As fuel prices skyrocket, more and more families are finding traveling by plane to their vacation destinations a viable option. While taking to the skies will end up saving your family time in the long run, even a few hours with bored, hungry or uncomfortable children can feel like an eternity. Save your family the hassle of flying unprepared and learn some simple tips for making your next airplane ride a dream instead of a nightmare.
First, plan ahead. Book your flight as early as you can. The best deals can only be found months in advance. Six months, to be exact, should leave you plenty of time to shop around either online or with the assistance of a travel agent.
While finding flights online is fairly simple these days, a travel agent may know which airlines and airports are kid friendly. Some airlines, for example, provide activity packs and special meals for children. Also, some foreign airports lack certain amenities, such as dining choices, which may make travel with children more difficult.
Finally, before you decide on a long flight, which is the worst for jet lag, carefully consider arrival and departure times and layovers. When preparing for a flight from the east to west, a late evening departure may encourage your children to sleep, allowing you to rest as well. When traveling from west to east, try to arrive at your destination in late evening. The darkness may encourage sleep and lessen jet lag. A stopover in a foreign city may provide not only a chance to rest but also a chance to explore another location before you reach your final destination.
Once you decide to book a flight, make sure that your seats are located next to each other. Nothing‟s worse than having to beg, bargain and plead with fellow passengers to give up their seat when they‟re trying to get their families or themselves settled. If the airline you are traveling with doesn‟t assign seats until you check in, then be sure to arrive as early as possible. Also, book a child seat for small children, which act like a combination between a booster seat and a car seat and are more secure than the typical lap belt.
Once the tricky and time-consuming logistics of airplane travel have been taken care of, it‟s time to focus on packing. Nothing can be worse than traveling ill-prepared or with too much baggage. Pack as light as you can, and make sure your baggage complies with airline requirements of not being too large or too heavy. If possible, combine your children‟s luggage with your luggage in order to decrease the risk of losing a bag.
As for carry-on luggage, which should contain essential items like medications and passports, backpacks are usually best for both children and adults because they are both spacious and hands-free. Smaller children find it easier to handle smaller backpacks, so make sure their carry-on is size-appropriate.
Let your children participate in packing. Allow them to pick out their favorite clothing and a few favorite quiet games, toys and books for the flight. A coloring book with crayons or a portable DVD player can keep them entertained in the air. Don‟t forget to pack extra batteries for electronic devices.
Finally, don‟t forget to add some essential items to your own carry-on. Children often tire of the toys they pack, so bring new reading books, coloring books or crayons in your own bag as a surprise. Also, unlike most adults, many children like to eat little snacks all day long, so pack some nutritious snacks like string cheese or apple slices in your bag. Extra drinks with straws can help prevent dehydration (without the possibility of spillage). Avoid sugary snacks and drinks as they can cause agitation or increase dehydration. Hand wipes or simple-baby wipes are also important for clean up of sticky faces, hands, or seat trays.
Traveling with children can be both a challenge and a joy. Simple research, early preparation, and light packing can make your family‟s next airplane trip an enjoyable experience.
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