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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Traveling with Kids: Planes

San Juan, Argentina
As we are gearing up for a three-day drive out East and will then be flying overseas, I've been thinking about all the tricks I know for traveling with little ones. This will all be new with Belalu, but as I mentioned before, Essie is already a well-seasoned traveler. Mara Kofoed, of A Blog About Love, just did a great Babble post on traveling with your spouse, and I love all of her advice. I would also add some advice I learned from another post of hers, which is SMILE. No matter how tired, how angry, how frustrated you are, smile. For the sake of everyone traveling with you, and for yourself. Smiling really does make you feel better. (The emotional/ patience part is what I need to work on most, so on this trip I'll be repeating the mantra "smile, smile, smile" to myself as my patience wanes and tiredness takes over).
Now, to the practicalities of moving those kiddos from place to place. The following are the best strategies I've picked up for traveling long distances with little children.

  • Keep in mind your child's schedule. The smaller they are, the more important this may be for everyone's well-being. If you can arrange flights and drive times to correspond as close as possible to nap/ sleep schedules, it should make it easier to get them to sleep and more peaceful for all.
  • Wear them out. E never really had a set schedule, so my strategy while traveling with him was to wear him out at the airport so he would collapse exhausted in my arms once we were seated on the plane. When he was really little, this involved people watching, showing him neat things, etc. As he got more mobile, I'd find an empty departure lounge and let him run and climb to his heart's content. Many airports have a children's play area, just ask at an Info desk or look online beforehand. Two of the best I've found are in Chicago and Madrid. 
Paseo de la Princesa, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Take breaks. I try to book at least a two-hour layover when possible so we all have time to stretch and run around before getting on another plane. A long layover lets you eat better food than you would on the plane and allows the kids time to play and get worn out before sitting for another long period. Chicago is often our layover spot, and since the airport is so big, we don't often fly in or out of Terminal 2 (where the play area is), but with a longer layover I can walk over there, let them play, and then get back to my terminal with plenty of time. I also like longer layovers because if my first flight is delayed, I'm not stressing the whole time about missing the next one. It may seem counter-intuitive to stretch the trip out longer than necessary, but those breaks really help everyone stay happy and calm.
  • Use whatever resources you have. In addition to the play areas, many airports have a family line that allows you to jump to the front of the security line. Just ask one of the airline people standing by the lines directing people where to go. Bigger planes have basinets for small babies that you can request. I try to call ahead of time, but you can also ask at check in if one is available on your flight overseas.
On an overnight bus from BsAs to San Juan
  • Entertainment is key. Once in flight, E was so easy on planes because he would happily nurse. It provided some awkward moments with fellow passengers (man, those seats are close!), but he never cried on an airplane. (I like to wear a scarf that can provide some modesty). We always get some new toys for trips and only bring them out on the plane. The airport is for running, people watching, etc. Once we are unable to move, and we've exhausted all the possibilities with saying hi to our neighbors, checking out what's in the seat pocket, etc, that's when the new toys and books come out, one at a time. Only when one has been used to boredom is a new one introduced. 
Any other advice you'd like to add? I could use all the wisdom I can get- these are going to be two long trips coming up!

1 comment:

  1. Have a great trip! Will you be gone long?
    Love the reminder to smile. Attitude is the key to everything - it will make things so much easier.