Flying to me is by far the worst part. Here are a number of tips I have found that have helped us a TON. You need to realize nobody wants you to sit next to them with your kids (death stares and even one lady who told me this summer that “If he sits next to me I am going to be a bitch the entire flight!”), and it isn’t going to be relaxing or easy…but it is manageable.
- Schedule that transatlantic flight as late as possible. If you are going from your local airport to New York, try to make sure that flight from New York to Europe is at late as humanly possible. Why you ask? Simple…sleeping kids in planes are MUCH easier to deal with. Plus, you will arrive at a much more manageable time. Arriving at 11:00AM local time in Europe might only be 5:00-6:00AM your time, but that is a huge improvement over arriving at 1:00-2:00AM. Time in the airport is much easier than in the plane…so the more delays the better for me on this last segment.
- Thank you Steve Jobs…the iPad. Loading up an iPad for your kids with new Apps, Games, or Videos will be your best friend. Even at a year and a half, my kids could spend a few hours easy with the iPad. Anything to help pass the time. As they got a little older, that time increased.
- We like to sit in the very back. It isn’t ideal being by the toilets in the back, but it works great for being able to get out and roam around the very back of the plane when the kid needs a little walk. The only time I won’t book the very back seats is if we are on a plane without reserved seats and I see a family with kids…we will always sit by them. Power in numbers!
- If arriving early, book the extra night. The first big mistake I made on our first trip with our little one was this…we arrived in Sweden around 7:00AM at our hotel and they told us “your room won’t be ready until 3:00pm”. Those were the longest eight hours ever. We were exhausted, had a tired baby, and had nowhere to go. Luckily we found an empty business center upstairs and napped/played, but it wasn’t ideal by any means. Going forward from that point, if we are arriving early, we book the extra night so we can get in right away. It is worth it!
- First to board, no thank you! If possible I would like to board the plane about 30 seconds before they shut the door. The last thing I want to spend an extra 30-40 minutes doing is sitting in our cramped little seats already wasting the kids time in being interested in the iPad, snacks, whatever. Since we always pack lite, space to store bags isn’t an issue.
- Do I bring the car seat or not? If your child is under 2 and under 28lbs or so (differs by airline) you have the option of a bassinet attached to the wall in the front row of coach seating. Personally I would only get this for babies, but I’m sure others have had success with it for older kids. This is great for both you and your baby, you get the extra leg room and the baby has a nice lay flat bed when sleeping. It doesn’t help when the child is awake, but it is awesome. For kids who are a little heavier until I would say around age 4, I would use the car seat. If you have any hope of your child sleeping well and you are flying late night like in suggestion #1, you need the seat. Carrying the seat all over the airport stinks, but it is worth it. I suggest buying a cheap (FAA Approved obviously) and as light weight as possible. I carried my Britax Marathon all over Europe once and it wasn’t pretty. In addition if it is cheap and you decide to leave it somewhere because you don’t want to carry it anymore you won’t feel as bad.
- Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks. Bring all of your kids favorite snacks. I would even include the messy ones like suckers as an emergency option if you have gone through everything else.
- Extra clothes. Make sure you have extra clothes for the little kids. We’ve had accidents in airports and in planes and the last thing you want is having no pants for your kids with 12 hours left to your destination (where you probably won’t have easy access to kids clothes either). They are small, so stock extras in your carry on.