When your family vacation involves traveling by air, it can seem overwhelming to prepare for the journey and keep young children happy and at ease. Particularly if they are not accustomed to air travel, the experience can be stressful for kids, due to unknown factors and unfamiliar environments and procedures. Preparing ahead of time for how to handle each aspect of the trip can make all the difference in whether your children have a favorable experience. Read on for some ideas on how to do this in easy and accessible ways.
Though any journey will inevitably involve surprises and unexpected events, they do not have to ruin the experience of traveling together with your children. Plan ahead for every aspect of the airplane ride, remembering that your kids will be in unfamiliar territory and will need extra reassurance and patience. Talk to them before departure, preferable starting a couple of weeks before the trip. Explain security procedures at the airport so that they will not be surprised or unnecessarily concerned about safety. Make sure that children can state their name in case they are asked by a TSA agent, and bring along any ID that you happen to have. It is not required for entrance to the airport, but it is always a good idea to bring anything you do have. This can be school identification or even a birth certificate or passport.
Bring a restraint system that is the proper size for airplane seats, and one that is appropriate for the child’s age and size. This will typically be the same system you use for your car, but check with the airline ahead of time about what is required and whether there are limitations based on seat sizes. Make sure that you do not book exit row seats, because children are not allowed to occupy these seats. If you inadvertently book one, you will be asked to move, and this can create an unsettling experience for your child.
Plan ahead for emergencies by bringing along medications and first aid supplies. Flight attendants will generally have basic supplies on hand, but it does not hurt to bring your own, particularly prescriptions medications. Carry these on board with you, rather than in your checked luggage, in case your bags happen to get lost. Put all essentials documents in your carry-on bag, as well as valuables such as jewelry or your child’s favorite toy or stuffed animal.
Bring small toys and games to keep your children occupied, and be available to chat or play with them during the flight. Books are a great way to keep older kids entertained, or you can read aloud to younger ones. Carry snacks and bottles of water with you, so that you will not be dependent on waiting for carts to come along. Bring drinks with screw tops, in order to avoid spilling.
Practice safety at all times, requiring your kids to keep their seat belts buckled or to remain in restraint seats. Give them occasional breaks if the journey is long, with short walks to the restroom. If oxygen masks are deployed for any reason, always put on your mask first so that you will be able to help your children with theirs. If you are incapacitated, there will be nobody to help them get through the process.
Follow these tips and ideas to ensure that traveling by air with your children is an experience that you all enjoy. Creating great memories of journeys together is easy if you use creative thinking and careful planning techniques.