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Flying with a child can suck. There is no other way to say it. When you’re little, all you want to do is get up and move. Then when you add knowing you are going to an excellent new place, who has the time or patience to sit in a seat for hours! I don’t blame those tiny butts for wanting to get up and move about. Over the years our son has sat through the countless car, and plane rides from the time he was just a few months old to now (he’s six at the time I’m writing this). I know there is so much that goes into planning road trips, so I was right where you are now. Trying to figure out how to keep this nugget semi-well behaved so we can all make it to our destination in one piece. When flying, we’ve put together a checklist that we make sure to go through to keep the little one entertained.
Flying with a child
So, you’re taking a plane ride with your awesome little kid! That’s exciting for both of you! If they are under the age of two and you are trying to decide whether they should have their own seat, pop over here to learn my thoughts on that one. If you already have a plan, congrats! Now you’re wondering how to keep that kid occupied. Obviously, that would all depend on their age so I’m going to break down for you what we’ve found most helpful and hopefully you will too.
Non-mobile babies on an airplane
This was the stage I was the MOST terrified of flying during. You hear horror stories about how screaming babies drive everyone crazy, and I did not want to be that new mom on the verge of tears trying to keep her baby calm. Before our flight, I started doing all sorts of research on how to keep my sweet-pea sweet. What I found was a lot of suggestions to pretty much bring every belonging short of the pack in play. Over the first year, we narrowed our essentials down to:
- Food (formula, boobs, baby food, whatever. Make sure to check the TSA site on how to properly get all that through the security line though).
- A handful of toys – our guy had this blanket with a stuffed animal sewn on that he adored. That came with us as well as a well-liked hard toy. I suggest a soft toy for snuggling and a hard toy for chewing. Try to stay away from bringing noisy toys because you’ll annoy those around you, and the flight attendants will probably ask you to stow them anyway (Sorry, Southwest flight from San Diego to Chicago in 2012, my bad).
- Another trick I learned was to have unique toys just for flying. These toys will be something special they can only play with on a plane, and new toys will probably hold their attention longer than the same old same.
- Food – oh, did I mention this already? Maybe, you want to make sure you have extra’s, trust me. Just when you think they are in the picky eating stage, all that kid is going to want to do on that plane is eat or cry. Trust me. If you use formula, this is especially important because I have yet to see some at an airport. If your child can have something like Gerber’s puffs, a can of those won’t hurt either.
- Don’t load up on the expensive water before boarding. Politely ask the flight crew for some on the plane. It saves you money and valuable packing space in your carry on.
- Dress the kid comfortably for the plane ride. You may like to be all dolled up, and that’s cool but this comfort over style for your little one.
- Diapers and wipes, then pack extras. You do not want to know what it’s like to run out of those at 50,000 feet in the air.
During takeoff, I found it most helpful to make sure my baby was eating. The sucking motion of his mouth was able to help ease whatever potential ear popping could occur. If you can get over that hurdle, you’ve already set yourself and everyone else up for a smooth ride.
Taking a mobile child on a plane
For me, this stage wasn’t as scary as the immobile stage. At this stage, my kid could at least somewhat tell me what he was feeling, and I could think of a solution before a meltdown. I feel like at this stage it is so important to involve the child in the packing process themselves. Help them feel in control of a part of the trip by having them pack:
- some favorite toys
- picking out a new coloring book
- choosing some snacks to pack in their very own bag
- picking which comfort toy they need to be comfortable around all those strangers.
- Have them pick their comfortable clothes for the trip.
At this stage, I also brought the portable DVD player (we have this one from Amazon) and had our child pick 3 or 4 of his favorite movies, depending on how long the flights were. Remember though, If you have two 4 hour flights, pick movies to keep them occupied for both plane rides, not just one and hope they’ll watch the same film again on the next one. Toys my son would pick were his hot wheel cars. I would limit this to maybe two because if they get lost on the plane, they are probably gone for good. As long as the seatbelt sign is not on don’t be afraid to take your child for a walk to stretch their tiny legs. If you are bringing an item like an iPad or tablet along for the ride, don’t forget the headphones and the charging chords! Some airplanes even have USB jacks in them now so you can charge your device on the plane.
A fun game to play is before leaving for your trip make a list of things your child might see. From gift shop items to things people wear and make it like an eye spy game! As the child gets squirmy on the plane you can look at the list and say “hey, do you see anything that we can cross off our list?” and read off a few things for your child to look for.
Flying with a child can be a scary endeavor if you’ve never done it before but you’ve got this. Many of these items can be used on a road trip as well! What is your favorite way to keep your kids occupied on those long trips? Leave me a comment below!
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