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Flying with Kids

(c) 2004 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

Parents of young kids know that because of the energy levels kids are blessed with, keeping them quiet and in their seats on a flight - even a short one - can be a challenge. There have even been comedy skits about this, probably the most famous being Bill Cosby's skit about "Jeffrey." (It is hilarious and is on his "Bill Cosby: Himself" video. Highly recommended!)

We have two very active young boys and we travel fairly frequently, so I am very aware of how noisy and rambunctious
little kids can be!

However, for the most part, we've had pretty good travel experiences with our kids, so I thought these tips might help out other parents of young kids.

We probably done it all regarding travel tips and ideas that I've been able to find. While some tips are great, I found that most of the required that I take a whole lotta stuff extra to haul around during the whole trip. This article hopefully helps you balance between being prepared with toys and snacks and stuff and not being overloaded with a bunch of stuff that, in the end, is just more stuff to keep track of.

* First, if your child has a lovey (a blanket or stuffed animal or pillow or whatever), make sure you have it. Treat it like your wallet or purse or even passport. To a kid, it's just as valuable!. Make sure it is with you at all times. We left our first son's blanket home once and spent a great deal of our trip searching San Francisco for the same blanket, buying several in the process and of course, none of them would do!

* Second most valuable tip I have: take a stroller! If you think having one will be a hassle and create one more thing for you to drag through the airports, try keeping track of an agitated preschooler in an airport on a layover. Take a stroller, even if the only reason for having it is to get through the airports. You will have a lot of other stuff to keep track of, so having your child confined in a stroller and safe beside you will be a God send to you. Trust me on this! We rented one from one of those services once (where they deliver it to your hotel), and without having one in the airport one of us had to carry our little one
(only one child then, thankfully) the whole time while the other struggled with carry-on bags and misc stuff. It was awful. Think of how awful it will be if you are the only adult traveling alone with a child. Take an umbrella stroller if you want ease of use, but take the "big" stroller if you want to be able to stash
your carry on stuff in the under basket between flights. There are pros either way, and either way, you can stroll your child right up to the door of the plane and check it literally just before stepping on the plane. (Be sure to tag it beforehand).

"On the plane" tips:

* Have "travel" games that are ONLY used during travel - that way they seem more exciting than they are. We use one of the little kid suitcases and keep toys in it and only use that particular suitcase when traveling. It's great both in the van and on the plane, big enough for several books and small toys, and small enough so that they can get into it themselves. On the plane, it goes under the seat in front of the smallest child.

* Hand held electronic games work well, if you can find ones that are quiet. If they aren't, you need to make sure that there is a way to make them SILENT on the planes. (Some may come with the ability to plug earphones into them.) The music from (for example) Donkey Kong on GameBoy Advance for 7 hours would drive not only your fellow passengers crazy, but
also you! (Electronic games are great for road trips where it doesn't matter how much noise there is.)

* Other busy toys to consider having on hand are are things like Etch a Sketch, Magna Doodle, Magnet games... stuff like that. If your kids are 1-3, try to avoid games with small pieces (even with magnets, including crayons), or your child will get more entertainment out of having you spend hours searching around under the crowded airline seats. If your kids are 3ish and up, they are old enough to look for stuff themselves. Use your judgment based on your child's temperament - will he lose it if he drops something or will he just jump down to get it?

* Books work well for a limited period of time, but if you read to your child, again, you have to be careful how loud you read :)

* "Weird" things that kids love are post-its, stickers and especially tape. They will put tape on everything around them (including you) and put post-its with "important" messages all over the place (including on you). Just be sure to clean up when the flight is over.

* If the flight offers music with headphones, be sure to take advantage of that. They have fun playing with the headphones and the buttons on the armrest. In flight movies are also great if (1) the screen is in the seat in front of them and (2) there is
an appropriate choice for kids.

* Bring snacks - preferably ones they picked out, stuff you'd rarely let them have on normal days, like Cheetos and some candy (not too much, though). If you're on a really long flight, bring lots of snacks since a lot of times the airline food isn't so great for kids (some have kids meals but some don't). Ideas that are easy to transport and not too easy to crush are Cheerios, breakfast bars, grapes, carrots, (some of these might not be age appropriate for your child), pretzels, bananas, granola, ... buying a small burger or sandwich in the airport to take on board for him to eat as his meal if there isn't not a kids meal on the flight is also a good idea. With shorter flights, just make sure they have something they picked out and lots of juice.

* Some people say to give your kids something that makes them sleepy, like Benadryl. I personally have never done this, but I have heard this tip often enough that it might be a good idea for some kids. Maybe kids who have problems with their ears and the air pressure - it can be pretty painful. If you decide to do this, try the medicine at home first, because I have heard that it can actually make some kids hyper, and you definitely don't want that on a flight!

* Every hour or two, take him to the bathroom and let him play in there for a few minutes.

* If possible, give him a window seat. Kids love to look out the windows.

Part of the success of a flight with little kids is your own attitude. If you are really dreading it and worrying about it, the kids pick up on that and make sure it's miserable. But if you act like it's something exciting to do, they will react in kind. They will be thrilled to see the planes up close at the airport and to look out the windows down at the clouds. So if you can, make it seem really exciting for all of you! :)

By the same token, try not to get irritated or jumpy when he does act up. He will do this at least a few times on a long trip. It's a lot to ask of a kid to be quiet and relatively still for a long time. Little kids are supposed to be high energy, so try to take it in stride when he does act up - it will all end quicker and happier if you don't get upset too.


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