We just returned from a vacation with our children that totaled almost 18 hours in airports or airplanes from start to finish. I’m not complaining because there was a beach in between, but this topic is fresh in my mind from our travels.
We’re in that in between spot with our children where it’s easy and hard all at the same time. Our oldest is easy and very content to read or watch movies the entire time. Our middle one doesn’t have the attention span (he’s just now 4), and so he requires more frequent activity changes. The baby is only content to be moving, crawling or squirming at all times. Unless he is sleeping, which usually happens during takeoff. In which case my husband and I high five each other.
In other words, we are a lot of work when traveling. Because of that, I’m also really cognizant of how we are affecting the travel experience of others. Are we being too loud? Are the children controlling their physical actions i.e. are they having a Star Wars reenactment in the middle of the boarding line? Is someone having a meltdown because the security line is long?
As we all know, our children can be unpredictable despite what we’ve taught them, so the best we can do is try and be prepared to make life easier on us and other passengers. Here are a few things to hopefully help your next journey and if you have any tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them too!
Pack a Bag
Better yet, let your child help pack a bag or backpack. This is their carry-on. I prefer backpacks for my kids because it leaves their hands free and they are less likely to accidentally leave it behind. They might fill it with robots, American Girl dolls, Legos, books, an iPad, etc. Make it light enough so they can carry it. It is their responsibility, even if you have to help. It helps them learn that mom and dad can’t carry everything for them, which shows consideration and respect. And don’t underestimate the value of packing snacks and gum.
Stretch their Legs
I can’t take full credit for this one. I read it in an article once and have been putting it to use ever since. In between flights at the airport, or before we board, we don’t sit very much, we use that time to get the wiggles out. Take a walk down the concourse, let them look at knick-knacks in stores, go down the moving walkway a few times (being mindful of others of course). That way when they get on the plane in their seat, they are hopefully a little more ready to sit still and do an activity.
There are a lot of opportunities for children to say “hello”, “please” and “thank you” boarding and during a flight. If you feel comfortable, have your children give the attendant their ticket as they are getting on and say “hello” and “thank you” to them. They will feel a little sense of responsibility for their ticket that gets them on the plane, and it’s another opportunity to interact with adults. Just as important, it’s nice to say “hello” to the flight attendants as they get on the plane. And, if the cockpit is open, say “hello” to the pilots too. You just never know when the captain will invite your child in to look at the gear just because they stopped to say “hello”. My children are so thrilled when this happens.
Along the same lines, try having your children order their own drinks (that you approve) from the flight attendant politely and say “thank you” when it arrives. This helps teach them the value of consideration and respect for the work the flight attendants are doing for them and others on the plane.
On the Plane
There are a few small details of behavior that make a world of difference to other passengers on an airplane. These can sometimes be the hardest to manage, but I find most passengers are sympathetic to the plight of parents traveling with children, especially if you are being mindful. Here they are in no specific order:
· Headphones on! Be sure to watch the volume of your child’s voice as they often can’t tell how loud they are talking, or singing, with headphones on.
· Keep their feet off the back of the seat in front of them – at all times. I think I repeat this to my children a thousand times every flight.
· Tray tables should probably just remain up as a courtesy to other passengers unless your child is aware and knows not to put it up and down several times.
· Recline seats only in the smallest of circumstances. If there is no one behind your child, then it is okay. Or, if you’re on a very long international flight. But on a domestic flight, it’s typically quite an inconvenience to the person sitting behind you or your child. The key here is to observe the rule of doing what’s most considerate for those around you.
· Watch pulling on the seats in front of you. My least favorite part of a flight is waiting for our turn to disembark the plane once we’ve landed. I know it’s a matter of mere minutes, but with antsy children it can seem like a lifetime. This is when they are standing up in their places and sometimes accidentally pulling on the seat in front of them. Some people don’t mind, but some people definitely do, trust me on this one. That’s a story for another time. But I’m very mindful of it and try and be considerate of that person in front of my child. This is a great time to play I Spy, ask some silly trivia questions (what’s the fastest animal on earth?), or even pull out a snack or piece of gum to help keep them preoccupied while waiting their turn to get off the plane.
Leaving the Plane
Don’t forget to set the example and say “thank you” to all the flight attendants and pilots (if you see them) as you pass on your way off the plane. It’s always nice for your children to be sure and say “thank you” on their way out too.
Lastly, have fun on the trip! Our children will grow up and these moments will become memories. So enjoy them and the journey! Oh, and book a babysitter for the night after your return, you’ve earned it:)