Oh how much fun is to travel! Can I say the same when traveling with three kids? … Yes! Is it easy? Heck no, but you can prepare to make the best out of every trip. We travel from Cali to New York for ski week (that is what we call it here in the Bay though I am sure is not the official name), and long flights are so very no bueno with little kids. I want to share with you some of the things we did to make the travel part more enjoyable. Let’s do this!
First let’s talk about booking your flights. I think we all prefer non-stop flights, but when traveling with my kids, I actually don’t mind having a connection. Why? Well, the overall time might be a tad bit longer but kids need that break. You don’t have to sit for 6 hours straight asking them to keep their sillies in. With a connection they have two decent size chunks of plane time with a middle time to walk around an airport, stretch, or even play since some airports have nice kids zones to keep them entertained. Depending on your destination, a long red-eye flight might work. Hopefully they will get tired and sleep through the night and that will make things easier. However, I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep on planes… even on red-eyes! So this choice won’t always work but is one to consider.
Flights are booked so now is time to pack. We allow each kid to bring a backpack with the things they will need for the airplane. Here are some of the things I suggest packing:
- Activity books. Some kids love these, and if yours is one of them, they can spend a good amount of time coloring, solving puzzles, connecting dots, solving mazes, playing tic-tac-toe.
- Reading books. These are great for older kids who enjoy reading. It can be challenging for reading along with little ones but never impossible.
- Headphones and iPod (or music player): These are really good to bring because headphones can help with airplane pressure, and if your child is a music lover like mine, they would rather listen to their music that the cabin noise. Also, many airplanes offer entertainment on those small screens in front and is best you bring your own headphones to listen than buying on the airplane.
- Comfort toys. My little one travels with at least 2 stuffed animals all the time. For some it might be a blanket, but anything that helps a child feel reassured and it can fit on that backpack, you want to bring.
- Sweater or blanket. I don’t know if it is just me but I find cabin temperature on the cold side. Not all airlines provide blankets so we make sure the kids have a sweater to stay warm on the plane or a small blanket.
- Snacks. Depending on the airline you might get a small bag of pretzels or you might get nothing. I am definitely not paying for snacks on the plane! We allow the kids to pack a few snacks to enjoy during the flight. This is really up to you, but we go for things that make them real happy (hey, sometimes snacks become bait for good behaviors… yeah, sorry not sorry) and we make sure they have eaten something before boarding. You do NOT want a hungry child on that plane!
- Reusable water bottle. We pack an empty bottle and fill it up at the airport after going through security checkpoint and before boarding. Most airlines still offer at least soft drinks, juice and water, but this way we have something to drink for sure. My kids are always eagerly waiting for the flight attendant to come by with the drinks since this is one of the few times they are allowed to drink soda (not a fight worth starting on a plane).
- Medicine. This is of course only if your kids require any. My old one always travels with his asthma inhalers so this is something he carries on his backpack during trips.
There are a few things we travel with sometimes that are not for everyone but we found helpful to carry with us:
- Tablet. We download movies on Netflix that the kids can watch without internet. We also have a few games that they can play without internet to change things up.
- Battery bank or portable battery and charging cables. In case the tablet needs some extra juice, is good to bring with you if you have it.
- Gum. In case you need some help with the airplane pressure. I carry this myself because I don’t like the kids chewing gum so if needed, I have it.
- Wipes. Clorox wipes to wipe down germs is good to bring along. I am not crazy about this though I know several people who won’t even touch the tray until it has been wiped with a Clorox wipe. Wet wipes are good to have to clean messes.
- Medicine. You don’t need the whole pharmacy but maybe medicine for pain, fever and upset stomach are good to bring with you if you are traveling with kids. We try to get chewables for the kids and this way you are also safe from TSA tossing your bottle of Tylenol because it is over 3.0 liquid ounces.
So this is how we typically travel. The kids always say is so much fun to get on airplanes but the truth is that as a parent is a different experience but it sure doesn’t have to be a negative one if you are prepared. I also have a few tips for you for travel in general that we found useful when traveling as a family:
- Travel light. I know of some many people who bring all these extra clothes and shoes “just in case” but that means more luggage and when you are traveling with kids you want to minimize the amount of luggage you need to keep an eye on in addition to your kids. Make a list of the things you NEED, and keep in mind those items that you can wear multiple times during a trip like shoes and jackets. You do not need a pair of shoes per day!
- Check-in luggage. Now most airlines have a fee to check luggage but if it is within your means, check your luggage! The less stuff you carry unto the airplane the better. You need all your hands and eyes on your kids. Some kids are old enough to help carry luggage and if that is your case great! But do keep in mind that you still have to make sure your child is being responsible with his/her luggage. You don’t want that luggage to be “forgotten” somewhere in the airport or for someone to sneak something in because your child wasn’t paying attention to his/her luggage. Just saying 😉
- Board last. Everyone wants to board first and get off first. And many airlines do give families a chance to board first so they have more time to settle with the kids. Depending on your kids’ ages this might work. But if you are traveling with both little and older kids, I suggest one parent boards first when they allow families with the older kids and one parent boards last with the little kids. This can also help for super active kids. You can have one parent board with kids who are okay sitting still on the plane and have the other parent board with the super active kid last. This means less time on the airplane for a highly active kid which trust me, makes a difference.
- Arrive at the airport with plenty of time. Even going through security takes longer with kids. Arrive with plenty of time so you aren’t rushing and maybe dragging your kids through the airport so you don’t miss your flight. Depending on the length and time of your flight this is good to do so you can eat something at the airport before boarding. If you have time, walk around the airport before boarding. I think is better to do this than trying to contain an active child in the seating area and then board with your child who might still have lots of energy to burn. Walking around the airport is a great way to get kids to let their sillies out before boarding.
- Select seats behind each other instead of next to each other. What does this mean? Well, there is five of us traveling and most airplanes we traveled have three seats per row. This means two of us will be on a different row. We used to select seats so that we had all of our seats in the same row. When we travel to Cancun my youngest was under 2-years-old. He was moving to sit on my lap before takeoff and accidentally kick the sit in front of us. The lady on the seat went crazy on us, and asked if our child would be doing that to have us move to another seat… I know, real nice lady! I swear to you it was a minimal kick that happened once even before getting everyone boarded. She ruined my flight because I was so worried he would kick it again on accident and she would create a scene. Since that day when we are traveling as a family, I select rows behind each other. If he kicks the sit, it is someone in our family seating in front. That gives me a piece of mind.
So there you have it! So far we’ve been lucky enough to make our flights with little to no drama with our kids. These last flight to NY was on a red-eye and I was so sure our youngest would fall asleep right away. He has fallen asleep fast in the past after takeoff. This time he hadn’t even taken a nap during the day and I was sure he would fall asleep even before takeoff. I think he was overtired and he couldn’t fall asleep. We kept him busy for more half the flight until he finally fell asleep but he kept walking up. His ears were hurting from the airplane pressure. We used my husband’s noise canceling headphones and the moment I put those on him, he fall asleep for the rest of the flight. Earplugs work great for this but with such small ears is hard, so if you have noise canceling headphones, I suggest you bring those with you too.
Safe and enjoyable travels everyone!
Mama Bear Kim