In America, there are two classes of travel: First class, and with children. —Robert Benchley
“When you have a baby, your family should be obligated to come to you for the holidays. It should be a rule,” my friend Lucy tells me as she downs her third cup of coffee. She is stressing out because in less than a week she will be taking her 6-month-old daughter, Sophia, on her first airplane ride. They will be flying from Los Angeles to New York for Christmas and Lucy is not exactly thrilled about it. “Everybody thinks babies are so cute until you walk onto a plane with one. People look at you like you are the devil incarnate holding a ticking time-bomb. I know because I used to be one of those people. And now I’m going to be the devil holding the time-bomb.”
She has a point. In the past year, children have been banned from first class cabins on Malaysian Airlines, prompting several other airlines to consider following suit. And in a survey done for the 2011 Business Travel and Meetings Trade show, 75% of business class passengers said they were annoyed by children on planes, also encouraging airlines to look into “adult-only” cabins.
What’s a mom to do? While we are all very aware that children will act up, get sick, and meltdown at the worst possible moments, there are some preparations to make traveling with kids a bit less stressful. We’ve focused on air travel, but many of these tips can come in just as handy whether traveling by plane, train or automobile.
TIPS BEFORE TAKE-OFF
• When possible, book nonstop flights to avoid complications and save yourself the stress of shuttling from one plane to another. While it may seem like a good idea to book the cheaper one-stop flight, consider if the savings is worth your sanity (and the prospect of missing your connecting flight).
• Look for flights at non-peak hours (early morning or late night). These flights are usually less crowded and you will be able to spread out a bit.
• Print out your boarding passes ahead of time and keep them all in one place so you can easily access them during check-in.
• Pack light; try to reduce the number of bags you are taking so there is less to lug (and less to lose).
• If possible, have your gifts shipped to the address where you will be celebrating the holidays. However, if you do pack your gifts in your carry-on, be sure not to wrap them. They will unwrap them at security.
• Dress everyone for comfort and ease. Avoid belts, shoes with laces, and any other article of clothing that will delay you at the security checkpoint.
• Nothing is more stressful than rushing to catch a flight, except rushing to catch a flight with kids. Give yourself a bit of a cushion so you can be a bit more relaxed and perhaps grab a coffee before boarding.
Pack Snacks and Gum
• For older kids, allow them to chew gum at takeoff and landing to avoid ear-popping.
• Don’t depend on the airline for snacks—some airlines don’t even offer food anymore. Bring along your children’s favorite (easy) foods to make the flight smoother for all.
Bring Toys, Games, Books, and Digital Distractions
• Make sure you have enough activities to keep your kids occupied for the full flight. Nothing brings on a tantrum like sheer boredom.
Break Your Own Rules
• You have a list of no’s: no sugary sodas, no sweets after 5 pm, no TV during the week. Throw those all out the window as soon as you board. This is not the time to reinforce your rules; this is the time to give in, to pacify, to get you and your kids safely and sanely to your destination without jumping out of the exit door.
• If it all goes haywire, remember take a deep breath and smile. Smile at your beautiful little ticking-time bombs who refuse to settle down. Smile at the flight-attendants who are reprimanding you for not keeping your kids in line. Smile at those people giving you those death stares. Smile and remind yourself that one day they will be in your shoes and when they are, you will do what every veteran mami does: you will smile and say, “Don’t worry. You are doing a great job.”
For further information and advice, read TSA’s guidelines for traveling with kids:.