Before You Go
You may not always be able to pick the times that you fly, but when you can, plan around sleep patterns. In my experience, for domestic flights and short trips such as the Caribbean, morning flights are best so that kids are well rested. Overnights work better for longer transcontinental flights; if you get lucky you’re little ones may even sleep peacefully the whole way.
In addition to your own passport and any visas the country you’re visiting may require, you’re going to need a passport and birth certificate for each of your children to travel internationally.
If you’re travelling without your partner, it’s a good idea to also carry a notarized letter giving you permission to travel with the child(ren). You will want to keep all your originals in your carry-on luggage and a set of copies in your checked bags. In addition, you may also want to leave a set of copies with a trusted friend at home.
Most airlines will allow parents travelling with young children, an extra diaper bag to carry on, even if the child is not a paying passenger. You’re going to want to make the most of this space.
One great tip to save time and space is to make diaper changing packets. Pack a little package for each anticipated diaper change, ( and a few extra just in case) using a large Ziploc bag filled with a small baggie of wipes, a diaper, a little baggie containing any bum cream you may need and a disposable change table cover. Pack separate packages with complete outfit changes for baby. Each time you need to change a bum you can just grab a packet as needed and you won’t need to lug your entire diaper bag to the tiny lavatory. Bonus, you can wrap the soiled diaper and clothing in the large Ziploc bags after the change.
At the Airport
Take advantage of the open space in the terminal and let your children roam, within reason. The more energy they burn now, the less they’ll have on the plane. Most airport terminals have a kids area just for this purpose, find out if yours does and head straight there right after you check in.
If you’re bringing a stroller, avoid checking it with the rest of your baggage. Most airlines give the option of gate checking strollers, which means you can keep it with you right until you board. Even if you don’t think your child needs it, it may come in handy if you find yourself in a time crunch. An extra bonus to gate-checking is that your stroller is usually there to meet you right as you get off the plane at your destination.
Most airlines supply snacks and drinks on board but you may want to bring your own just in case. Avoid any hassles with security and buy them inside the terminal once you’ve already been screened. If there is turbulence or a delay, it may be several hours before anything can be served, and hunger can turn even the best traveller into atantrum-throwingg nightmare, so it’s best to be prepared.
Make sure you also have anti-nausea medication, Benadryl, cough syrup, Tylenol/Advil and any medications that you and your children normally take in your carry on. Pack at least twice as much as you should need, just in case.
On The Plane
If at all possible, try to have your baby hungry during takeoff and landing. Sucking is the best way to help little ones alleviate the pressure that can build up during altitude changes, and feeding can be a welcome distraction for a scared baby during takeoff and landing. Toddlers and older children can suck on candies or gum, and encourage them to swallow whenever they feel the pressure build. If you or your child has been congested at all, take a dose of cough syrup an hour before take-off and landing to make sure the sinuses are able to clear.
Your biggest challenge during the flight is going to be keeping your kids entertained. For younger children, a trip to the Dollar Store can result in a treasure trove of new toys with a minimal investment. Crayons, colouring books, stickers, and small figurines are all great to keep short attention spans. For older kids, set aside worries about screen time and let them get their fill, Ipads/tablets, cell phones, and handheld video games are perfect to help them pass the time and you keep your sanity.
Keep this advice in mind and you and your family can have a relaxed, stress-free start (and finish) to your family vacations.
Jaymi is a Mom, wife and former flight attendant who has been travelling the world for most of her life. You can read all about her adventures as a Mom of three at www.modernhousewife.ca.