I know. You’ve heard it all before. I’m shaking my head as I’m writing this- is it really needed? But then I think about the time I saw this and the time I saw that and sometimes I seriously just wonder- do parent’s leave their common sense at home when they step foot on an airplane? For example, the parents that fed their 3-year-old and 1 year old nothing but candy for the entire two-hour flight yet were left flabbergasted as to why their children were running down aisles and chucking magazines five rows back. Or the mom who thought it was better to let her child throw the loud and annoying 45-minute tantrum over sharing peanut m&ms (maybe just leave the candy home parents).
I get it. I’m no saint. Not even close. But I have been on loads and loads of flights with my girls and have observed poor decision making and just complete lack of planning from myself and other parents that have resulted in unnecessary meltdowns and craziness. So here are some tried and true advice and tips on how to attempt to make for a peaceful airplane trip. (these tips are meant for 5 years and younger. I have no experience with older children other than myself):
Do try to avoid red-eyes if possible: I’ve made this mistake before. If you have a teeny baby who will sleep through transfers than you are probably ok. But too many times have I had an over-stimulated child who didn’t fall asleep till like 15 minutes before landing and paid for it. Red-eyes leave late and get up early so either way your child is missing out on their usual 12 hours of sleep and most hotels don’t let you check in till the afternoon. Just avoid it, if you can.
Don’t give small children Benadryl for flights. It’s not cool to drug your children. And Benadryl can have the opposite effect and keep them awake and make them crazy. Just don’t take those chances.
Do prep your little ones for the flight as much as possible. Role play what it will be like for the airplane. Discuss rules and behavior standards beforehand. Watch videos on YouTube. Read them Monsters Don’t Ride on Airplanes– a children’s ebook we wrote to help promote good behavior.
Don’t pack a ton of sugary treats. Pack healthy snacks and meals and let them pick out one treat for good behavior. Little bodies don’t need a bunch of sugar when cramped in small spaces (or ever really.)
Do pack the emergency sucker. These are used for when all else fails and your kid is throwing a tantrum. Now is NOT the time for a teaching moment. This is do or die. Hand over the sucker to shut mouths up.
Don’t let anyone get you down. I’ve had some hurtful things said to me for absolutely no reason. On one flight a lady switched with my husband so he could sit next to me and the baby. The lady seated in front of me said to the kind switching lady: “Oh great, thanks for switching now there will be a screaming baby behind me the whole time.” Wrong on so many levels especially since baby did not make a single peep the entire flight.
Do hold off on the iPads and DVD players for as long as you can. Wait till after snacks and drinks, after coloring books, after window clings (best toy for kids on airplanes buy at Dollar Store) and then let them watch a show and let them know afterward is nap time. This is our routine for long flights. It usually works great as long as they know what the plan is beforehand.
Do remember extra diapers, change of clothes (and underwear for potty-trained), lots of food (extra food- see a list of TSA approved food ideas here) and let them pack their own little backpack with activities and comfort ideas.
And the last but seriously most important piece of advice I will EVER give you about riding airplanes with small children:
DON’T let them sleep on the floor. I know, it’s so tempting. We had done it so many times, but I will never ever let it happen again. Last flight my daughter was on the floor sleeping on a blanket or two and water got spilled on the floor. The floor was so gross that it has permanently stained the blanket black and the shorts she was wearing. I have tried so many things to get that stain out and nothing has worked. I don’t know what it was that stained it but the floors are gross and filthy so just don’t, promise me ok?
What are some of your dos and don’ts of traveling on airplanes with young children?