Traveling with children is always an adventure.
Over the years, my husband and I have managed — for our fiscal and emotional sanity — to keep our family vacations to the road trip varieties. We know the kids are good car travelers, and it’s easy to stop, stretch our legs or, what is more often the case, let the kids run off some of their pent-up energy.
So when we decided to make this year’s spring break getaway a trip to California, there was no getting around the reality of flying with children. I turned to my fellow parent friends for advice on how they kept their little people occupied on a long flight when getting up and running around is not an option.
Here’s what they had to say:
I have my own personal struggles with these bedeviling hand-held tech wonders, but even I must concede that when it comes to long-distance air travel, packing a tablet, laptop or even a smartphone loaded up with apps or downloaded video content for the kiddos is a MUST.
Staying in your seat for hours upon hours isn’t a very appealing idea for us grown-ups, but it’s a near Herculean task for the younger passenger. Do yourself, the kids and the rest of the plane a favor and keep the devices handy.
This is a follow-up piece of advice to packing devices. Usually, if the kids are on their devices in public, I have them playing their games on mute. But with a four-hour flight ahead of us, I knew mute wasn’t going to cut it, and I suspected that our fellow cabin mates wouldn’t be interested in listening to the exciting adventures of Captain Underpants. OK — how about I didn’t want to hear “Tra-la-LA!” on repeat for the better portion of an afternoon. So — voilà! — headphones. You can pick them up relatively cheap, depending on how nice you want to go. Trust me: Your fellow passengers will appreciate it.
3. Comfy clothes
Comfortable clothes for kids are key when traveling. I’m all for kids looking cute, but when it comes to navigating airport security, hiking through the terminal and then remaining confined to an 18-inch airplane seat, I say let the kids wear something they aren’t going to complain about 15 minutes into the trip.
When a friend of mine asked Mara what she was most looking forward to about our trip to the Golden State, she replied, “One word — snacks!” This coming from a kid who barely eats. In fact, between her and her brother, I don’t know who eats less. These are not kids known for their appetite. So it was surprising to me that access to endless bags of Goldfish, fruit bites and cheese crackers outshone free access to devices — what I was sure would, hands down, be her number one.
But yes, if you are a traveling parent, my advice is to pack like you’re a walking vending machine. Apparently, hours of stationary air travel really works up a kid’s appetite.
Who knows, after you’ve packed their snacks and distractions, maybe you’ll even have room in your carry-on for a little something for yourself. But honestly, having the kids silent and stationary for an extended period of time means, for me, vacation is already underway.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.