Flying with Children Can be Painless
Proper planning can ensure a positive traveling experience with your child.
Seat selection on an airplane is critical. I pay extra for early bird check-in just to be guaranteed that I can get a good seat. And I always pick a window and row that is near the front of the plane for a quick exit once I reach my destination.
Trust me, I have it all figured out, and I always have a plan. That was until the flight attendant uttered those dreaded words over the intercom, “It’s going to be a full house and all seats will be taken.” Groan.
Thoughts surged through my head as I scanned boarding passengers as they made their way to the aisle. I looked like a prairie dog popping up from my seat just to get a better view. Now it was just a matter of having the right person sit next to me. By “right” I mean someone who will read a book and not engage me at all, someone who is no more than five years younger than me and definitely someone who doesn’t smell. Then it happened.
I heard the high pitched squeal of little voices echo from the front of the plane as they started to close in. I honestly don’t know why, but when traveling I seem to become a super-powered kid magnet. It’s going to be OK, I told myself. I just won’t make eye contact, if I don’t see them then they won’t see me, right?
I felt the premeditated stare of a very satisfied 8-year-old boy as he pointed to the seat next to mine and shouted to his very stressed out mom, “I want to sit here!” To add more salt to the wound, three more kids piled into the row behind me. It was over, I was doomed. This was going to be two and a half hours of sheer torture. And with that, I received the first kick in the back of my seat in less than three seconds flat.
I instinctively wanted to slide my hand to the back of the chair and grab the assaulting ankle! I couldn’t help but take myself to that special place where I envisioned how an emergency bungee cord and duct tape could make my day.
That was one of many flights that I was thankful I was flying solo. But contrary to popular belief it is possible to have a peaceful trip with your kids. Whether traveling by car, train, boat, or plane, proper planning can result in occupied kids and happy parents. I know this because I had the good fortune of experiencing this phenomenon on my most recent flight.
When a blonde and bouncy kindergartner sat next to me, I assumed that the flight would be as miserable as usual. But then something happened. Just as the calculating little girl looked at me and was about to morph into Chatty Kathy, her mom preempted the situation by whipping out a complete activity book with accompanying markers and stickers. Next, she popped out a snack container filled with bite-size fruit pieces. Soon after came out playing cards, books, and paper.
This mother came packed with serious artillery and instantly I was sitting next to an angel. I was convinced that her bag was filled with “magic” things! Shockingly, it turned out to be a very enjoyable flight, and I realized that traveling with kids doesn’t have to be stressful.
Rich Cerrone, a nine-year ground operations employee with Southwest Airlines at Tampa International, has witnessed many traveling families. He suggests making the most out of the experience starting with your time at the airport.
As a traveling father himself, Rich said, “It's a great idea to get to the airport early so that the kids can really soak in the whole experience. Some airports have a designated play area so kids don’t have to just sit at the gate. When flying with infants I have found that it’s best to get them up earlier than normal on days when flying. If timed right, the flight could become nap time which makes everyone happy.”
Rich also suggests that when boarding flights with children ask a flight attendant if a visit to the cockpit can be arranged. “You would be surprised at how often captains are willing to take part in a great photo opportunity and help create an experience that a child may never forget.”
For those traveling with infants there is help! Kadie Flye, a St. Petersburg mom, created the FlyeBaby™ product. When flying with her infant daughter Ella, Kadie realized traveling with a baby should not be so difficult. This inspired her to design an affordable portable hammock style fabric seat that attaches to the back of an airline tray table, beach chair, or dining room chair so your baby can have face-to-face interaction with you and a comfortable place to fly.
Recalling the first time she tried her prototype, Kadie said, “Ella was able to play peek-a-boo with me and I was able to get her to fall fast asleep. Who knew life on a plane with a baby could actually be enjoyable! While she slept, I had two free hands and was able to read a magazine.”
For an older child or teen, it’s always a good idea to come prepared. Bring along an MP3 player, portable DVD player with movies, portable gaming systems, and books to keep them entertained. An occupied child equals peace for parents and passengers. All these ideas apply to road trips, hotel stays, and other means of travel.
Leave the bungee cord at home! Traveling with kids should be a positive experience. When planning your next trip, ask your child to pack a few of their favorite items and snacks into a small duffle bag or backpack.
This not only ensures that they will stay busy doing things they chose, but it also includes them in the vacation planning process. Bring necessary and convenient travel accessories to make your trip more enjoyable, and always check ahead of time to find out what items are permitted or available on site. Bon Voyage!
You can pick up a number of children's toys, electronics and other items to keep your little ones ocuppied on a flight at the following businesses in our Seminole Heights Patch directory: