For the past five years I’ve traveled cross-country from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle with my two children. The husband came with me sometimes, and I was calm and actually slept on the plane without any worries.
Last summer, however, the children and I went alone. I was nervous. I chose an evening flight because I thought the kids would sleep right away once we got on the plane (did not happen). There was one short stop-over in Atlanta; we weren’t supposed to switch planes and were only going to be there for about half an hour. Of course, there happened to be flight delays because of terrible thunder storms. We had to de-board the plane and get on a waiting list. There was so much chaos, airline personnel didn’t even know which plane would be going to Seattle. Once the flight information was finally confirmed, the kids and I ran to the terminal only to be told we’d have to be put on a waiting list. We did not depart for Seattle until midnight. I was exhausted and so were the kids, but they were having a great time. On the plane to Seattle, they slept most of the time, and on the trip back to Fort Lauderdale they were quiet and behaved very well. Were these the same children that were screaming at one another because of a toy a few days ago?
Before our cross-country trip even began, I decided to do something I had not done before — pack activities, toys, and snacks for the kids. I wanted to make the trip fun for them and not have it turn into an aggravation for everyone.
Books — Pack one or two small books that the kids can look at and that you can read to them.
Bottles/Formula — Don’t forget to bring these essential items if you’re traveling with a baby.
Clothes — I bring one change of clothes for each child when we’re on the plane. Kids have accidents and you don’t want them to be uncomfortable; this can cause them to get cranky.
Coloring books — Bring several different coloring books, which they can help you pick out at the store.
Crayons/Markers — Bring some crayons and markers so the kids can color.
Diapers — Need I say more?
Drinks — Bring a sippy cup of water. Your kids will love having something familiar with them. They can also put stickers on the sippy cup.
Hand sanitizer — I always carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me. I’m usually not around soap and water when I’m on the go.
Medicine — If your child requires any medication, don’t forget to bring it. I also pack a small bottle of Tylenol in case I get a headache and some Children’s Tylenol in case the kids get sick on the plane. You never know what’s going to happen, especially if you have along flight, so you want to be prepared. If your child suffers from motion sickness, consult your child’s pediatrician about options to alleviate this.
Paper — Bring blank notebooks and loose-leaf paper (which you can keep in a folder). Kids can use the paper to put stickers on, draw, or even make paper airplanes and hats.
Snacks – Bring easy finger foods that you know your child will love. I bring Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, pretzels, and sugar-free lollipops. Don’t hesitate to ask the flight attendant for snacks also.
Stickers – Buy sheets and sheets of stickers. Kids will be entertained by putting stickers on folders and pieces of paper. You can even create a game with the stickers — my kids loved playing tic-tac-toe.
Toys – Look for inexpensive trinkets that will keep your child’s attention. I go into the Dollar section at Target. Last year, I found these plastic frogs that were sticky and would stick to any surface they were thrown against. The kids loved throwing it against the chair in front of them and they giggled for quite a while. I also pack my children’s favorite toys, like stuffed animals and robots. They can’t be too big or else you’ll run out of room.
Wipes – A must-have. You never know what kind of mess your kids are going to get into.
I put everything in Ziplock bags so I can access them easily and pack one bag that holds all the activities and snacks for the kids. Try to think of activities you know your child will enjoy and bring that with you on the plane. Do they like games? Bring a travel game that can easily be played on the plane. Bring a deck of cards and play a few rounds of Go-Fish. Be creative and have your kids help you pack everything. They will enjoy being a part of the process and will get excited about the trip. Planning special activities for your kids will help you keep your sanity and avoid dirty glares from the passengers around you.