One of the most common reasons friends tell me they don’t travel with their kids is they fear the plane part. The idea of being confined to a small space in a flying vessel for an extended period of time overwhelms them. What if the kids get hungry, bored, antsy, or upset? They tell me stories of the rough experiences they had and how it scarred them.
I know what they mean. I once was traveling with my 18-month old and two cats. While I was bouncing my son in the front of the plane trying to get him to sleep – while he protested – one of my cats ESCAPED her carrier and ran down the aisle. Not kidding, folks. It actually happened. We found her hiding in the galley with the help of kind flight attendant and returned her to the carrier. Talk about being a spectacle! I have also had sick kids, crying kids, and everything in between on a flight.
Truth? Flying with kids can have challenges. But, it is completely doable with some planning, patience, and flexibility. If you don’t know where to begin to plan a trip, check out my post about Traveling With Kids: A Beginners Guide.
Flying with kids is not as simple as car travel, obviously. Whether you are flying a short flight or a long-haul, you have to plan. You have to get to the airport, go through security, wait to board, and sit on a plane.
With kids, you have extra people to look after along with their baggage. You are doing this while simultaneously navigating crowds, security, and sometimes delays and cancellations. Sometimes the flight gets bumpy or the TV doesn’t work. The unpredictability of travel sometimes creates stress that you are managing, while keeping track of little ones and their needs.
Quite simply, kids just come with extra needs. They are often taken out of their routine and off schedule. They are overwhelmed by the crowds, sights, and sounds, and are sometimes just super excited to get where they are going!
It is important to take this all into account, which is where the patience comes in handy. They aren’t adults, and we can’t expect them to behave as such. The more you travel with them, the easier it gets, even if something unexpected happens.
Sometimes things go wrong while traveling, and this is where flexibility is helpful. Being flexible ourselves will help our kids follow our lead. This will ultimately help problems get solved quickly so you can get on with your trip.
Flying with babies is a bit more cumbersome because they need a lot of stuff. You need to bring some baby equipment, such as strollers, car seats, baby carriers, and pack n’ plays. Of course, you also need to bring the essentials of formula, food, diapers, changing pads, wipes, extra clothes, pacifiers, and toys. Babies also communicate by crying their needs, and many people fear their baby will cry on the plane.
This age is challenging because they need to move. Their bodies aren’t meant to be confined to a seat for long periods of time. They also need lots of snacks, potty breaks, and distractions. Sometimes they express their feelings through loud and spectacular displays of emotion (also known as a tantrum.) Naps are still important at this age, as is the delicate sleep and eating cycle – any disruption to this can wreak havoc on a little person’s ability to cope with a flight. People fear flying with little ones at this age for the potential of their child to “Hulk out” on the flight.
In my experience, many of the concerns that plague flying with the little ones aren’t as worrisome. But, whining and boredom can be the biggest challenge of this age group. Being flexible and patient does not come naturally to this age. But, they are far more independent and able to be – get ready for it – helpful if you teach and encourage them. You still have extra people to keep track of, but this is a great age to foster independence and teach them HOW to travel.
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Many people fear traveling with kids. But it doesn’t have to be a scary ride! Some flights will go smoothly and some will have bumps along the way. All you can do is pack well, plan on being early, and maintain patience and flexibility. Remember, travel is all about the journey and the flight is just one piece of this family adventure.
I’d love to hear from you! What are your best tips for flying with kids?
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