Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flying with Kids

We've only done this a handful of times. We've done it with newborns, babies, toddlers and preschoolers. We learned a long time ago that it's totally worth just driving unless you have a really long way to go.

If flying is the only option, here are some tips. To save your sanity, and that of everyone else on the plane with you.

- Obviously, if it's a long flight, try to swing a red eye. The kids might sleep once you get in the air - and sleeping is your best chance for a calm flight.

- I don't advocate giving benadryl or other medications to knock your kids out, but I know people who use them. One word of caution though....if you're gonna do it, try it before at home. It makes some kids REALLY REALLY HYPER, and you don't want to figure that out for the first time at 27,000 feet.

- If you are flying with a baby, nurse or feed them on take off and landing. If they won't eat, try to use a pacifier. The pressure buildup in their ears is painful and they don't know how to fix it. For this problem in older kids, use gum or chewy candy.

- If you are flying with an older baby or toddler, you might just be better off paying for the extra seat. Yes, they can ride on your lap, but if they are accustomed to sleeping in the car, you have a shot they might sleep in their seat. Not to mention the whole turbulence thing.

- If your kids have a lovey or something special they sleep with, bring it on the plane. Do not check it. Just in case your bags don't meet you where they are supposed to, you don't want to be out a lovey too. Plus, it might help them sleep on the plane.

- Gate check as much stuff as they will let you. This usually means one item per seat. So even if you have 3 kids, it might be worth lugging the extra booster seats and car seats to the gate if it means you can check another bag. Airlines have gotten ridiculous with the charges for baggage, double check before you go to the airport.

- Let the kids have the window. There is more room for them to fidget and there is more for them to see.

- Bring snacks. Lots of snacks. They are insanely overpriced on board.

- Check the in-flight movies before boarding. If there aren't family friendly options, download movies onto a laptop or other portable device you can use in the air. Even if you normally limit screen time, it is your best friend right now. Trust me.

- Load your ipod with music your kids like. Hand it over.

- Handheld games. Some airlines actually have video games on board these days. If yours doesn't, and it will amuse the kids, bring one.

- Even if your kids are out of diapers, bring wipes. And tissues.

- Coloring books, color wonder sets, etch a sketch, and anything along those lines. Anything small and portable. Bring notebooks and pencils or pens to draw with. Twistable crayons are great for little ones.

- For older kids, have them choose some new books, comics or magazines.

- If they are old enough, bribe them in exchange for good behavior. I am not above bribery. It happens to work, especially if you only bust it out as a motivational technique occasionally.

- New coloring books, mad libs and subject specific workbooks (I get them in the dollar section at Target).

- My girls are the age to bring little purses filled with little pets. If you have a kid with a favorite toy that happens to be small, bring it.

- Bring stickers. Lots of stickers. My kids love stickers. All kids love stickers.

- Play games like Tic Tac Toe. Play Hangman. Draw funny characters alternating who draws which feature.

- If your kids are into this kind of thing, you can bring supplies to make braided bracelets or lanyards. If they have never done it before, teach them.

- If your kids are old enough to be reasoned with, talk to them about your expectations before boarding. Tell them what is and is not acceptable behavior. Tell them they will earn something in return for exceptional behavior, and stick to it.

- Catch the naughty behavior before it starts to spiral out of control. You are in a confined space, and the grumpiest people always sit next to the kids. Always.

- Be super vigilant about chair kicking. They can fidget in your general direction, but try not to let them bug other people too much. (I said try!)

- Secret stash. You must have a secret stash. This secret stash must contain really awesome snacks and new things you know they will love. The things in the secret stash must be new, and they must be awesome. Choose wisely.

- Give them a break. They are kids, and they will get antsy. They won't always be quiet. They will whine. This is why you have a secret stash. Use it wisely.

Eventually, you'll get off the plane. It might seem like forever, but it won't be.

And you just might decide it's easier to drive.

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