • Painter’s tape (Really!  Kids love tape.  One idea: use it in conjunction with hotwheels or Toob set)
  • Travel version of a favorite game
  • Blank notepad + a fresh pack of crayons or pens
  • A deck of cards
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Books (a new book from a favorite series would be a hit)
  • Wikki Stix (make letters, animals, people, shapes, long chains…)
  • Small craft kit (foam sticker craft kit, color by number, etc.)
  • Bonus: these activities will come in handy during your trip, should you have any hotel room lulls.

Flying with Kids Strategy #4: Food

Kids are always hungry, and airplane meals will be poorly timed or non-existent.  Bringing food is a practical necessity, but snack time can serve another purpose: a fun (and yummy) activity.  If ever there was a time to let them play with their food, this is it.
  • Play zoo with animal crackers.
  • Buy the character fruit snacks they’ve been begging for and let them act out scenes.
  • String an “O” cereal (the fruity variety would be especially pretty) onto pipe cleaners for edible jewelry.
  • Use those fruity O’s (or m&m’s, or another multicolored snack) for some surreptitious math practice – sorting, counting, adding, subtracting, etc.
  • Unraveling fruit roll-ups is excellent fine motor skill practice and takes forever.
  • Related: a whole apple takes much longer to eat than apple slices.
  • “Draw” outlines of shapes or pictures with m&m’s (or nuts or O’s, etc)
  • Read the nutrition labels on snack wrappers.  Discuss.
  • Build your own trail mix – pack ingredients (nuts, dry cereal, dried fruit, etc.) in separate baggies.  Help your child choose the ingredients for their own personal trail mix recipe.
  • Build gummy bear pyramids.
  • Also: Be sure to pack wipes, for pre and post snack clean-up.

Flying with Kids Strategy #5: Wing It

It’s worth mentioning that timing is key.  Wait until the wiggles set in before diving into your bag of tricks, and let each activity run its course before moving on to something else.  

But at some point, you’ll probably find that your kid is *done* with this airplane, and you’re just going to have to go with the flow.  Walk the aisles.  Appreciate kindly passengers that will engage them in a 2 minute game of peek-a-boo while you take a breath.  Explore the seat back pocket and see how creative you can get with the contents.  You’ll do what it takes, and earn yourself some major parenting points in the process.  Before you know it… you’ll be there.  You’ll make it to Paradise.


What’s your favorite strategy for traveling with kids?

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