Even people who do not have their own children are aware of the difficulties of flying with young children. Forcing excitable, frustrated, frightened, tired, and/or hungry children into a confined space for a long period of time is a riot waiting to happen, even for the most patient of children. However, with some forward planning, parents can take some of the stress and anxiety out of the flight experience. If you are planning a trip with your young children in the near future, this guide includes some helpful hints and tips for parents planning their first flight with young children.
Take an early flight
One of the biggest sources of stress when flying is having to wait around at the airport because of a delayed flight. To reduce the risk that this will happen, try to book an early morning flight as the schedule has not had time to get backed up. Early flights are typically less crowded, and kids who are tired will be more likely to sleep through the flight. If you are driving to the airport, book parking near JFK airport ahead of time to ensure you get a spot close to the terminal. This will also reduce how stressed you feel because it is one less thing to worry about.
Prepare your kids
If your kids are old enough, talk to them about what is going to happen before you arrive at the airport, from checking in, going through security, and boarding the plane to how they should behave during the flight. You could even give them some fun games to play, e.g., counting how many red suitcases they see in the airport. This will help them to understand the process and may prevent them from becoming upset or impatient at times.
Dress them in simple layers
You will go through a lot of temperature changes when flying. To make quick changes easy, dress your children in layers that can be easily put on and removed as needed. The fewer buttons, zips, and shoelaces you need to fiddle around with, the better.
Try to travel light
You do not want your kids to be bored during the flight, but you also do not want to be weighed down by their entire collection of toys and comfort items. Keep your cabin kit as simple as possible, including snacks the children will enjoy (airplane food is limited). Paper and coloring crayons could keep them busy for hours, or you might consider bringing a tablet or smartphone (with children’s headphones) with their TV shows and movies already downloaded. On the other hand, be sure to pack plenty of hygiene essentials such as wipes, pacifiers, diapers, hand sanitizer, water, and bags for your trash.
Think about in-flight safety
There are a few health and safety factors to keep in mind when traveling with young children. If your child has had a cold or ear infection recently, it is best to consult your doctor before flying as cabin pressure can cause pain. Sucking hard sweets or swallowing a drink at takeoff and landing can also help. Children should sit away from the aisle so they are not at risk of being hit by the refreshments cart and keep antibacterial wipes and hand gel with you.
Some passengers will be more tolerant of an excitable or crying toddler than others but try not to stress too much about what others are thinking if/when your child has a meltdown. Most people have raised their own young children at one point or another, and most can empathize with your situation.