I just spent 10 days in Calgary with Dr. Wife, Vader and Chewy. It was our first time flying with both kids and my first time flying with Chewy. I was asked by a couple of people if they had any advice for flying with kids and since 140 characters doesn’t cover “what the hell am I supposed to do with these tiny people once we’re airborne”, I thought this might be a good first post. It may end up being a good second post because I might use the first to introduce you to the family, but I digress. Flying with kids can be literally the worst moment in your life. Coming in for a landing has the same feeling as though you were on a flight where the masks dropped and they told you to “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” The relief is unbelievable. But there are some simple things you can do to make the experience a little less like a root canal. Here goes.
Let’s talk first about what happens leading up to the flight. I’m talking about the few days before. If your children still nap, (I’m blessed with a couple of sleepers), LET THEM SLEEP. Don’t run around on the days before trying to get things done for your trip. Don’t. Plan ahead so that the day or two before the trip you can ensure that they get a lot of sleep. Assume that your child will not sleep on the plane. They might. But don’t count on it. And if you’re going through multiple time zones, they’re going to be bonkers tired so make sure they get their naps leading up to the flight.
Get through security as soon as you get there. At most airports there’s a decent play area at the gates (Halifax has a magnificent one), there’s a Starbucks every thirteen feet and gift shops. You can let the kids “run” “ragged” once you get there, assuming they don’t try to run through a gate (which mine tried to do last time).
Buy a book at the airport. For them (maybe), for you (definitely). Something totally new for them will kill a LOT of time. Let them choose it. Since you’re already on the other side of security, they can take their time and they’ll feel empowered that they had some control. If they’re not old enough to choose a book, choose one for them, obviously.
If possible, save eating for the flight. It will kill time and assuming your kids eat well, it will keep them happy. I’m not suggesting that you starve your children. Seriously. But if it means holding off on food for an extra hour or two, get it done. If you’re flying with kids, you get some leeway on what you can bring with you in regards to food and drink. You’re allowed to bring baby food (we do protein shakes in a reusable squeezable container) and milk. Take advantage of this. Bring a small cooler. Fill it with food and beverages for your little people. THEY will check it with a little swap thing that looks like it’s used to wash dishes, but it will only take a second.
As for what type of food you’re going to bring, consider the following things;
- Will your child be able to reach the tray table?
- Does your child like to throw food?
Considering these questions will help you realize things like “apple sauce is a bad choice” and “cheerios are a gift from god”. If they get their own seat, it provides you a little more flexibility.
Strollers. Gate check them. If you haven’t flown with kids before, this is key. You don’t want to lug your kid around the airport ESPECIALLY if you have a connecting flight. If you’re not bringing a stroller to your destination, fine. You’re crazy, but fine. But if you are, don’t check the stroller. Tell them you want to check it at the gate. Fold it down right before you get on the plane and then it will be waiting for you when you get off.
You know that announcement where they offer that because you’re travelling with small children you get to go on before the rest of the people in your section? It’s bullshit. Don’t take your kid onto that plane until you absolutely HAVE to. When my wife and I travel together, one of us gets on early with all the stuff and the other one brings that people on, only when necessary. Realize that your kids likely have a limited time where they’ll be happy contained in a small space. So minimize that time.
Make friends. Immediately. The second you get seated. Candy. Earplugs. A set of earphones you bought JUST for the person sitting beside you. Whatever it takes. Bribe the hell out of them. It works. Get the people around you on your side, as soon as possible. There are a few reasons for this. First, if it turns out that your child isn’t a perfect traveller, they’ll have some empathy. My daughter booted the heck out the person beside her last flight while my wife breastfed her and that woman didn’t care in the least because we had already established that, as far as she knew, we were good people. Second, if people decide to turn on you when your kid has a fit, having the people that are closest to you on the flight on your team makes things a lot easier. Even if it’s just the difference between a smile and a frown, knowing that you’ve got some support is awesome.
As for the toys and books and such to bring with you, don’t go overboard. If you give them too many choices, they’ll just want to choose instead of playing. Pick a couple things they LOVE and a few things they haven’t seen in awhile. If they’re old enough, hook them up with an iPad for the flight. Make sure that you have a GREAT case on it like an Otterbox or equivalent. One week before you’re going to fly, load up that iPad with a whole bunch of free games and a few movies. Try out the games and make sure that they’re not just an ad for a paid version and that they will work for your child.
Finally, realize that kids were not made to fly. Sure, they’re light and if you throw them hard enough you might get some decent distance but when it comes down to it, they’re unlikely to be perfect. Chances are your child will not be the WORST flier of all time but assume that they’re not going to be the best. And remember that if someone is rude to you on your flight because you’re child isn’t making origami cranes and meditating, that makes THEM the bad person, not you or your child.