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How to Survive Flying with Kids

{Guest Post by MaryAnne at Mama Smiles}

Mike and I have done a fair bit of traveling with our three kids, aged 6, 4, and 2. Our oldest daughter, especially, traveled constantly – she had lived in three different countries by the time she was nine months old! Here are some things we have learned about travel with little ones:

  • Plan for everything to take twice as long. Sometimes it won’t, but planning that way will reduce a lot of stress and anxiety.
  • Pack carefully, and don’t bring more than you have to. Kids – especially babies and toddlers – come with a LOT of gear. We have ordered diapers and even car seats and had them waiting at grandparents’ houses when we arrived.
  • Pack entertainment, but don’t overdo it. My best flight ever with kids was the one where I left my kids to entertain themselves (important note: the not-quite-two-year-old slept through most of the flight, so it was only the 3-year-old and the 5-year-old reading the airplane safety brochure and magazines).
  • If you are traveling to visit family or friends, tell kids about the people you are visiting, and show them pictures, if possible. I find that it also helps to make sure the family and friends know something the child likes (say, that they adore trains) so that they can start a conversation if they want to.
  • Role play what to expect at the airport. This went a long ways towards helping my two-year-old overcome his fear that the FAA agents were taking his shoes away forever.
  • If someone is rude and complains, say, that people with children should drive, not fly (across the ocean to Austria, although she didn’t know that was our final destination), do your best to shake it off. Travel is stressful for everyone.
  • If you’re flying and an employee is kind or considerate, report that praise to the airline. Hopefully the positive reinforcement will pay off for future travelers!
  • If you have a complaint, send that in also, but word it carefully. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has written in about the need for changing tables in airplane bathrooms, and they do seem to have become a bit more common, thankfully!
  • Have a little one who hates the car? I had two, and here are some tips that helped us with babies, toddlers, and car rides.
  • If you have several kids and a large enough vehicle, give each kid some space so that they can retreat if one child becomes too upset.
  • Bring along something that reminds the child of home – but preferably something that can be replaced if it is lost! My kids love to bring their owie dolls.
  • Remember that everything gets better with practice – including travel!
  • Once the child is old enough, let them have their own copy of the trip itinerary, even if it is only in pictures! This helps our children remain patient and to deal with new situations!

What are your top travel tips for kids? We have more trips planned, and I’m always looking for new ideas!

MaryAnne is the mother of three, soon-to-be four children. She blogs about parenting, creativity, learning, and play at Mama Smiles.

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