Flying with infants and toddlers can be cause for worry if you don’t prepare in advance. Here are some tips to help make your journey a smooth and safe one…
1. Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead… If that’s not clear enough, I’ll say it again – plan ahead. Specifically, I’m referring to your carry on luggage. If you’re expecting a long flight, anticipating a delay (i.e. cold weather = de-icing delays) or lost luggage, you’d better be prepared. Packing your carry on bag (and diaper bag if you have a young one or a backpack for a toddler/preschooler) needs to be carefully thought through. Make sure you have enough diapers, wipes, extra clothes (this one is a key from personal experience!!), toys that are airplane appropriate (nothing too noisy, large or with too many pieces), enough nutritious food (especially if you have a picky eater), milk, medicine, baby supplies and anything else to make the journey. Knowing what will keep your children happy and occupied (or preferrably asleep) during the journey makes for happy parents and children. And find out in advance if the airplane has any special items for kids. Maybe the in-flight entertainment system has special kids shows or games
2. Safety First! Young children are physically not big enough to sit in a plane seat safely without a car seat or a harness/restraint system (like the CARES system – see CARES blog for more details). The latter option is lighter and less of a schlep than a car seat (obviously), but if you’re planning on renting a car when you arrive in destination, then a car seat might be the right option. And it’s something familiar to your children anyways so they likely won’t object.
3. Prepared for emergencies. By law, flight attendants have to brief you on holding your child during takeoff and landing (if they are sitting on your lap), and remind you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping your child. They will also show you the closest emergency exits and equipment that would apply to your child (i.e. child lifevests) in case of emergency. It’s a good idea to listen to what they have to say rather than just smiling and nodding (while you’re mind is drifting off into vacation mode) – it’s really for the good of you and your children, right?
4. Keep calm and carry on… What can you do to keep your children as peaceful as can be on the plane? How can you make your fellow passengers smile and comment on how well behaved your children are (rather than snicker and “shush” you – which I actually saw a passenger do to a mother with a baby – I mean, really, people do that?)? Refer back to #1. Be prepared. Bring some books, snacks, toys and potentially a DVD player. To each their own. And please do not let your kids wander down the aisle alone!
5. Seat selection is key… Seat your kids in the middle or window seat. The aisle is a potential recipe for disaster – arms could get caught out in the aisle and bumped by a person or serving cart. And the noise of people passing will likely rouse them from a good nap. Also, if you can pre-select seats in advance and get the bulkhead, then you’ll only be grateful for having the extra room.
6. Feeding on takeoff and landing… For babies and young toddlers, nursing or giving a bottle while the air pressure is changing can really help ease ear pain. These little guys and gals will definitely appreciate some comfort on their ears!
However you decide to travel on a plane with your children, the most important piece of advice is to just think about it before you leave and be logical. It’s all going to be OK!