It’s back to school time for most kids, but if you have preschoolers, Fall is a great time to take advantage of cooler temperatures, lower rates, and less crowded tourist destinations. We live between 500-1,000 miles away from both sets of grandparents, so air travel began for our children, Alex (now 6) and Harper (now 3) at about 12 weeks old. While both are now experienced travelers, as they can take off their shoes and fill their own bin at airport security, they are not immune from some travel related meltdowns and mishaps.
Here are some of my survival strategies.
1. Smile and Ask for Help.
I’ve found that most travelers are understanding if you confront the elephant in the room head on and ask for some help. If you need assistance folding up the stroller to get through security or getting an extra bag of peanuts from the flight attendant, then just ask. Surprisingly, both men and women traveling can be super helpful if you ask nicely and there is always a good chance that they are probably parents who are missing their own kids and can fully understand.
2. Remember, only the strong and the swift survive.
Take the opportunity to board early and claim your space. I pack each child a small backpack with treats and treasures. Backpacks are placed under the seat in front of them, so that they can be opened with easy access. Water bottles, sippy cups, and blankets, get tucked into the seat in front of us, ready for when we need them (you can put them in a zip lock bag if you’re a germaphobe.)
3. Pack Low Tech
Stop by your local dollar store, Wal-Mart, or Target and stock up on low-tech toys like coloring and activity books, new crayons, travel board games, or hot wheel cars. We pass out the treasures as needed especially when restlessness starts to kick in with our kids.
4. Be An Early Bird.
We live in the Southeast so we have to fly through Atlanta. Therefore, travel is usually fraught with weather delays in the afternoon, so I try to book the earliest flight out. Yes, it’s 6.00 am, but both kids are usually happy with a special morning treat, in our case that’s a donut, which makes them happy for the first leg of the trip. Then they usually grab a nap on the second, longer leg of the trip, especially because they are so tired from leaving early. The bonus part to being able to grab the early flight is that we make it out on time to have a special dinner with Nana and Grandpa!
5. Make Layovers Fun
Got a long layover? Find a play space. Many people don’t know this, but larger airports often have mini-indoor playgrounds that can be a great option for kids to burn off energy. Pack plenty of hand sanitizer and let your kids go for it. If you can’t find a play space, try to find other ways of making the layover fun, for instance my kids are gaga over the moving sidewalks!
6. Technical Support
By starting out with crayons and hot wheels, there will most likely come a point when you need to bring out that much needed “Technical Support…” as in DVD players, handheld games, or any similar technology that can save the day. Let’s face it, crayons and coloring books just won’t cut it all the time.
7. Be Flexible
Take a deep breath and remember that like animals, your children can smell fear and stress. So just cut yourself some slack and remember that just because they ate ice cream at 10 am during a three-hour delay, does not mean they will expect it every day. Sometimes, sanity is only a bag of M&Ms or a DVD away.
Written by: Susan Jarvis Moody
Follow on Twitter @susanjmoody