I know, doesn’t sound like a joyful picnic in the park. And it sure can be rough.
For us, given that my husband is from Europe and all of his family is still there, we travel with our kids on a regular basis - that means A LOT.
Having been on at least 12 trans-atlantic flights between Canada and Germany with my boys in the last 5 years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for toughing it out…and actually enjoying it.
I’d love to package this up in a guarantee, but we all know there are no guarantees with kids in tow. So hope for the best and try some of these ideas if they are new to you!
Our last trip in January had us up at 3am for a 7am Munich departure, changing planes in Frankfurt, sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours, and THEN beginning our 9.5 hour flight to Vancouver. We actually survived quite happily, and here’s how:
1. Don’t order the special kids meals. For some reason, some evil non-parent in the airplane catering business thinks it’s a grand idea to stockpile pounds of sugary crap food for your kid to eat, and then trap you in an airplane for 9+ hours to experience the aftermath. Don’t do it. Bring low sugar snacks and good food your kids like, and be prepared to share your meal and at the very least the (sometimes) wholewheat bun and butter that comes with it. If you’re brave, order a milk or water for them, but I’ve learned to pack their sealed-tight water bottles and avoid open beverages in general. We LOVE these handy and healthy ANDallergen-friendly deliciousness snacks from our friends at FreeYumm foods.
2. Yes, you can bring their water bottles. You are allowed to bring more than 100 ml of liquids in carryon if it’s for the kids. Put the goods through security, withstand the ‘explosives’ swab they’ll do, and enjoy your delicious and spill-free food and drinks on the flight. I tend to pack things that take a while to consume but don’t make a mess, like nuts, cranberries, fruit & nut bars, apple slices, cucumber slices, bread & cheese, and plane noodles to nibble cold but fill up on. Click HERE to access the TSA website for more information.
3. Window seats + some consideration. It’s better to split the family and have each kid have a window seat than go for the whole row and endure the fairness fight. It’s also a great strategy if one particular child is driving you nuts (or your spouse for that matter), you can tag team the other parent to take over. Be sure to make friends with the poor soul next to you, in front of AND behind your kids…I’ve started the habit of deliberately introducing myself and the boys, and asking the people to let me know if something they are doing bothers them - and I’ll do my best to stop it. This has scored me IMMENSE empathy and brownie-points on several occasions. Just saying that it might be painful sitting near us seems to garner MORE understanding from people. As a last resort, carry gummy bears and chocolate to give THEM as an apology!
4. Avoid the in-flight movies...As long as possible. Same goes with the iPad. Save those for emergencies (like having to buckle up and your kid won’t have any of it), when your food comes, or you’re ready to lose your mind. If you turn them on right out of the gate, you’ll end up with screen-buzzed brats about half way through, with a brutal and grueling 5 hours to go (the hairs on the back of my neck just stood up). On that note - I don’t buckle the babes up until right at push-off. I’ve noticed kids tend to freak out being buckled for no reason, meaning no movement. I warn them it’s coming, and as soon as we push back it’s an exciting rush to get their belt on quickly.
5. Bring an iPod and earphones. Letting your little ones play DJ on an iPod or the music section of the in-flight entertainment keeps them quiet and occupied without the screen time. In fact, this strategy usually puts by oldest (he’s 5) to sleep after a meal and bathroom break…this last flight he slept 7 hours thanks to the Greenday tunes he choose in combination with an empty bladder and full belly! And don't forget about audio books ... you can often borrow these free from the library that even come with a read along book.
6. Backpack full of books & games. This seems like a no brainer, however: the trick is to confiscate some of their favourites about 3 weeks prior so they are glued to them on the flight. I bring things like easy origami, “find waldo” type books, mandala-style designs to colour (‘cuz they take a loooooong time), mazes, and mini etch-a-sketch. It does involve some parent participation but if you don’t have to read much and can sip your beverage quietly at the same time then everybody wins. Here are some links to easy card games Uno, Old Maid and Go Fish.
7. Pack extra clothes and have barf bags handy. I got nailed with my oldest puking during landing at the end of our 10-hour flight. Thankfully I had barf bags in arms reach and a change of clothes for him AND for me at our fingertips (leggings always fit somewhere). Between unbuckling and deplaning we were both changed at our seats thanks to the privacy of airplane blankets. They are your friend.
8. Eat separately. Thankfully the airplane food stays warm for a while. So put your meal aside un-opened, help your kids eat, set them up with music or a book, then enjoy your meal. Don’t even THINK about ordering something to drink when you all have your tray tables full of food. Inevitably, they will pick THAT moment, to have to pee like a race-horse. That moment truly SUCKS and you can’t get around it without a spill of some sort, usually on you.
9. Keep wet wipes in the seat pocket. These are great for the obvious like spills, but even better to wipe the disgustingly dirty tray-tables, or spare your clothes and seats from sticky-tomato-sauce-kid-paws that will try to contaminate everything. On this last trip, some Norwegians heading to Whistler for a guys trip got sick-drunk just before landing...they sure appreciated a mom with a pack of wet wipes for their 50 year-old birthday boy who was waiting to use the bathroom = )
10. Bring your little zen treats. I have some soothing essential oil roll ons, Werther's original candies, my fav. chapstick, noise-cancellation headphones, and a toothbrush in case I need a refresh and feel-good moment (literally, sometimes it is ONE minute of peace), and it remarkably resets my mood. I’m a firm believer that the more relaxed and good-mood-vibes you bring, the more calm and fun you’ll spread to your traveling kids.
11. Have some EMERGENCY never before seen presents. Have them wrapped extra fancy (like birthday presents) with as many layers of tape and wrapping paper as you can manage ( ... takes way longer to un-wrap) I suggest to wrap things that are also activities that they can do on the plane like activity books, drawing sets, invisible ink games and books, magnetic games, plasticine or any sort of small surprise. Or, you could always bring along that back-yard chicken for good entertainment - but be sure to check with your airline prior to packing your hen.
Let us know what works for you and what doesn’t. Above all, wishing you luck and smooth travels!
Cheers to a good flight from the Zapped Outfitters traveling team!
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