Tips for Traveling with Children
Pack Wisely for a Successful Trip
Family vacations are a priceless, fun way to make memories that will last a lifetime. In today's hustle and bustle world of responsibility, taking time to "get away from it all" with the ones you love is crucial for relationship-building and good mental health, yet if we aren't properly prepared for the journey, it can also be a very hectic, frustrating experience. That is especially so when you are traveling with young children.
Children have much shorter attention spans than adults, making it difficult for them to sit still for long periods. Whereas an adult can bring a book on a flight and remain occupied for hours, a child will need to switch activities regularly in order to remain engaged. This is critical information since we all know what happens when kids are not engaged in positive activities.
International flights can be especially grueling with young children because you can expect to be on the plane from six to over twenty hours, depending upon your destination. Finding ways to provide both mentally and physically stimulating activities for your child that do not disrupt the other passengers is no easy task when on a journey of excessive length. But there are ideas that you can adopt which will help to ease the challenges of traveling with children. The following are a few ideas for you to try.
- Make seating reservations early. That way you have a better selection and can get your family in the same row or area. Children love window seats and you can point out various land formations, bodies of water and other interesting sights. In addition, booking your child a window seat ensures that they will not be elbowing or otherwise disturbing another passenger.
- Allow your child to help you pack a carry-on bag just for him/herself. If you supervise, you can assure that only the essentials are packed and that messy toys such as paint and glue are left home. If the child participates, they are likely to be more invested in playing with what they've packed than if they were not included in the process.
- When traveling with children who are old enough to understand the "rules," be sure to talk about travel etiquette in advance of your trip. Children will not likely consider that how they behave on an airplane is quite different from how they behave at home. They may not be aware of how their behaviors, including how loudly they talk, will affect other passengers. Be sure to talk about this in advance and if you are worried about it, consider a system of rewards and consequences if their behaviors do not meet expectations. Be sure they are aware of this so they can help control their own behaviors.
- If your child has a reasonably sized, favorite toy or blanket, bring it along. Stuffed animals often provide comfort and facilitate relaxation. This is important not only on the flight, but also when sleeping in strange hotel rooms. Children may express excitement about flying, especially for the first time, but many are actually nervous and benefit from something familiar and comforting.
- Pack snacks in individual zip lock baggies. These might include such things as dry cereal, dried fruit, small cookies, crackers, popcorn, or other favorite snacks that are not messy. You may also include a few juice boxes. Yes, most flights still offer a soft drink, but it can be difficult for a child to wait, especially if they are snacking. Waiting may lead to fussing, which you want to avoid at all costs. Only pack enough snacks for a one-way flight. You can pack more before the return flight. This will save space and will prevent your child from overeating and feeling ill.
- Personal electronics are able to be used once the flight reaches its cruising altitude. If your child enjoys Nintendo, PS3 or other games, be sure to bring the gaming system. The games are so small that you can bring several without using up valuable space. Most kids can play electronics for hours, so this is a lifesaver.
- Small coloring books and a baggie full of freshly sharpened crayons will offer your child the opportunity to be creative. You can even color with them so you are engaged together. Little kids love it when their parents are engaged, so if you do an activity together, it is likely to last longer. The baggie is important to prevent crayon boxes from being crushed and crayon shavings from getting all over the inside of the carry-on. Do not pack magic markers. They often have a strong odor and they are messy. You don't want marker all over the seat table.
- In-flight movies are offered on international flights and the headsets are a lifesaver. A variety of children's movies are available and can keep them occupied for up to 1.5 hours at a time. Let the child participate in choosing the movie. If you watch the same movie on your screen it will help them to feel as if you're doing another activity together.
- Encourage rest time. Use the airline pillow and blanket and help your child to recline their seat to get comfortable. You may offer your child a foot rub or flip up the arm rest and allow them to put their head or feet in your lap. Turn off the overhead lights and enjoy the silence.
- Take advantage of layovers for physical activity. Airports have no shortage of things to do. Having a nice lunch or dinner, window shopping at the various duty-free shops, visiting a children's play area and politely riding the automatic walkways are all fun activities for children. They need this time to burn off excess energy before boarding the next flight.
- If you find an empty terminal, allow your children to run around or do some fun calisthenics such as jumping jacks. You might even have a tennis ball in the carry-on that you can toss around. Only do this in unoccupied areas so that you do not disturb other travelers. It's a great way to help the kids get ready to wind down when on-board.
- While in the airport, don't forget to charge up the electronics. If you are using your computer or personal gaming stations in-flight, you'll need them to remain charged. Playing DVDs and CDs with your computer drain the batteries far faster than simple word processing, so keep an eye on our battery life.
- Play story games. You start a story by telling the first paragraph. Then your child adds something to the story. The idea is to pass the time by taking turns building on a story until the end. It gives you the opportunity to be engaged with your child, and keeps their mind active, but their body quiet.
- Take a walk with your child. While flight attendants prefer to keep the aisles clear, there are times when passengers simply need to stretch their legs. If you are on a longer flight, take your child on a walk up one side of the aisle and down the other. You can show them where the beverages and food comes from. You can point out where the captain sits. You can talk about the differences between first class and coach. You may stop in the rest room and allow them to wash their hands.
- Dress your child in layers so that you can help regulate their body temperature. Everyone gets cranky if they are too hot or too cold. To prevent this, dressing in clothing that is easily removable is critical.
- Play I-Spy. This is another game that kids love and they can spend a lot of time playing it. There are also a variety of Hidden Picture books of varying degrees of difficulty. Choose one or two to bring along and play them with your child.
If you keep your child actively engaged in constructive, quiet activities, they are likely enjoy the flight and consequently, so will everyone around them.
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