Long lines, crowded terminals, and the occasional race to catch your connecting flight can take a heavy toll on parents. They can be even more taxing for kids, especially if it’s their first big trip. You can’t control every variable, but these tips for family travel can keep everyone’s stress level well below cruising altitude.
1. Set Expectations
Talk to your children about the trip ahead of time. Be explicitly clear about where you’re going, why you’re going, and what you’re going to do when you get there. More importantly, talk them through the travel portion of the trip itself. “We’re going to drive to the airport, and then we’re going to check our bags. Then we’ll get on an airplane.” Step-by-step explanations can help make a scary new situation understandable and lot less daunting for a little one. For maximum effect, plan to do this more than once.
2. Time Your Travel Around Junior’s Schedule
Parents of small children know their kid’s routine by heart. Use this to your advantage by planning accordingly. If your child is cranky in the morning, travel later in the day. If naptime happens at 2 p.m. daily, plan flights or drive time for that same window.
3. Get Your Kids Involved
If your kids are old enough, give them the chance to get involved with travel prep. By letting them pick out their own clothes or pack their own bag (you’re definitely going to want to review their choices, of course), you’re giving them a sense of control over the situation. That will go a long way toward making the trip a lot less stressful and scary.
4. If You Might Need It, Pack It
When it comes to traveling with kids, there’s no such thing as packing light. Diapers, changes of clothes, chargers for electronics, games, toys, and medications should all find their way into your carry-on bag. If there’s even a chance you might need it, pack it. Better yet, pack two.
5. Don’t Skimp On the Entertainment
Keeping your kids happy and entertained during a trip can be the difference between a calm travel experience and one filled with tears and tantrums. Make sure your child’s favorite toys and games come with you. Smartphones and tablets are also great for kid-friendly travel, and now that new Federal Aviation Administration regulations allow certain electronic devices to stay on and active throughout the flight, you can keep your children entertained all the way from boarding to deplaning. That gives you plenty of time to take advantage Gogo Vision. With a wide selection of movies and TV shows delivered right to your device, this new in-flight entertainment system provides plenty of distraction for even the fussiest little travelers.
6. Prepare for Picky Eaters
If your children are fussy about food — and they almost certainly are — keep their favorite snacks on hand at all times. They’ll be a welcome bit of familiarity on a trip that’s filled with new and potentially challenging experiences.
7. Take Advantage of the TSA Pre✓™ Program
Long lines can mean big tantrums. Cut both down to size with the TSA Pre✓™ program. The program is available at some of the nation’s largest airports and can dramatically shorten your family’s wait for security screening. You’ll have to apply well in advance of your next trip, so it’s best to get started early.
8. Give Your Teen Some Control
Infants and toddlers are often squirmy and prone to tears on long trips. Teenagers, on the other hand, can be surly, disinterested, and disengaged. Give them a reason to care about the trip by letting them make some decisions along the way. Don’t limit your teen to easy choices like attractions and dining options. Challenge them by asking them to evaluate routes, costs, and schedules and then select the best connecting flight, rental car vendor, or driving route.
9. Break Up the Day
Unless your travel plans absolutely require you to race from one leg of the trip to another, plan to take some time to focus your attention on small children. If possible, select a connecting flight that affords you enough time to play or eat with your child uninterrupted. 30 minutes of play time can recharge your child’s batteries for the flight ahead.
10. Make Friends with Flight Attendants
Flight attendants are there to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable flight. But when traveling with children in tow, you’re bound to have a few extra needs mid-flight. As you board, introduce yourself and your child to your flight attendant and let them know about any special needs your child may have. If they’re informed ahead of time, they’ll be better able to provide what your child needs.