This time of the year lots of people with small kids who might not otherwise feel ready for a family vacation decide to brave the airport for a trip to see family for the holidays. The various Facebook moms’ groups I belong to are all in a tither about how to enjoyable travel with little ones. Here’s tip numero uno: don’t set yourself up for failure, realize that it’s going to be hard and not relaxing and possibly terrible, but just like labor, the end result will be worth it and you’ll be with the ones you love. So now that we have settled on the fact that you won’t be needing to take along a book to amuse yourself while you wait for your flight, let’s talk about a few things that might make the trip a little more bearable.

  • Consider using an airline that allows you to choose your own seat. This is not for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. You’ll feel less guilty about the noise/mess/chaos you’r kid is causing when you know that most of the people around you made a conscious decision to sit near those with kids. I think you’ll find that most of the families end up sitting together so they can commiserate with one another. Those that were forced to sit near you were late to the flight and that’s their problem.
  • Should you feel bad for the people who have to sit by you, consider bringing them a treat or something? I don’t really think this is necessary but I have heard of people doing it. And it’s the holidays, who doesn’t love spreading a little cheer? I brought tons of little candy canes for my daughter to hand out one year, but we were so rushed we didn’t have time. On our first flight with my first daughter, we brought enough earplugs for a small army. Turns out we hardly even needed them.
  • Bend the rules on food, bring whatever the heck you need to keep those mouths full and those kids happy. Consider bringing gum for bigger kids for takeoff and landing. Bring a small lolly pop for an older toddler or preschooler and nurse or bottle feed babies on take off and landing if possible. All these things help pop their ears and keep them comfortable. For snacks, I bring granola bars, Annie’s gummies, yogurt melts and other yummy “treats.”
  • Travel light. If at all possible, check carseat, stroller, etc at the gate, or leave them at home in exchange for wearing your little one or just letting them walk. Send ahead anything you can – it might be worth the extra expense!
  • Fly direct. We’ve had some really terrible layovers and at this point in my life I (kind of) don’t care about any costs incurred to take a direct flight.
  • Bring anything you can think of to keep your kid busy – maybe something they love or maybe something new that will keep them engaged. But don’t bring too much of their stuff – you’ll just end up having to roam the aisle looking for it after you land. I like to bring a very small rolling backpack for my older daughter. I let her pack it with what she’d like, but she’s in charge of carrying it.
  • Consider a flight that might be at nap time for tiny ones, in hopes of them sleeping on the plane. We prefer early morning flights so we can still sneak in the afternoon nap after arrival. We don’t even worry about getting the kids dressed. We just throw them in the car and go.

You really just have to realize it’s going to be so different than when you traveled by air before kids. And be ok with that. It’s 4 – 8 hours of so of your life and then you’ll be where you’re going. And think of all the wonderful memories you’re making with your little ones. Hopefully you’re going somewhere you want to be. If not, surviving that is another blog post for another day. Bon voyage!

– Also, Elise has tips for you if you have a travel-hesitant child.

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