Traveling with children can be stressful, but careful preparation can ensure your journey goes smoothly.
As the holiday season approaches, many families are hammering down their travel plans. Whether it’s a trip to see the German Christmas markets in person or just a short flight across the state to see grandma, holiday travel can be stressful — especially when you’re traveling with a small child for the first time.
Fortunately, careful planning can make your travel experience all but stress-free, and a successful first flight can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of enjoyable travel experiences for your child. Here’s our advice for parents flying with their small children this holiday season:
1. Let Your Child Know What to Expect
If your child is old enough to converse, begin preparing them for the flight about a week or so in advance. Explain that they’ll have to wait in a few lines and need to be patient, and prepare them for the security process.
You may even want to stage a make-believe airport experience, walking through every step of the process to help your child feel less overwhelmed on the day of your flight. Use your couch as a pretend security belt, and set up chairs to act as airplane seats. It can be particularly useful to perform this exercise the night before your flight so it’s fresh in your child’s mind when they arrive at the airport.
2. Choose Your Flight Time Strategically
If you’re able to, consider scheduling your flights around times when your child would usually take a nap or go to sleep. As every well-traveled adult knows, sleeping through a flight often makes for the best — and certainly the quickest-feeling — travel experience. This holds even truer for colicky infants and restless toddlers.
In addition to making the flight easier on you and your child, scheduling flights with these factors in mind can help your child stick to their routine during your holiday.
3. Pack with a Game Plan
As you pack, think carefully about what your child may want to have with them while they’re on the flight and at the airport, especially if you’re checking a bag. Pack favorite pacifiers and stuffed animals where they’re easy to reach, along with healthy snacks and any toys or entertainment that might be needed.
If your child is still in diapers, be sure to bring plenty of supplies — better safe than sorry. It’s a good idea to bring more diapers than you think you need, as well as wet wipes and plastic bags to dispose of used diapers.
4. Prepare for Takeoff!
The day of your flight, make sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare — more than you would if you were traveling alone. Once you get through security, fill up your water bottle and your child’s water bottle, and encourage your child to “get their wiggles out” before boarding the flight.
Many airlines offer families with young children the option to board the plane early. If yours does, use the extra time to settle in before the plane gets too crowded.
If you have more questions about flying with a small child, or if your child has a health condition that may make flying more difficult, reach out to Kids’ Health. Our pediatric practice is dedicated to helping your kids reach their best, no matter the question or concern. Contact us today!