Pain-Free Air Travel With Kids – Tips for Parents
Winter holidays and the packing, prepping, traffic jams, and long lines at the airport that accompany seasonal travel are finally a memory. The winter of 2008 was memorable in many parts of the country as an unusually harsh travel season due to typical winter weather. Summer travel season is right around the corner and now is the perfect time to get ready for your next adventure.
Although the ease of getting through airport security has recently been simplified, it is typical to spend between three hours and a full day at the airport. The parents who “put up with” this common fact are the ones who stick to the tried-and-true adage: to be prepared. Here are some tips to make those long days of travel as smooth as possible.
plan for the future
1. If there are multiple children and two adults traveling together, consider reserving seats in different rows. Kids can swap places mid-flight and enjoy one-on-one time with each parent. If a child is especially distracting to surrounding passengers, the child has another place to go. Even ten rows can be enough to calm the nerves of the child and the passengers.
2. Take advantage of the pre-boarding call for families by sending an adult up front at the early boarding call to set up car seats, store backpacks, and maybe stash a surprise in the child seats. The remaining adult and children board the plane at the last moment. In this way, children have until the last minute available to stretch their legs before facing the reduced space in their seats, and it can increase the anticipation and novelty of air travel.
3. Travel schedules permitting, large families with two adults may do well to fly separately: one adult and children a few hours before the other adult and children. This works on the premise that one adult and one or two children can maneuver more easily than two adults and two (or more) children.
4. Think about your own travel comfort needs: wear comfortable, easy-care clothing and shoes designed for walking, for example. Dark colors are also great for hiding stains: consider the traveling mom whose young son hit his head at the airport and bled all over her shirt. Fortunately, the boy was fine, but his flight was canceled and Mom spent the next 24 hours in that shirt. However, it was navy blue and no one noticed the stains.
5. The early leaving adult can drop it off at the curb, while the late leaving parent can park the car and get a shuttle to the terminal; the parent leaving early can take all checked luggage with them, and upon arrival can secure the luggage and rental car or shuttle schedules so that the late-arriving parent can easily pick it up curbside.
6. Pack a “fun” light bag for the kids. Children up to two years old may love having their own bag or backpack to take on the road; just be aware that it may lose its appeal after a while and will be worn by an adult, so plan accordingly. Let the child choose one or two special items to pack, but also keep a surprise in the bag and call if the child needs a distraction.
Pack healthy meals and/or snacks for the trip
Bring healthy meals and snacks with you. It may be hard to believe, but airport and airline food has gotten more expensive, less diverse, and less healthy in recent years. When flights are delayed, airport food options can quickly become scarce. Add that to the stringent security restrictions for the transport of liquids and gels, and delays in traveling with children becomes really daunting. Again, planning for contingencies like delays can make the difference between “adventure” and “test” on the day of travel.
1, Find an insulated lunch box with a leak-proof container to carry food for your travel day. If you’re flying, leave the ice pack at home or be prepared to hand it over to security as it breaks the 3 oz rule. Instead, fill a bottle with ice cubes or a small container with water and freeze ahead of time. It will work well as a coolant, and when it comes time to go through security, ice or water can be thrown in. Otherwise, snacks should only be non-perishable.
2. Pack lunch boxes before I leave home, but don’t let the kids open them until they’re on the plane. This serves several purposes: it keeps the kids moving toward the end goal (buckled in their seats), and they can act like it’s Christmas morning when they can finally open their boxes and see what goodies you’ve saved for them.
3. Be sure to fill the containers with treats that will delight and keep you going through a long day. Remember that “premium” does not have to mean “unhealthy” and variety is essential. There are many options: dried fruit, fresh fruit, salad greens and other sliced vegetables, crackers, pretzels, popcorn, room temperature hard cheeses, jerky, smoked salmon, chocolate, granola (note that the bars are less dirty but are often loaded with sugar). If you want to add a sweet treat, fruit chews are often a favorite. In consideration of other travelers, avoid common allergens like nuts.
4. Do not forget that you will also need snacks and distractions for the trip. Many of the same foods will appeal to adults, but if you can carve out time before the trip to prepare them, create a “build your own snack” selection by packaging different flavors and varieties of crackers and sliced breads, mini breadsticks, crostini, blini, pita chips or other “base”. Then pack small amounts of plain or flavored cream cheese (use a small spoon for spreading), olives, pickles, bell peppers, capers, scallions, smoked salmon, beef jerky or other dried meats, hummus, fresh sliced or lightly cooked vegetables steam, or anything else that pleases your palate. You will be the envy of your cabin mates.
5. After passing through the security gates but before boarding, fill a beverage bottle with fresh water in the terminal. You may even find a food vendor willing to provide ice. Just remember when you open the bottle mid-flight that the change in cabin pressure can cause the bottle to spill, so have a napkin handy.
Winter travel is a memory, but picnic season and summer travel season are just around the corner. With a little planning and foresight, “half the fun is getting there” may be back in fashion after all.