If the prospect of juggling children and carry-on bags through security, restrooms, and narrow aisles on oversold planes is enough to make you rethink taking a family vacation, try these simple tips from a flight attendant for easier air travel with kids.
CHECK YOUR LUGGAGE. The reality is, a miniscule amount of luggage is lost or even delayed by airlines. Since checked luggage goes through a separate screening process, you don’t have to surrender that economy bottle of sunscreen or shampoo. You’ll clear security faster, and save yourself the tension of dragging children, bags, and yourself into a bathroom stall later on. Try carrying one backpack to transport all your gadgets and snacks, so both hands can be free for herding little ones or pushing a stroller. Need another reason? Reclaim your foot space! You’ll be amazed how much more comfortable you are on that long flight when you can stretch your legs and feet into the space under the seat in front of you.
GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME. With all the publicity about long waiting lines for check-in and security, you probably know to give yourself plenty of extra time to arrive at the airport before your first flight. But, did you pay attention to how much time you have to change planes during your connection? Any layover less than an hour is a recipe for instant stress with kids. Ask the travel agent or airline customer-service representative if they can schedule you with a little more layover time before you buy the tickets. Many online booking sites allow you to select the flights individually, so choose a later connection and give everyone a break. If you’ve already got a tight connection booked, try to have the kids use the lavatory before the end of the first flight. Then, if possible, make a quick stop in the terminal facilities before you board the second plane. It is not at all unusual for it to be over an hour between the time you board and when you are airborne at an altitude where the Captain will turn off the Fasten Seat Belt sign.
SLIP ON SHOES. Make sure everyone is wearing slip on/off shoes. That way, you won’t be stuck trying to hold the baby with one arm and tying the toddler’s shoes with one hand, while people are clogging up behind you both before and after the metal detector. Put items into the screening device in the order you need to retrieve and use them. Your shoes, then the stroller, backpack, with the kid’s shoes last. That will give you a moment on the other side to slip on your shoes, grab the stroller and pop it open, deposit the kids, then gather the rest of your belongings and move away from the area to reassemble the troops.
ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT. A Gameboy or DVD player can feel like an act of divine intervention on a long flight. Last summer, we made it through a six-hour transcontinental flight with very little “are we there yet?” problems from the junior travelers. Don’t forget to bring earphones, an earphone splitter for two users, and extra batteries. Many airlines now require passengers to wear earphones when listening to any electronic device. If the “ring-ding-poink” of that Gameboy drives you nuts, your fellow passengers don’t want to hear it either.
RECOGNIZE THAT THE RULES HAVE CHANGED. You may have flown last week, or last year, or last decade, and chances are still that something has changed in the process. Once the aircraft door is closed and the seat belt sign illuminated, neither you nor your children can get out of their seats, whether or not the plane is moving, until the seatbelt sign is turned off at altitude. Doing so without permission IS a federal offense. If you don’t want a flight attendant to swoop down on you like a buzzard on road kill, just ring the call button right over your seat when you need help. You MUST speak with a flight attendant to get an exception. If you need something from an overhead, it will have to wait – not even the flight attendant is supposed to open the bins during taxi. Also, make sure you have your books handy to read to the kids, no electronics or lowered tray tables during this time either.
PUT THE BABY IN A CARSEAT. A lap child should be seated and held when the seatbelt light is on. A twenty-month old standing on your lap and waving at the passengers in the row behind you might be adorable, but is not properly secured. A child young enough to ride in your lap is safer in a seat in an acceptable carrier or car seat. Period.
While the above points may prove to be a pastime during the flight duration but take care so that the kids don’t feel ignored or left out as they can become quite restless for sitting stationary for hours without having anything to do and they can hardly play while onboard. In a way, charter flight services are far more preferable as they are quit spacious for the whole family.