Many families will be taking plane trips over the winter break to spend time with family or friends in other cities. For families with young kids, a plane trip can be a new experience and one that is best approached with organization and thoughtfulness. The key is to plan ahead. Some children who have never flown before may feel anxious about flying but parents can use activities and conversations ahead of time to help ease any discomfort. There are a few helpful tips to create an enjoyable experience for both parents and children during the stressful time of holiday travel. Remember, flexibility is the master of all challenges. It is a good reminder to stay calm in all situations and keep unnecessary travel changes at a minimum. Use unavoidable stand-by time to be creative. Your kids will take cues from you, so if you maintain a good attitude so will they.
The “do we have everything” check
Before leaving the house, ask everyone if they have everything they need. For younger children, it may be good to work with them on a list ahead of time of all the things they want to bring or may need to travel. This is a good way to get them involved in the organization and planning ahead of time. Realizing at the airport that something important or special did not get packed or included can be a frightening experience, and one that could affect the rest of the holiday.
Come prepared with coloring books, child-size headphones, iPads, tablets, books and movies. Survey your child’s room and see what things they usually have nearby at bedtime. Bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal and perhaps extra blankets in case of a long flight or cool air inside the cabin. Ask your child if there is a special stuffed toy they would like to take, and then your child can explain to their special toy the same thing that you hope to explain to them about the travel experience.
I think we all turn into fussy eaters when it comes to airplane food. Airplane meals can be pre-ordered, but a good rule of thumb is to pack snacks that you know your kids enjoy. Lunchables are easy and fun to pick out together and small bags of Cheerios or homemade trail mix will come in handy at any time. Pay attention to flight times, as well as any time zone changes, and try to keep kids on routine eating schedules. This will avoid “hangry” episodes while in flight or hustling through airports due to layovers.
Plan for extra time
Gone are the days when you could toss your bags into a taxi and jump the curb at the airport an hour before boarding your flight. Due to long security lines and boarding procedures, the recommended time to arrive at the airport before catching a flight is 90 minutes to 2 hours ahead of schedule. Rather than suffer mood-altering stress that could jumpstart the holiday blues, give yourself and your kids plenty of time to board your flight. Allow for bathroom trips, luggage check-in and security delays. Christmas is one of the nation’s busiest travel times. This means there will be delays and unexpected changes. Just go ahead and prepare for some travel complications, and then, should they end up fewer in number than expected you can be grateful.
Ear popping happens when air pressure changes in the cabin during takeoff and landing. Noises or pain inside tiny ears can make it difficult for children during these in-flight moments. One of the ways to ease this discomfort is with gum or lollipops to chew or suck on during takeoff or landing.
Patience and grace go a long way when it comes to traveling at the busiest time of the year. Christmas is a season of affording charitable acts of kindness to others. With that in mind, offering grace to agents, airlines, other travelers and attendants will put you in the right frame of mind for disappointments or schedule changes. We can all get to our final destinations by working together.
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Aimee Serafin, editor of the Augusta Family Magazine.