I've been getting a lot of people asking me for advice for traveling with kids.
First of all,
I feel the need to clarify: traveling with a baby is an entirely different ballgame than traveling with a kid. Kids seem easier than traveling with a baby in a few ways such as having their own seat, carrying their own little animal-shaped suitcases, and, generally, knowing to not poop themselves.
Though the idea of going anywhere (grocery store included) with a toddler is completely terrifying. None the less, let me help offer what I know & have learned traveling with Viola.
I'm not going to pretend to know all the answers, but the kid did clock 8 countries by 8 months old… If I'm not a professional, I'm at least not intimidated by traveling with a baby.
* * *
First things first: Adjust your expectations.
Even traveling across the ocean, I always think this phrase over & over during the day (and night) before we fly: "Even if it's a completely awful day, it's only one day and then I'll be in (insert destination here) and it will all be worth it."
To me it's a trade off. I will exchange one crappy/miserable day to spend a week pretty much anywhere, so that gets my eyes on the prize. True, not traveling with kids will save you from some stressful moments... but you'll also miss out on some amazing ones that, in my opinion, far outweigh the chaos.
Second: Know your allies.
Airline employees = nice. Fellow passengers = hate you.
I was pretty amazed at how sweet the airport staff & airlines treated us and welcomed us on board. They helped us board early, snag empty seats, and made our travel so much better. I was equally amazed at how many mean looks and snotty remarks we got while traveling.
On our way home last month, I walked to our row and the man who was sitting by us looked up, looked at me, and then snarled: "Ugh, really?" I gasped so loudly out of shock and then laughed in his face: "Yup. Sorry dude."
Fortunately, all the people around us overhead and went out of their way to compliment what a sweet baby Viola was after her A+ performance, but still.... wow.
Third: Manipulate the schedule.
I start planning the day before how to make Viola's schedule line up to need to feed as we take off. I'm doing everything I can to make sure she is hungry at the time our flight is scheduled to take off. This not only helps her pressurize her ears as we take off, but it makes her sleep like a champ. If she starts trying to eat or sleep in the gate, we play with her and get her right near that edge of feeling crazy so that she'll conk out once we start taxiing that runway.
Fourth: Get them to drink.
Babies can get crazy whenever they want on flights, but they cry most often during the last thirty minutes of a flight because the pilots start the descent and their poor ears aren't able to pop. They don't know all the tricks we grown ups know, so you have to be the brain for them on this. This can be a bit tricky, since it's a long period of time. I'm not sure if this is fool proof, but it worked for me.
I think of the 20ish flights we have been on, Viola has only cried once and that was because it was such a short flight and I couldn't time her feeds up for take off & landing. Go ahead and nurse them and then- once they are finished and the world still looks a million miles away: pull out the secret weapon, the bottle of goodness.
When Viola was really little, I put a bit of sugar water in a bottle. I would drop a bit in her mouth every 30 seconds or so and she would gulp it down and pop her ears.
As she got older, I've diluted juice with water and given her just little drinks to help keep her curious until we touch down. Sometimes I've used Smart Water, Apple Juice, whatever... Heck, I'd even resort to Sprite, if I had to. Anything to keep her from hurting. The goal isn't for them to chug it down, just something to intrigue them into drinking a bit more after they have already filled their bellies.
Fifth: Get to the airport two hours early.
Flights have bulk seating reserved for the day-of travel. The sooner you get there, the better options the airlines can offer you for your seating. Even if you don't get the bulkhead, getting their early can help your family make sure they are all seated together. You can also hop to get an "infant block" seat, if there are a few unsold seats.
Five: Shop the unpopular flight times.
We try to skip peak travel times in order to play the odds for a uncrowded flight. Uncrowded flights means empty seats. Empty seats mean that you + hubby could score a row of three and lay a baby down to sleep between you while you do fancy things like read a magazine and drink coffee! We look for midweek travel at non-commuter travel times like the early afternoon.
Six: Let the kid call the shots.
Airplanes are not the time to enforce schedules and try to hem children into new things…
Don't fight the small stuff.
If they want to roll around and lick the tray table, let them have at it. Your baby wants to eat 365 puffs? Great. What a time killer. They want to squish the vomit bag into oblivion? You go, Glen Coco.
Those things are not your battle today. Your battle is getting to wherever you are going, with your sanity in tact and your baby happy. The rest is, just… well, it's not important.
* * *
Okay, those are my favorite tips. Nothing mind-blowing, but it works for us.
I hope that this can help you… and please, if you have tricks that have made your travels easier with kids, share them with us. What are some things that have helped you when you've traveled with kids?
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy