Anyone who has ever flown with young children should be given an award (or at least be awarded with a strong drink upon arrival!). Never has my patience level been tested more than when flying with my 3 young children.
I have 3 girls – 4-year-old twins and a 3 year old. Last year my husband and I braced ourselves and in a fit of minor insanity decided to take our kids to Disney World. And, as icing on the cake, we did this at peak season during the Christmas vacations. So, not only was the weather atrocious causing flight delays and cancellations, the airports and flights were PACKED! (Note to self, NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!!).
No, but seriously, we will do it again as my husband's family live in S. America and we like to meet them 'halfway' in Florida every year. I have had to succumb to the fact that traveling with my children is unavoidable and that at least once a year I will have endure a few days of traveling hell.
But does it really have to be a horrible experience? Most definitely not... there are things that can be done to make the trip endurable and even a little bit fun. (And, NO – I know what some of you are thinking – I am NOT suggesting you give your kids a little too much Tylenol prior to boarding the flight!). There are actually healthy things you can do to ease the travel-pain.
Prior to boarding the plane:
- Pack your child a special backpack that is theirs and only theirs. Pre-load it with a bunch of fun activities that they are allowed to access only after the plane has taken off. (If they play with any of the activities before the trip the novelty will have completely worn off.)
- Make sure that the activities are fun but mess-free. My kids love those white Crayola markers that only work on certain types of paper (you know the ones... the page turns color only after they have 'colored' with the white marker).
- Pack an extra change of clothes – this is a must and probably something everyone already does. There is nothing like having your child sitting next to you completely soaked in orange juice to make you crazy!
- Why sit and wait at the gate when the kids can be active? I have two suggestions (and both work like charms):
- Take them to the motovators – the moving walkways. Have them run in the ‘wrong’ direction (this keeps them moving longer than if they were going in the ‘right’ direction). Have them race with you or with one another and repeat at least 6 times! Note: This doesn’t work if the motovators are packed and could cause some accidents – which totally defeats the purpose.
- Find a kids' play zone. Many airports have these in the waiting areas. Try to get your kids to climb, jump and crawl – the more energy they expend the more likely they will be tuckered out on the plane.
When on the Plane:
- First things first – apologize in advance to the people sitting in the seats in front of your children. Yes, I know, this is a very Canadian thing to do, but trust me, it works! If the people in front of you know that you are concerned about their comfort they are more likely to suck up the annoying kicking and loud voices. In fact, they might even find it cute. If you really want to be nice, pack a few extra chocolate bars in your bag and offer them each one for their "understanding".
- Give the kids their own 'special' earphones and show them how to choose TV shows/movies. Obviously, this only works on flights where each passenger has their own screen. My kids had a blast choosing the shows they wanted to watch all by themselves. You will have to show them how it works, but the effort truly pays off in the long run.
- If you are traveling with a portable DVD player or laptop, also pack some age-appropriate videos that the kids have never seen before. This will likely hold their attention longer than having to watch the same old Dora video they (and you) have viewed over 1,000 times!
- OK – this next one isn't the most tooth-friendly suggestion, but hey, all parents have to make exceptions, right? Pack lollipops and tell your kids that if they bite the candy they will never ever get another lollipop for the rest of their lives (scare tactics always work!). Sucking a lollipop takes a long time to work through (especially if you have the mouth of a 3 year old).
- Give the kids snacks that take an extra long time to eat – this should keep them busy.
- Give your kids lots of water – this will make them have to go to the washroom more and hence it will keep them moving (plus, it truly sucks having dehydrated kids).
I hope these suggestions work for you. Try them – it doesn’t hurt. And if you have any advice that you can share, please write a similar blog. Let the parents UNITE!
After Orlando, we flew to Miami. Yes, I know, the flight is not long at all but it had only been 4 days since our schlep across N. America. The kids were less than thrilled to be at an airport again. Even though the flight was short our stress levels were high. It was such a relief to arrive at Miami International and be greeted by a representative of Rent Max. It was actually the owner of this agency who picked us up via shuttle and took us to his office. He was super-kind and very helpful.
When we arrived to the Rent Max office, our vehicle was waiting for us shiny and clean and loaded up with the 3 car seats we had pre-ordered. Ahh, relief!