Nine Tips for Stress Free Travel

While some would rather have a root canal than take their children on international flights, I've found that it's possible to have a good flight with a toddler.  I'm quite seasoned in taking international flights (Chicago to Beijing) alone, sometimes with layovers, but have seen many parents take their kids on these 13-18 hour flights with great success.  It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's possible; I've now taken my son across the Pacific by myself and it wasn't so bad.  Here are nine tips of what I've done and seen other parents do which resulted in pleasant flights even though multiple children were in a confined area. 

Get Seats In Back of the Plane: My husband and I got two seats together by the window, so we had an aisle seat and window seat to ourselves.  No one to bother as we juggled our son back and forth between us during the flight. On the return flight, which was just my son and I, we were next to a middle-aged man who was quite nice and didn't mind being touched by the occasional hand or foot.

Start Your Flight in the Late Afternoon or Early Evening: For international flights it's a good idea to start the flight just before a meal and the child's nap or bedtime.  Depending on the length of your flight, this may or may not be possible.  With our trip from Beijing to Chicago we boarded around four in the afternoon, had a light dinner and then went to bed for the night.  There were just a few hours where my son was awake.  Of course the length of our flight and time differences meant we landed in Chicago in the early evening, just in time to sleep again.  My son did pretty well with it and I'd absolutely do it this way again.

Pack One Carry On Just for the Kids: Make sure that you have at least a change or two of clothes for each child in your carry on in addition to any medications and necessities that you would need in the event your luggage got lost.  You may also need to change their clothes on the plane if there's a diaper blow-out or your toddler spills his water down the front of his shirt.  Additionally, keep a change of clothes for yourself--just in case.

Have Special Snacks and Toys to Give Them:  I packed our son's carry on with some of his favorite snacks, that he seldom gets, as well as some favorite toys which I'd purposely taken "out of circulation" a month prior.  I also made an alphabet book from pictures cut from old magazines, so he had a whole new book to explore.  While he was awake, I'd give him a new or new-to-him toy every hour or so and when he was hungry he'd get a special treat.

Bring Chocolate for the People Around You: While we didn't try this, I've seen it suggested by others.  It's a nice gesture to your seat-mates if your kids end up crying or accidentally hitting them.

Only Give Them Water: No need to give kids a reason to be hyped up on the trip. Stick to water or milk for pre-flight beverages and give them water on the plane.  Add a bit of juice if they need some flavor, but water will help keep their skin from getting dry and they won't get all the sugar that's in juice and soda. 

Nurse Your Baby During Take Off:  This will help soothe them and avoid the ear popping that occurs during take off.  Let older kids chew on a piece of gum. 

Let them Walk Around Hourly: Get up and let them walk the aisles for a few minutes each hour when they are awake.  This helps keep their blood flowing properly and lets them use up some energy.  If you can, go to the back of the plane where there's a bit more room and teach them some simple stretches.

Take A Flight with Layovers: With my son, we opted for a direct flight which was just under 13 hours.  But I've taken other flights that were in excess of 18 hours and parents said that they decided on those flights because they'd be changing planes and having a few hours to let the kids run around in a larger area. This makes sense and I might consider it if direct flight prices keep rising as they have been!

There you go, nine tips that work well for flying with children.  Not all will work for your family, but they are worth remembering and trying out. Once you find one that works well, stick with it to ensure that everyone enjoys their trip.

What other tips do you have for flying with kids?  I'd love to know as my next international flight will probably be just myself, a four year old and an infant.  Please share your knowledge!