Keeping Cool Heads and Soft Hearts when Traveling with Children

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The phrase “babies on the plane” often strikes almost as much fear into the hearts of travelers as “snakes on the plane.”

All joking aside, even the most tender-hearted human or veteran traveler knows how stressful it can be to listen to a crying or disruptive child for hours while 33,000 feet in the air. With the help of the following tips and dual perspective, an enjoyable flight could potentially be had by all.

From a Fellow Traveler’s Perspective
For those who are sharing a flight with smaller humans who are not enjoying the ride, the key seems to be to remember patience and empathy. As long as the parent is trying (and what parent isn’t?) to maintain control and console their little one, the best tactic is to keep yourself calm and remember that this too shall pass.

When asked what she wished other travelers would keep in mind when sharing their flight with infants or toddlers, full-time flight attendant and the author of the children’s book Kindness Travels, Lisa Metwaly, had this to say. “We were all little ones at some point in our life. Compassion and kindness go a long way when sharing a flight with unhappy little people who honestly don’t know what is going on. I’ve also seen parents bring on little kindness bags with earplugs and notes of gratitude for the patience from fellow passengers. It’s a team effort to make rocky flights bearable for everyone.”

From a Parent’s Perspective
Traveling with youngsters can be either boring or great fun. It all depends on how well-prepared parents are and how tolerant fellow passengers can be. These suggestions could make the difference between a disruptive and tear-filled flight and a smooth sailing.

Explain the Adventure in Detail to Your Child
If your toddler or preschooler is old enough to understand that they will be flying on an airplane, take the time to explain the process of boarding, flying and getting off the plane. Your child will feel more comfortable with the situation if you have gone over it in detail with them. Talk to your child about what exactly will happen, who to ask for help, and how to contact you if necessary.

After passing through security, parents should make a point to stock up on bottled water or refill sippy cups. This is not just to quench thirsts, but to encourage swallowing that helps to relieve ear pressure discomfort during take-off and again during the final 30 minutes of descent. Pacifiers for babies are also handy for achieving ear pressure relief.

Pack Snacks
Nothing tames a hungry child like a full tummy. Kids will likely become hungry while flying and sometimes the in-flight freebies just won’t be enough to fill little stomachs. Choose snacks that store well at room temperature, such as sandwiches, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, fruit snacks and string cheese.

Temperature Control for Little Bodies
Parents should dress their children in comfortable layers if extreme temperature changes will be part of the journey. Choose layers without buttons, zippers or anything that could prevent youngsters from getting to the bathroom in time, when possible, and opt for shoes that can be put on and taken off easily.

Bring Plenty of Entertainment
An airplane trip can become boring for a child, especially if it is long. Parents should plan to bring a carry-on filled with age-appropriate activities for their child such as colorful toys, coloring sheets, crayons, journals, magnetic puzzles, game consoles, a device to listen to music on and earphones. In-flight movies that appeal to toddler-aged travelers are another way to make a long flight more peaceful for everyone.

“Children have brilliant minds and can be easily distracted,” Metwaly added. “Get creative with sights and sounds on the plane if they’re nervous fliers. Colorful packages that crinkle in their ears can be an easy way to keep them from crying. A detailed story involving their help with flying the plane usually keeps the younger child’s mind busy as well.”

One of the most important things to remember when traveling with babies or small children on an airplane is to be calm. Kids have the ability to sense their parents’ stress and are likely to then become agitated themselves. As long as Mom and Dad keep their cool, mini travelers are likely to do the same.

Traveling on an airplane with a wee one can be stressful, but parents can make it easier on everyone involved. Prepare your child, prepare yourself and enjoy witnessing your child set out on their new adventure. With planning, you can prepare your child for this adventure. Follow these tips and make your child’s “airplane ride” a great one to remember. ■

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