For those parents out there who are getting ready for a flight, Bebe au Lait offers our list of considerations and tips for a low-stress trip.
Well Before the Flight:
Visit your airline’s web page, and read about their policies for traveling with young children. Be sure you know what to expect from the airline and the flight staff before showing up at the terminal.
Read and tell stories to your kids about traveling by air. Also, tell them about the destination, and what makes it special and unique.
Plan For Comfort:
Flying causes a lot of anxiety for children who have little (or no) idea what is going on. In order to soothe some of this anxiety, smart parents bring along plenty of toys, goodies, food, drinks, activities, etc. to get the kid’s mind off the flight, and onto something less stressful. In the case of babies, think comfort. Physical contact, rocking, bouncing, breastfeeding, and shiny objects will all calm the little one down making your life much easier.
Airports are very stressful places. Children (adults too!) are highly anxious in this environment.
First, cut out the stress of time. Leave for the airport allowing plenty of time for bad traffic, parking, checking bags, waiting in line, etc. Absolutely nothing is worse than feeling rushed at an airport. The tension is thick, and kids pick up on that from you, then broadcast it to everyone else at the airport.
Even taking time and stress into account, it’s likely that your child will still feel nervous, and make it known. Be prepared to smile at a lot of dirty looks from strangers.
When it comes time for you to check in, ask if the flight is full. If not, see if you can get an empty seat next to you.
If you’re traveling with really young children, you’re often allowed to board before everyone else. Ask about this when you check in. When you board, get ready to stash one bag at your feet, and the other in the overhead compartment. Have a seat, and relax as quickly as possible.
Be sure you pack an in-flight changing kit. Put some diapers, multi-purpose burp cloths, baby wipes, diaper cream, baby powder, and hand sanitizer in a small pouch.
When you board, ask the flight attendant where the best place to change the baby is. In some planes, there will be one larger bathroom on board with a changing table.
Eating and Feeding:
Bring your own food. It’s better to be prepared with food that the child likes rather than chancing it with airplane food (or lack of it!)
If you’re with a really young child, be ready for them to make a mess. Bring at least one bib that will help keep their clothes clean, and be ready with those all-important wipes!
If your child is breastfeeding (or you’re pumping), bring a nursing cover for privacy. They are also great for creating a “cocoon” while the baby is sleeping.
If you’re bottle feeding, be sure you have plenty of milk for the child ready to go. If you need the bottle warmed up, let a flight attendant know, but also understand that it takes time, so get your bottles heated up before you actually need them.
Keeping Children Entertained:
Flights are generally pretty boring. Even sophisticated adults feel stir crazy after just a few hours on a plane. Imagine that sensation times 10, and minus certain social boundaries, and you’ve got a good idea of what is going on inside your child’s head! As you can imagine, boredom is the root of many in-flight irritants.
There are many things you can bring, but focus on the few items that are likely to distract the child for the longest time. Load up your iPods or iPhones with good programming like Sesame Street. You could also bring a laptop or portable DVD player. Some other ideas include coloring books, stories and puzzle books.
Sleeping on Board:
Bring a comfortable blanket or nursing cover. Airplane blankets tend to be scratchy and icky.
Good luck, and enjoy the trip!
Here are some fantastic resources where you can learn more:
There is also this short pamphlet published by the FAA.
Speaking of the FAA, they also have this great resource for travelers.