It is no secret that when a small child is seen coming down the aisle of the airplane, other passengers groan. Whether it is audible or not, you have probably witnessed it or been guilty of doing it. Some parents are just not equipped for air travel with their little ones. It doesn’t make them bad people, just unprepared ones.
Kids are not as patient as adults, nor do they understand why they have to sit when there are so many other things they could be doing and they can get bored very easily. Let’s face it – sitting in a chair for hours is boring. Save money and sanity when traveling with kids by keeping them busy and making travel fun.
Let them pack their own bag. When you go anywhere, you probably let your kid(s) pick a few things they cannot live without. As long as it can be reasonably packed and will make it through security, do not worry if they want to bring 32 miniature cars or their favorite doll or even their pillow. If it makes them comfortable, it will help them be a better traveler. You could pack their clothing in your carry-on and have them bring their stuff in a backpack or teach them responsible travel and buy them their very own carry-on bag that they can use. They will feel like a grown-up when they pull their little wheelie case behind them through the airport and you will save on baggage fees. Plus, by having them carry their own belongings, they might learn to pack lighter.
Bring snacks. Kids always want to eat when it is least convenient. They don’t want to wait for the snack cart to come around and, to be honest, neither do we. Pack some handy munchables in your bag to curb hunger and make them happy while you have to sit in your seat with your tray tables locked. Make sure to buy some bottles of water or juice before you board the plane, too. By packing your own goodies, you can control what your kids eat and won’t have to shell out more money for the snack packs they sell on planes.
Pack some games. Kids (and adults) love games. Whether it is a card game, board game or I Spy book, make sure you have a variety to choose from. You can’t play Uno when you’ve just gotten on the plane, but you can look for Waldo or do a five-minute mystery. You can even read a book together, play 20 Questions, use a handheld gaming device or many other things. Make sure you have enough to switch out while in transit to keep them occupied for your entire flight time, and any time waiting around at the airport. There are many travel-sized games that can fit easily into your carry-on and, when you plan ahead, you can shop around for the best prices if you don’t already own them.
Invest in a footrest. Skyrest.com makes the perfect footrest for children. OK, it’s really a resting pillow for sleeping or reading, but for little legs that fall asleep from not being able to reach the floor, it makes the perfect airplane ottoman. Nobody likes being kicked in the back for a whole flight and when kids have tingly legs, they are going to flail about. These inflatable rests have removable covers, too, so you can remove it before the flight to keep it from getting dirty from the floor and feet.
Fly really early or really late. If your child is on a regular sleeping schedule, see if you can book a flight that will coincide with it and they may just conk out the entire flight. We used to fly the Red Eye often and sleep on the plane overnight and wake up in our destination. While these seem to be few and far between – or even non-existent – now, you can certainly try to find an available flight that is super early in the morning or even later in the evening. These flights are usually undesirable, which makes them cheaper than the same flight in the middle of the day.
No one will say that traveling with children is a piece of cake, or even inexpensive, but certainly you can make the journey easier on both of you. Keeping a regular schedule is key, so make sure you bring a meal onboard if they are used to eating at the time you will be traveling, or make them comfy enough to take a nap if they need one. Otherwise, just pack the tools you require to entertain them. You will make your little ones think travel is awesome and you’ll avoid those dirty looks from other passengers if they don’t start freaking out and throwing a temper tantrum. Of course, sometimes you just can’t predict what will happen, only try to make travel seem like a great big adventure – which it is.
About the Author
Shereen Rayle is author of the blog Shereen Travels Cheap and two budget travel books, including Secrets to Summer Savings. For years she has been planning her own vacations using the Internet to extend her limited budget as far as possible and shares the tips and tricks she has learned, along with useful sites like FareCompare.com, to help others get the most out of their travel dollars. And to further inspire budget travelers everywhere, she finds terrific travel bargains and posts them each day on her Facebook page.