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Airplane travel tips

May 9, 2016
Melissa Marote , MOV Parent

Summer is approaching, which might mean airline travel for you and your kids. This is something I've done many times. The first time I flew with my daughter, she was 7 months old; our family was relocating from the Washington, D.C. area to southern California. After that move, I would fly back to Ohio to visit my mom twice a year. At first it was with just one daughter, but later I managed to fly with both of my little girls. \

Since I was a stay-at-home mother and had more free time, the girls and I usually flew without my husband.

Many people said that I was crazy to travel on a 5 to 6 hour flight with two kids by myself. There were times I agreed. For example, carrying a baby in a Maya wrap while trying to change a poopy diaper of a 1 1/2 year old in the tiny airplane bathroom (without a changing table!) really made me feel crazy.

That Maya wrap was an amazing help time and time again because it allowed me to have my hands free to help with my other child. But, ultimately, getting creative in entertaining was the most valuable trick of the trade. I did not (and still do not) own an iPad.

That would have been an easy way to keep the kids entertained, I suppose. But I usually packed a couple of books, lots of different snacks and could breast feed one to help with ear pain from take offs and landings, while the other got to chew gum.

As the children got a bit older, one trick was to individually wrap many small toys in tissue paper. Every 30 minutes, they were each allowed to unwrap a little toy. Each toy was paired with another, so there were two different small dinosaurs, two different small cars, two little animals, two little dolls, etc. We would then play act little stories on our tray tables.

We could walk up and down the aisles, look out the window, enjoy our complimentary apple juice and cookies and quietly sing nursery rhymes. Crayons and coloring books are also an absolute must.

Even though my girls are now 4 and 6, I still have them wear pull-ups while traveling. One never knows if there will be a long line for the airplane bathroom, if there will be a delay on the runway or if they will need to potty while in the TSA line. It is just easier to have them pee in their pull-up and get them into a fresh one later. Bringing shelf-stable milk on the plane is a real hassle. TSA doesn't want anyone to bring liquids onto the plane, but if it is sealed, they will allow it. My girls really enjoy having milk before having a nap, and getting them to sleep on the plane is a wonderful way to kill time. I always bring jackets for the girls, since the airplane can get cool at times, and a couple of stuffed animals that can double as pillows.

Each girl is allowed to bring her own carry-on - this is where they can put their own things. It won't be too heavy and they enjoy having the responsibility of having their own carry-on.

While on lay-overs, it is always fun to ride on the moving walkways, have lunch or check out the souvenir shops. We also enjoy watching the planes take off and land, or just people watch. One game the girls like to play is to guess where people are going and who they plan to see. We sometimes make up stories about people and what they plan to do on their vacations and business trips.

If you're lucky, you might even get invited into the cockpit after the flight for a quick photo! That happened to my 3-year-old once and they even let her wear the captain's hat! She loved it!

These are just a few ideas to improve the airplane travel experience with your children. Keep a positive attitude and expect the best to happen. There are times things will go wrong (like the time my 1 1/2 year old vomited on the passenger sitting next to me), but if you come prepared (wet wipes, extra change of clothes, diapers, plastic bag, toys, snacks, shelf-stable milk), flying can be a fun and memorable family experience with only a few bumps (including actual turbulence) on the way. Happy flying!

Melissa Marote is a licensed professional clinical counselor and received her doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University.



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