Thursday, February 24, 2011

Children in Flight

Gone are the days of solo air travel. When I could check my bag for free (what is up with the $20 bag charge) and waltz through security with my purse and a good book. I looked forward to those three to five hours of quiet time to dive into what ever I wanted, perhaps even chat it up with the stranger next to me and hear their stories. Now I have children. Cute children, wonderful children, but air travel is not relaxing. Traveling with children is a gamble. But a gamble worth betting on because I refuse to stop my life waiting for a better time to fly. Sorry single or childless airline travelers, I did just sit next to you with my two kids and I don't care how loud you groan or sigh.

My experience traveling with children has been pretty great and I credit my children's fabulous airplane behavior to my awesome parenting and incredible foresight. I have only done two to three hour flights, I have yet to attempt cross country or out of my tricks may not work for that.

Here are ten tricks that have worked for me:
1. Dress your kids up cute! Even the toughest critic can be a sucker for a clean, well dressed kiddo. Add bows, backpacks, hats, etc. It may seem unnecessary, but first impressions make a big difference.

2. Dress yourself well for the flight. Be comfortable but put together. Have your hair and make up done. NO PJ bottoms or sweat pants! Don't let it look like you just rolled out of bed or that the craziness of preparing for the trip got the best of you. The more put together you look, I believe, the more confidence strangers and flight crew will have in your ability to have a pleasant journey with your kids. I know we would like to pretend that looks don't matter, but they do!

3. Make it an exciting adventure for your kids. Let it be full of treats and fun surprises that are out of the ordinary. Let's face it for a child to sit quietly for any length of time does not sound all too enticing to kids. But if you pack a bag of snacks that are more like rewards, then it doesn't seem so bad to sit back and enjoy animal crackers or fruit snacks. Buy or borrow a portable dvd play and bring some fun dvd's. Hit up the dollar store and get a few new toys to bust out at random intervals thru out the flight.

4. Getting through security is the hardest part. If your kids are still in strollers, leave them in it until all other bags have been put through the x-ray machine then pull them out at the end. Have your shoes, jackets and jewelry off while you wait in line before it's your turn to walk through the metal detector. Then you can dump it all in quickly to the plastic bins and not struggle with your kids once it is your turn. There is nothing more frustrating then to be behind a family that has no sense of urgency or of anyone else around them. You don't need to be frenzied, but at least give the effort to get through as quickly as you can. Those around you will appreciate the effort and will tend to be more patient. They anticipate you will take more time to get through, and will be all the more appreciative that you are dialed in with your plastic bags of liquid easily retrieved from the top of the diaper bag and your already removed shoes.

5. Smile and say please and thank you to anyone that offers help or a kind word. Encourage your children to do the same. This is not the time or place to stand on your soap box or complain about anything. You need to kill people with kindness because it could save you with sympathy points later if/when your child decides to have a melt down. It could be the difference between the look or verbal expression of "that poor sweet woman's children must be tired to be acting like that, " versus "It's no surprise that those little terrors are acting up with a cranky bitter mom like that!"

6. Explain what is going on to your kiddos to keep the adventure part of travel alive and not scary. Before take off explain that it is going to be a loud noise. Like the kind of noise you hear when the garbage truck comes. Then we are going to go really fast, faster than we could ever run! If they turn on the seatbelt sign for turbulence, tell them it is going to get bumpy and may feel like it does when we are jumping on the bed.

7. If at all possible, choose family friendly flight times and days. Most families are going to try to find a cheap fair at a reasonable hour. Typically that means Tuesdays or Wednesdays around 3pm or 4pm for a flight that is two to three hours in length. There is strength in numbers and you have hit the jack pot if there are three or more people traveling with small children on your flight. It is likely that one of those children will be louder than yours, and if not, then at least while your kid is whaling it could cause another child to go into hysterics and take some of the attention off of you. Also, the more families on the plane produces more people that are sympathetic to your cause.

8. Crack jokes with those seated around you before the flight begins and no one is yet annoyed. While they are gooing and awhing at your beautifully dressed children say, "I hope you still like us all at the end of the flight." You may think it stupid, but I have gotten many a nervous laugh from that line, and many praises for my children at the end of flights from thankful passengers. Set expectations high that your child will have an outburst. Then if they have only a small cry it will seem like no big deal to those around you and if they end up having an outburst, those around you feel at least somewhat forewarned.

9. Pack efficiently, but thoroughly. Because it is just more fun to try to get four suitcases, two car seats, a diaper bag, backpack, and a stroller through the airport with two kids and two adults.

10. Finally, remember your deodorant. Those first few flights you are going to sweat with the anxiety of potentially being mortified by your child's behavior. Try to relax and do your best to sooth your child if need be. Good news is the flight doesn't last forever, and you most likely will not see those people ever again. Except maybe on the return flight home!

Please share what tips or tricks you have found successful!

1 comment:

  1. Haha! I remember talking to you about this a couple time and your "dress them cute" advice stuck with me. I have even passed that advice to friends. We alway look adorable when we board a plane.
    And you should totally try an across-country 6 hour flight. They're a blast ;)