Traveling with kids can be trying experience at best depending on their ages and how many will be travelling. Therefore I have come up with some tips and strategies from my own personal experience as well as from others that I have talked to along the way. Hopefully, this will make your next flight more manageable and enjoyable.
Please note that since I live in the United States, this article will be more geared to U.S. Citizens but there still will be a lot of information that will be useful to anyone travelling with children.
Pre Airport Planning
Organization, Organization Organization The more prepared you are before the day of your flight, the easier the day will go and the more pleasant the experience will be.
If you plan on traveling more then just a couple of times with your kids, I would highly recommend that signup for either TSA precheck if you plan on traveling just within the United States or if you plan on doing some international travel you should sign up for Global Entry
This simple step alone could save you a lot of time and potential aggravation as it usually saves you a lot time then waiting in the security line at the airports. If you have restless children who may be impatient and excited about going on their trip.
Do yourself a favor and get direct flights! I know, been there, that buying airfare with a stop or 2 may be less expensive but as my brother is fond of saying “cheap is expensive in the end” and if you purchase flights that have stops you not only increase the time it will take to get to your destination you also increase the likelihood that something could happen that will prevent you from arriving on time.
When I first started flying with my kids I bought tickets with one stop because they were less expensive, however was only suppose to be a overnight flight to Europe ended up being a 24 hour flight with a stay over at a airport hotel.
Needless to say now I only get direct flights whenever possible. This is not to say that this will happen to you but paying a little bit extra for the direct flight eliminates the possibility of something similar to this happening to you.
Once you have your flights and signed up for one of the entry programs, y0u should find out what documentation you are going to need once you arrive at the airport and check in for your flight.
For example, Do you children have passports if flying internationally? If flying domestically, do you have some form of legal identification to show?
Now once you are getting close to your day of travel, usually within 24 hours, you should go online and check in for your flight and print your boarding passes.
This, not only confirms with the airlines, that you are going on your flight, it also will save you time once you get to the airport. Make sure when you check in that all your seats are together, if they aren’t and you cannot fix that online, then call the airline and see what they can do.
The airlines will do what they can to make sure the kids sits next to there parents. Its also one less thing you will have to think about once you get to the airport.
Also go to your local CVS, Walgreens etc. and purchase your kids favorite health snacks as well as some coloring books, sticker books and some pencils. You may also want to bring a couple of their favorite books.
This may sound “old school” but its nice to have a backup should the phone or tablet that you may bring with you for them to use but should the batteries drain, you will be grateful.
At the Airport
Try to make sure you get there extra early. You may be fortunate and fly right through the whole process before boarding the plane but if not, then getting there early will keep the stress level lower as you will have allotted the time to get through the process. Once you get to the airport, here is where it gets interesting.
Hopefully at this point you have followed the suggestions above and have arrived with kids in hand and ready to go. Now, everyone has there own theory on this, but I prefer to check any excess luggage that I bring even if I could possibly bring it on the plane..
Why? It just makes the process easier as you will already be bringing enough on the plane and its one less thing to be bringing around with you. Its a trade with expediency and cost of checking luggage but I feel its worth it.
If you signed up for either of the US government programs than you will use their “special” line to get through the security screening and so this should make this part of the process easier.
Once you get through, if you have brought some already, go to one of the stores and get some gum or lollipops for them to use. Sometimes kids and especially infants have clearing there ears as they have smaller Eustachian tubes.
Usually people travelling with kids will be allowed to board first. Take advantage. Once they call pre boarding for you grab the kids and get to your seat.
You will have the opportunity to get your kids seated as well as put up the luggage in one of the overhead bins near you before they are full. Also try to take the isle seat instead of your kids to avoid them taking off on without notice. Also break out the essentials like a sweater and the electronics so you will not have to get up so often during the flight.
On the Plane
As the plane takeoffs, its not so bad the kids love to see the plane pick up speed and take off, However once that excitement is gone it will be full steam head with keeping them entertained.
If the plane your on has a inflight entertainment screen in front of them.. your golden. This should be able to keep them occupied for the majority of time your in the air. Speaking of which, make sure you have good quality headphones.
If you go with the headphones the airlines hand out, you may find your kids not wearing them or complaining about them as they are not of the highest quality and can become uncomfortable for the children, especially if they are worn for long periods of time.
I would recommend you check out the Puro BT2200 or the JLabJbuddies( which you can find on Amazon). The main reason I may go with the Jlab headphones is because it still has the cord so you can plug it into the planes entertainment system.
If you go with the Puro BT2200 they only are wireless so you may have some difficulty connecting on flight.
All this being said however, I would also have that proverbial “in emergency break glass” bag ready. If the need comes, break out those books, pencils etc. that I mentioned earlier but try to only give them only one item at a time.
Once the plane has landed
The instinct will be to get up once the plane has made it to the gate and all the lights come on and start opening the bins and getting your things in order. Your kids will also probably be more then ready to get off the plane and to get moving.
However unless there is a compelling reason to get off the plane quickly, I would suggest you wait it out and let the majority of the passengers off the plane first. This will make gathering everything together a lot easier and you will make sure you have not forgotten anything.
Once you and entourage are off the plane then its time to head to the car rental area or shuttle bus area. You will probably be a little tired at this point as it will have been a long day from the time you had to everyone ready to go to the airport to where you are now.
Its important to push through it and have everyone stay together as you make your way outside. If you are fortunate enough to have someone meeting you at the airport, once you get to them you should be able to relax a little.
However, if you are renting a car you may want consider having 1 parent go get the car while the other one goes and gets the car. This will make it easier for all involved and afterwards they can come around and just pick everyone up.
Although there is no promise and that everything will go as planned and you there will not be any issues, if, like most things, you prepare ahead of time you can certainly put the odds in your favor that your trip will go as smoothly as possible.
You also have to account for things that will be beyond your control such as sitting next to someone who is angry or otherwise not in a good mood. Or dealing with people who are not so understanding on what it takes to travel with children, I think you will find in general that most people are understanding and even helpful when they see parents travelling with their children.
And most don’t forget that travelling is a great experience for both you and your kids and although it may seem tough at times, you will almost always be grateful that you did.