Ah, the holidays. When brave young parents all over the country steel themselves for air travel purgatory and the side-eye of blissfully child-free travelers on the plane. Why do they do this? It’s all in the hopes of getting their littles to grandma’s house in one piece. Hold on! It doesn’t have to be so stressful. Holiday air travel with kids can actually be fun! Your friends at CheapAir.com have some helpful tips teed up to keep your sanity intact and maybe even enjoy the flight.
Tips for Traveling with Kids During the Holidays
Book the earliest flight of the day
When you’re researching flights, consider booking the earliest flight of the day. Often, a very early flight will be cheaper and you’re much less likely statistically to have flight delays when you’re on one of the first flights out. Finally, an early-morning flight means your youngsters might very well sleep on the plane.
Get a seating assignment – even if it isn’t free
Don’t pass up a seating assignment – even if you have to pay a fee. This tip goes in the “peace of mind” column for travel planning. We recommend paying the fee to have assigned seats, unless you’re darn sure the plane is going to be flying half empty. Do you really want the stress of your eight-year-old being seated 20 rows ahead of you? It happens around the holidays. Not good for the blood pressure. Lately, there’s pressure on the airlines to seat families together so this may not be an issue for you.
Use the family lane at security checkpoints when available
Use the family lane if there is one available at security and take advantage of the relaxed rules for your smaller kids. Children under 12 don’t need to remove shoes, hats or light jackets. The TSA agents in these lanes are accustomed to families and facilitating swift security clearance.
Should you always pre-board? Debatable
We recommend you opt out of pre-boarding, unless you’ve got a very snoozy infant in tow or older kids who don’t need to run around. Getting your wiggles out in the airport is preferable to sitting on the plane for any longer than absolutely necessary. Let a gate agent know your strategy and she or he will give you the heads up when final boarding is underway. The other passengers will thank you. Some airports even have family-friendly amenities to keep children busy.
Have a carry-on strategy for air travel with kids
Put some thought into your carry-on situation, for both kids and parents. Everyone should have his or her own backpack (even the little ones – you can stuff them full of fun toys and snuggle animals). Some parents even pop in new items to make their discovery part of the on-board experience. Mom or dad should have a complete change of clothes (for younger kids) and a Ziploc bag handy for accidents. Even potty-trained kids can have problems on a flight when bathroom lines get backed up.
Coping techniques once you’re in the air
Keep your little ones in the center or window seat away from the drink cart (which is too tempting for kids and also dangerous). No squashed hands on your watch this flight, mama bear!
Before you do anything else, thoroughly wipe down the tray table with some antibacterial wipes. It’s the most bacteria-prone place on the airplane statistically-speaking, so you can ward off nasty, vacation-ending bugs by taking this simple precaution.
Come prepared for the takeoff and landing cabin pressure changes. Give your infant a bottle on takeoff and landing, and older kids can chew gum or chewy vitamins to avoid inner ear pain.
Once the fasten seatbelt sign is off, feel free to rotate your seat assignments about the cabin. This is an ingenious move if you have a lap infant and here’s how it works. My husband and I actually booked our seats separately when our son was a baby and we were doing frequent Los Angeles to New York flights. If our son was fussy, we could pass him back and forth between us giving the other parent a break to read or sleep, and it gives the passengers around you respite from the crying baby too.
Last but not least (this is KEY), remember the payoff. Visiting family or friends is the end game. Keep your eye on the prize, maintain your sense of humor and remember: many people on airplanes were young parents once too. The vast majority of those people are rooting for you.