I hate to fly. I hate take off. I hate turbulence. I hate landing. All three make my heart race, my palms sweat, and my stomach nauseous. But my hometown and most of my family are half way across the country. I hadn’t been home since September 2005, and ever since my twins were born (in March 2008) I’d felt the need to return to my roots.
I spent months searching for flights. My twins would be just shy of 16 months when we flew, and I wanted an itinerary that would allow us to be in the air during our nap times and would give us a decent layover between flights so the kids could spend a little time out of their car seats. When I finally booked the flights, it felt good. Until a few days later when a US Airways plane landed in the Hudson River and sent this nervous traveler into a panic. But I knew that I had to get myself together or I’d ruin the trip for everyone. So, I turned to those I knew and trusted for some advice that I hoped would save my sanity. And fortunately for me, all the tips I received worked like a charm.
- From Goddess in Progress, “Ignore the kids if they seem sleepy.”
Goddess was helpful in pointing out that our kids would be less likely to sleep if my husband and I continued to chat and play with them once they started showing signs of sleepiness. Because we were flying around our normal nap times, my husband and I actually went through our nap routine with each child once we reached our cruising altitude. We gave the kids their cuddle blankets, read two short books, gave them kisses, put down the window shade, and then sat back and closed our eyes (thinking it would be easier to ignore them and encourage sleep that way). Within 10 to 15 minutes, each child was out (though not without some quiet chatter and a bit of whiny crying). And this was the case on all four flights (two to get there and two to get back). Their naps were not as long as the ones they took at home, but it made the awake time on the plane much shorter.
- From numerous sources, “Pack lots of snacks.”
I’m pretty sure I over did it, but we never regretted carrying around the backpack and cooler full of a wide variety of snacks- crackers, fruit cups, pudding, rice cakes, cookies, soft cooked veggies, mini-muffins, milk, etc. These snacks got us through breakfast and lunch in the airports and through a few fussy moments on the planes. When my daughter woke from her naps, I could tell she was experiencing some discomfort from the change in cabin pressure. The snacks and her sippy cup of milk seemed to take care of that problem. It worked the same way to relieve discomfort during landings for two of the flights. (Fortunately, those around us were understanding during the landings in which she could not be consoled.)
- From Jenn, “Pack small toys and random items from the dollar store.”
Jenn, a friend and former colleague, is the only person I know who is as nervous about flying as I am. So when she told me that small toys and random items from the dollar store would keep my kids occupied for hours, I rushed right out to the Dollar Tree store to fill my basket full of goodies- party favors, kitchen items, curlers, plastic jewelry, small toys, etc. Then, as instructed by Jenn, I put several items in small, resealable, plastic bags, and then put all the little bags in a big, resealable, plastic bag.
On each of our flights, after the kids woke up from their naps and had their snacks, my husband and I would pull out a bag of dollar store items for each child. We let them play with the items until they were no longer entertaining, and then we’d pull out another bag of dollar store goodies. This tip worked phenomenally well. My daughter played for over half an hour with a baggie full of 3 plastic deputy sheriff stars, a pirate’s compass, and an oversized coin (putting them in the bag, then taking them out), and my son loved chewing on and playing with a wooden spoon and plastic spatula.
We kept all of our travel toys packed away while we were on our vacation, so the kids were happy to see them again when we took the return flights home.
As someone who hates flying, I’m happy to report that I hardly noticed any of the things that usually bother me so much. I was so involved in trying to keep my kids comfortable and happy, that I barely noticed any of the things that normally freak me out.
Of course there were many other great tips that we followed to keep us sane from the time we left home until we returned. Getting to the airport, getting through security, following a schedule while on vacation- what tips have made you and yours happy travelers?