Traveling with kids can be a highly rewarding experience, but plane journeys with little ones can be cumbersome and exhausting. As parents, we all want to get through plane trips as smoothly as possible. We agonize for weeks over what to pack, how much milk to carry, what the kids will eat on the plane, what activities they will enjoy, and more. With an active pandemic on our hands, our safety and our children’s safety is a big concern while traveling. Airlines have released new travel safety procedures to mitigate the spread of Covid but the rules, and exceptions, are different on every airline. To help our fellow traveling families navigate airplane travel in these unprecedented times, we have partnered with Pilota, the developers of a safety-focused flight booking tool, to offer three tips on flying with kids.
Be Strategic About Seat Choices
For families traveling with a lap infant, one way to make flying more pleasant is managing to keep that middle seat empty. During our travels (2 adults and 1 infant), we make a point to ask the gate check attendants or check-in staff if they can put us in a row of 3 with the seat empty in the middle. In fact, when we book flights and do the seat selection beforehand, we try to reserve seats A and C with the hopes that no one reserves seat B, the middle seat. Having the extra space where infants can stretch out and play without being held on a lap is a game changer!
These days, you can just skip this step if your airline of choice is following Covid protocols and keeping an empty middle seat. One of the safety measures that the Pilota FlySafe booking assistant reports is whether the airline is leaving the middle seat empty.
Be Prepared With A Variety Of Tools And Activities
Keeping kids engaged during a long flight is a major challenge for traveling families. The novelty of a personal TV wears off after a while and napping/sleeping seems to be an elusive concept on airplanes. We try to avoid meltdowns by keeping several occupying activities with us in our check-in luggage and ‘slow releasing’ it during the flight. Kids love opening presents, so we like to recreate the same excitement on airplanes by individually wrapping up small, new toys in some tissue paper and handing it to them when they’re ready for a new activity.
Flying with kids can also be monotonous once you are up in the air, so stimulating toys, such as glow sticks or glow-in-the-dark window clings, are also a huge hit! When we’re ready to walk around the flight, we take the window clings with us and find a spot elsewhere on the plane, like the small window on the plane door, to decorate! Bébé Voyage has crowd sourced and published a list of toys and activities for flights here.
We rely heavily on practical tools – inflatable seat pillows (check out our synopsis of inflatable flying beds and which airlines allow them), fabulous kids’ headphones, a baby carrier to rock the baby to sleep – to make the journey a little smoother. We are also fans of apps and e-tools to help break the monotony of the plane TV. E-tools you may like are Pilota FlySafe which enables you to visualize the safety measures your airline is taking and Netflix which lets you download your kids’ favorite shows for offline viewing.
Ramp Up The Excitement Before The Flight
We have found that there are many benefits to building up the excitement of a flight beforehand. Kids love to be involved in ‘adult’ activities like packing for a trip because it gives them the opportunity to decide which special toys or comfort items they want to bring along with them. We even try to test out the tablet and headphones before the trip and allow our kids to choose which episodes of their favorite shows they would like to pre-download.
For travel during the pandemic, it may also be important to practice mask-wearing if it is a new concept for your child. Many of our Bébé Voyage club members have successfully used strategies such as putting on a mask during TV time, incentivizing mask wearing, and even picking out masks with fun designs and characters! Going through this trial process can help your child ease into this ‘new normal’ and be less resistant on the actual flight.
On the issue of mask-wearing, we recognize that it can be difficult to discern which airlines are mandating masks and which airlines are lenient on mask wearing for younger toddlers. Our friends at Pilota have once again helped us out in this area. The plugin enables you to see clearly in your browser, as you go through the process of booking flights, what the mask rules are for each airline.
Flying with kids can be arduous, but using these simple strategies to mitigate the stress can make a world of difference. We wish all of you pleasant, safe and healthy vacations, especially as we move into a busy travel and holiday season.