Travelling with a Kid: Favourite Tips & Lessons Learned

Friday, March 15, 2013

Let me start off by saying that we were so lucky to have a 2:1 parent to child ratio for this flying business. I'm sure this makes one of the biggest differences. Even though Gavin is a good kid, it's just nice to have two parents. When we flew to and from Hawaii, we had over 14 hours of total travel time (cars, planes & airports) each direction. With that said, Gavin is used to long drives so he is well trained for travel. I still spent a lot of time gathering tips beforehand and learned some lessons from the experience and I thought it was worth sharing here with you.

1. Gadgets are great. 

Letting go of usual limits on screen time helps the whole travelling thing go easier. A lesson I've learned from our many road trips is that it's best to wait a couple hours or more to bring these things out. Kids are in better spirits earlier in the trip (and so are parents). It's a much more welcome break for everyone if you bring those things out later. You're also able to save battery power in case you really need that gadget to keep everyone sane near the end of a long trip! 
(ps - fun, kid-size headphones help)

2. Prepare yourself with lots of healthy snacks ahead of time. 

It's cheaper, more convenient and probably better for you. I left as many things in their original packaging as possible and brought a kid-friendly dish so we had options (and to avoid problems at customs/security).

3. Stash some treats in your purse. For rewards... or bribery if things get desperate.

4. Bring an empty travel cup for kids (sippy cup or this is what we brought). 
Fill it with water or milk once you're through security.

5. Keep wet wipes & tissues close at hand because kids (and adults!) can be messy and flight attendants aren't always right there with napkins when you spill a glass of coke all over your stuff.

6. Bring new stuff. 
You don't have to go crazy with this, but new things are more exciting for kids. I put together books of activities for Gavin at home (printable colouring pages, etc.) and made him some star shaped crayons from what we already had. Free stuff, but new and exciting (bonus: star crayons don't roll away!). We also invested in a new book based on his current obsession with Star Wars because Hawaii seemed a little far to take a library book.

7. As parents, take turns. 

Being stuck in a jet with 200+ other people for 6 hours is tough on anyone. If it is weighing on your family, switch things up to keep everyone happy. We were lucky enough to have two parents and one child so one of us could be free to do our own thing if the other was playing with Gavin. On one of our long flights we saw a family of four with a each parent with one child in a two-seater row (one in front of the other). The mom struggled the whole flight with the cranky, restless toddler while the dad sat on his iPad with the older child who behaved perfectly. It's not my place to judge, I'm just saying if I were in their shoes, I would swap kids every now and then. 

8. Remember your manners. We didn't have the option to choose our seats when we booked our flight, and there was only one flight where all three of us were assigned seats together. For 3 of 4 flights our seats were scattered all over the plane. While it seems like common sense that at least one parent should be beside a four year old child, crew members and other passengers went out of their way accommodate us on our flights. Being polite, rather than entitled, and showing appreciation is important. 

9. Dress your kids in bright clothes. 

You never intend to let your child out of your sight, but if it happens they will stand out in a crowd.

10. Sarongs make great blankets. 

They are large enough for a child, but pack up small. Once you arrive, you can use it at the beach.

11. Consider using a trunki for kids. 

When we arrived back in Canada at 7 a.m. Monday morning we were late, tired, and had to run all over the huge Vancouver airport to get to our next flight. Being able to pull Gavin on this thing helped immensely. Even in normal circumstances, it's so nice to have. Gavin could also pull it himself and he thought it was so fun that he would gladly sit on it while we waited in lineups rather than running away from us! Plus people at the airport loved it, everyone stared, we got lots of questions about it and Gavin chatted with the only other child we saw with one.

12. Overplan, but don't overpack. 

Gavin didn't use all the stuff I put together for him to do on the plane, but I'm glad I had it just in case he didn't sleep overnight, or something. On the other hand, be smart about what you bring in your suitcase. I found it hard to pack for summer when it's currently winter at home. I packed light (for me), weeded out things that were unnecessary twice, and there were still some things I didn't wear. I also packed a straightener which was ridiculous for a curly-haired person like me on a tropical island. Lesson learned.

2 wonderful comments:

Sarah @ Scissors and a Whisk said...

Wow these are great tips, and I don't even have kids!
I love the star crayons that don't roll away.
LOVE G's luggage.
LOVE that you two took turns.

Erica @ Acire Adventures said...

Thanks, Sarah!