Travelling with children can be challenging at the best of times. In fact, sometimes just getting from home to the grocery store is more than one parent can bear. However, travelling on a plane with children in tow adds a whole new range of possible mishaps and frustrations. Unless you plan to stay home from the time your children are born until they graduate from high school though, there's a good possibility you'll end up on a plane with your little angels at one point or another. Before you find yourself in such a predicament, it's best to get prepared. Here are some dos and don'ts of flying with kids.
Do prepare older kids ahead of time. Obviously, if you're taking a baby on the plane there is no way to give him the lowdown on flying before the big trip, but with older kids some prior discussion is advisable. Keep in mind that kids who haven't been on a plane before have no idea what to expect. Some may be excited and others may be apprehensive, but either way, they should be prepped on the rules and expectations of taking a flight. Also, a brief explanation of what will happen during the flight is a good idea to help ease any anxiety.
Don't forget to pack snacks. Kids tend to get hungry at the most inconvenient times. Keep in mind that planes are not known for carrying a wide variety of food options. If you have a picky eater, you'll likely be very glad to have brought some foods you know your child will enjoy. Finger foods are probably your best option so that you don't have to worry about cutlery. Just be sure that whatever you bring isn't going to spill in your bag and make a mess. Also, check with the airline rules and regulations ahead of of time to see what types of foods passengers are allowed to bring.
Do bring along a few small surprises. As long as it's feasible for you, spring for a few little items that your child can play with during the trip. These can be very inexpensive things such as items you can get in a dollar store. The idea is to give the child items she hasn't seen before to hopefully hold her attention for longer. Stickers, activity pads or story books work well. Out of respect for fellow passengers though, make sure not to choose noisy items. If you have time, you can even wrap up the items to make them extra special surprises and keep your child occupied a bit longer.
Don't forget about pressure changes. The quick change in altitude during takeoff and landing can cause a lot of ear discomfort, especially for kids. Sucking or chewing on something during these times can help. If you're travelling with a baby, feeding or offering a pacifier should do the trick. Older kids can suck on a candy, chew gum or munch on a snack.
Do consider taking an overnight flight. If your child is a good sleeper and regularly nods off during trips, then flying when he is usually sleeping may be the best option. If your child can sleep through your time in the air, or at least through a good portion of it, it will make the trip much smoother. On the other hand, if you have a fussy sleeper you may want to stick to a daytime flight as you don't want to be tending to a cranky child while all the other passengers are trying to catch some zs.
Flying with kids takes some extra planning and often doesn't go exactly the way you hope it to, but the bit of added effort often helps avoid a lot of awkwardness. Unfortunately, there are times when even the most prepared parent still has an absolutely horrendous flight with the little ones. In these instances it's best to keep in mind that in a few short hours it will be all over and the experience will make for a hilarious story one day.