We’ve all been on those flights with screaming kids and totally felt for the parents, giving them understanding smiles when they looked around apologetically. Whether it’s on a flight to your next outdoor adventure or in line at the grocery store, we’ve all been there. Even if you’re parent of the year, or you’ve watched the best (and most hilarious!) parenting advice, it just might not be enough to prevent the whining later. Fortunately, health practitioner and single dad, Aki Lalani, is sharing his tips from his many transatlantic flights to keep tantrums at bay and make the flight more enjoyable for everyone.
Expert Advice for Flying With Kids
1. Get your child excited about flying. Having a smooth trip starts long before arriving at the airport. When you first start planning, get your kids involved in the process. Aki advises, “Helping them feel involved and part of the team gets them to take ownership of the experience, making travel easier. Show them a picture of the plane type you’ll be traveling on. Have a conversation about the sorts of things that he/she can bring along and do a countdown for the flight (and not the holiday) to make the first adventure about the journey itself.”
2. Involve them in the packing process. Comforts of home are a huge part of successful transitions for kids. Even though it’s tempting to get all the packing done for them, try taking a minute to teach them about it.
“Definitely let the child take responsibility for their stuff. It’s the only thing on the journey that will be familiar from their world and it’s important they have what makes them feel safe.” Another great tip from Aki is to use a child-friendly bag like the trunki. They’re more for introducing independence than high-volume packing, so you’ll probably fit in their favorites — stuffed animals and warm travel clothes — while putting the bulk of their items into your own bag.
3. Make sure they feel loved and secure. “Hold them! When kids are bored, tired and fed up, a cuddle will be the only thing that comforts them. You’ll be amazed at other passengers offering to help with bags.” Security can be an overwhelming and somewhat boring time, so Aki also recommends playing simple games like eye spy or the alphabet game.
He also offers a healthy reminder that kids are kids, and they do have limits. “Let them express their frustration by crying, and reassure them that you understand why they are upset. The situation will calm much quicker than forcing them to stop making so much noise. Let other people judge you. They either don’t have kids, or have forgotten what it’s like to travel with them.”
4. Distract during delays. Travel is spent mostly sitting around waiting, and while we’ve all mastered zoning out and covert people watching, your little ones probably need a bit more than that. Aki says, “Children respond well when they know what’s happening. If it’s a night flight, get them into pajamas, complete with teddy bear. Read a bedtime story and set the tone for it being bedtime on the plane. If it’s a day flight, allow them to review what’s in their travel bag. Try to avoid too much stimulation. I’ve tried both — letting her run around before the flight and sitting quietly and having a cuddle — for us, the latter worked far better. Every child is different, so use your parental intuition here.”
5. Make the flight an experience to remember. When you’ve finally made it onto the plane, help your child get settled. “Remember: A child will mirror your energy. If you are relaxed about the event, they will respond accordingly. The signal you send out is that all is well and it’s a safe place for the child to be.”
Aki also recommends having your arsenal of toys and surprises ready. He uses the trick of wrapping up his daughter’s craft supplies separately so she gets to open them as gifts. Crayons and coloring books are especially easy ones to use as rewards throughout the flight for good behavior. But he warns that it has “a sweet spot of about five times before it gets boring,” so try not to overdo it.
4 Easy Essentials for Flying With Kids
1. Buy: a last-minute treat at the airport for a good behavior reward. Avoid candy if possible!
2. Devise: a strategy for ear popping during take off and landing, showing your child how to swallow, or giving them frequent sips from a straw to reduce pressure.
3. Bring: complex-carb snacks, since kids are notorious picky eaters.
4. Carry: more than one change of clothes for your child — you just never know.
What super-parent tricks have you found that work wonders on travel days? Send us your tips @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)