I love to travel with my family, and I truly think it’s one of the best things you can do for your kids. The time together exploring a new place, making memories you can’t make at home – priceless. We’ve had amazing experiences at destinations close to home AND far away. Traveling internationally with kids is a big of a new ball game (passports, customs, etc.) but once you do it once, you’ll know exactly what to expect and it’s really not intimidating at all. Our first international trip was to Turks and Caicos, and more recently we went to Jamaica. (Highly recommend both!)
If you’re planning your first international trip with kids, it might put your mind at ease to read through these tips. I’m welcoming Samara from Tiny Fry, who has done her share of international travel with her children, to See Mom Click to share these great suggestions to make your trip go smoothly. Happy travels!
5 Tips for Taking Your Kids on an International Flight
Whenever you travel with your family there’s a lot to think about. There are schedules to sort out, tickets to buy and luggage to pack. If you’re flying overseas, there are airports to navigate and hours to kill aboard a plane. For many, preparing for the flight is more stressful than planning a month long safari! So what can you do to ensure a peaceful, even enjoyable, plane ride? Try these tips that have been proven to ease the burdens of taking kids on an international flight.
GET A JUMP START
To start the trip off right, get to the airport with more than enough time to spare. Arriving early will give you the flexibility to deal with any surprises like long security lines, gate changes or other mix-ups. If you have extra time, look for an empty gate area and let the kids run around or ask an airport employee if there’s a play area nearby. When the kids have tired themselves out, it’ll be easier for them to chill out on the plane.
When you’re waiting at your gate, listen for early boarding opportunities. This is a less stressful opportunity to settle in to your assigned seats and ask the flight attendants for anything you might need during the hours ahead. If you’re flying overnight, be sure to ask for blankets and pillows.
DRESS THE PART
Travel day is not the day to bust out the fancy clothes. Instead, choose comfortable, loose outfits like sweatpants, hoodies, tees, and socks (be prepared for an air-conditioned cabin). A backpack is a perfect carry-on because you’ll have your hands free to wrangle the kids and any other baggage. Pack changes of clothes for you and the little ones in your carry-on bag; you never know who’s going to spill a drink or suffer airsickness when you least expect it. Put any soiled clothing in a plastic bag to keep them separate from your clean items.
It’s impossible to know how kids will feel during a flight, especially one that lasts several hours. Even the most seasoned young traveler can react poorly to the changes in air pressure or the confined space. To that end, in a bag that’s easy to access, pack items like bottles, pacifiers, lollipops (to combat air sickness), pain relievers, napkins and lots and lots of wipes.
You can pretty much count on finding something decent to drink during a plane ride, but the food is not so reliable. Therefore, a bag of snacks is a must-have. While we don’t recommend loading up on junk food (too much sugar and your kids may be literally bouncing in their seats!), a few treats spaced out over time keeps them enthusiastic and promotes good behavior.
When your kid starts to squirm and complain, use the element of surprise! Wrap up a few small gifts and gadgets (think stickers, pens, tiny cars, puzzles – nothing that makes too much noise that will annoy your seatmates) and dole them out every hour or so. Not only will the toy be entertaining, the unwrapping takes time and is a definite diversion. Along these same lines, load up an iPad with new games that will keep your little ones occupied; don’t forget headphones!
Preparation is the key to a successful family flight. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare and double check your provisions: extra clothes, toiletries, snacks and toys. If you can, let the kids run around an empty terminal before settling down on the plane. Take advantage of the early boarding so you can organize all of your supplies and remind the kids of what’s to come. Then take a deep breath – when the wheels are up the adventure begins!
Samara Kamenecka is a New York-born writer and translator living in Madrid. When she’s not busy trying to mold her two small children into functional, contributing members of society, she can usually be found enjoying a glass of wine (or three), or eating ice cream straight out of the container. She blogs over at Tiny Fry, and you can also catch her on Facebook or Twitter.