Traveling with a baby or child can be stressful. Over the years I have discovered a few ways to make these journeys a little easier on all of us. First, try and pick a seat near a bathroom. If you fly on Southwest Airlines you will pick your seat once you have boarded the plane. (FYI-not all airplane bathrooms have changing tables. Check with the flight attendant to make sure you know which bathrooms have the changing tables.)
Next, it is important to have your carry on luggage well organized with easy access to the contents. For example, making sure your kid’s coloring book and crayons are together in the same bag. I also leave one open spot in a carry on bag for any loose items that need to be placed to get through security. Leave yourself sufficient time to get through check in and security. Make sure you are up to date on any travel recommendations and restrictions. This will save your sanity trying to get through airport security.
Once we are all checked in the fun begins! I always travel with deflated (latex free) balloons. In a matter of minutes the balloon is inflated and the kids are off running and playing catch. Playing balloon catch is also a great way to engage other little travelers and make new friends. When the time comes to board the plane we recycle the balloon off to another kiddo. I love this activity!! I can teach my kids so many useful principles of making friends, sharing and then recycle and reuse!
Time to board the plane. Most airlines are family friendly and have family boarding. Family boarding allows your group to board together and often times earlier then your ticketed seat is scheduled to board. Family boarding provides you with a little extra time to get you and the kids situated. Make sure you have everything in your immediate space for the next 1-2 hours. One time, we were delayed over an hour waiting on the tar mat for the plane to depart. Thank goodness I had all our supplies readily available at our seats. Now that we are all situated it is time to use the bathroom one more time before take off.
My plane activities include items that my kids do not get to play with on a regular basis. These items are just for traveling. This helps keep these activities exciting! My plan of attack includes some of the following: stickers, coloring, pipe cleaners, origami, small toy figures with accessories, Legos, books, flash cards/memory and lastly the electronics. I say the electronics lastly because I like to try and use everything else first that requires my kids to be creative and interactive with different textures and materials. I also recommend finding/buying your travel activities during the holidays (stocking stuffers), from the dollar bins, at the airport or from hotel gift shops. These places/time of the year have the best selection of compact items that are great for traveling! Stock up and keep them handy in a closet when it is time to travel.
Take off and landing can be a very difficult for a child especially a young one who does not understand what is happening to their ears. I have found a few things to be helpful during this time. First off if your child has any type of stuffy/runny nose I would check with your pediatrician to see what products are safe to give your child to help as a decongestant. Relieving the sinus pressure can be a tremendous relief for your child. Drinking fluids through straws and Sippy cups can also help with relieving the pressure from the altitude change. Lastly, I bring organic fruit lollipops from Trader Joe’s. Since candy is not a regular in our house my kids get very excited by the lollipop treat! The sucking on a lollipop also helps relieve the ear pressure and keeps them entertained. Just make sure you have some wipes handy afterwards for those sticky fingers!
By: Shannon Davis, PT, DPT