The story culls advice and insight I’ve gleaned from six years as a family traveler. Some of the suggestions relate to ideas I’ve mentioned here before. Some of the suggestions are brand new.
The bottom line: We can’t just board a plane and expect our kids to entertain themselves.
Flying with kids at any of time of year requires effort on the part of us parents. Well during the holidays, when airplanes and airports are at their craziest and busiest, it’s even more important for us to stay cool, stay calm, be flexible and be ready to tackle any delay, cancelation, sickness or angry fellow passenger that comes our way.
My No. 1 tip (which you may have read previously in these pages): Bring art projects. Kids love making things at home, so why not put them in position to make the same sort of stuff at 35,000 feet? When we fly during holidays, I bring construction paper and Scotch tape so the kids can make paper chains. My job in the assembly line is to rip the paper into perfect rectangles; from there, L and R take turns making circles, taping circles and stringing the chains up around our seats.
Sometimes we leave the chains for the next passenger (or the cleaning crew). Other times we hand them to flight attendants, who love the thought. Whoever gets ‘em, the process usually kills at least 90 minutes. On a long flight—especially during holiday season—that’s practically a lifetime.
https://wanderingpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/flighttips.jpg11631680Matt Villanohttps://wanderingpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/wandering-pod-logo.pngMatt Villano2015-11-12 23:04:402022-02-08 18:41:43Tips for holiday air travel with kids
You probably have heard a saying about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. As a family traveler, I embrace this philosophy wholeheartedly.
My commitment was put to the test today on what amounted to a 15-hour travel day to fly 600 miles after a weekend in SoCal (and Legoland California) with Little R. Yes, the day was exhausting. Yes, in the scheme of things, it was wildly irritating. But I learned some valuable lessons about being prepared, staying positive, and never letting the kiddos see you sweat—lessons that forever have changed the way I’ll approach parenting on a family trip.
So when our flight from San Diego to Santa Rosa circled the Santa Rosa airport nine times to wait out bad weather, I dug deep into my (literal) bag of tricks and gave R a brand new sheet of Melissa & Doug reusable stickers. And when R decided (and threw a tantrum because) the on-board toilet was too high for her to use, I simply reassured her that if she couldn’t hold it in and she wet her pants, I had a change of clothes ready to go.
(ICYW, she held it, then fell asleep.)
Later, when the pilot announced we were running out of fuel and needed to divert to Portland, Oregon, I made up a story about how our plane had been hand-selected by Queen Esmerelda to come and visit her kingdom of Portland and how this was a great honor bestowed only on the luckiest of passengers.
After we deplaned, when R started losing her bananas in the rebooking line, I handed her blank paper and crayons, and asked her to draw the gate agent a special thank-you card—a card that not only got her an entire sheet of (really awesome) Alaska Airlines stickers in return, but also made the gate agent smile (something I didn’t see the agent do very much in the 45 minutes of yelling she received from other passengers on our flight.)
Upon learning that we’d have to wait four hours in Portland, I told R that Queen Esmerelda sent us a credit for the gift shop, and allowed her to pick out $20 worth of toys (she got a stuffed pony, among other things).
I improvised in other ways during the wait, too:
When we happened upon an empty gate, we played football with my hat.
At another empty gate, we pretended to be airplanes and ran around in circles for a good 20 minutes.
Thanks to a Facebook tip from a friend, we took the moving sidewalks down to an area with kids’ games and spent 45 minutes playing with those.
Oh, and when R had to use the bathroom (always a dicey proposition in our family when “magic-eye” automatic flushers are involved), I pretended to take a call from Queen Esmerelda, who “directed” us to a special family bathroom where R was able to get totally naked, spend quality time on the toilet, listen as I read her a few books on the Kindle, and do more than her fair share of business (if you know what I mean).
After the flight back to San Francisco (on which R watched “Peppa Pig” shows the entire time; at that point in the day, I was more than happy to relax my screen-time restrictions), I even tried my best to turn the ordeal of a one-way rental car into something fun: We pretended the AirTrain to the rental car facility was the Monorail at Walt Disney World Resort, and I let R select the car (she chose a “sparkly silver” one).
On the way home, before the kid passed out in the car, I asked her about her favorite parts of the trip. Her response: “Today was really fun, Daddy.”
To say this comment made me happy would be an understatement. (Actually, I started crying the moment she said it; thankfully it was dark.) It was clear that my kid didn’t consider the ordeal a pain in the ass because I never gave her a reason to do so. To R, it all was just another part of our trip; a wonderful perspective that taught me a ton about parenting, traveling, and, quite frankly, myself.
So often when we travel, our kids feed off of us. They take cues from us. They read our body language. If we wig out, they wig out. Which is precisely why we always need to stay cool and take everything in stride.
Sure, our day today was COMPLETELY exhausting. And, yes, the delay was wildly inconvenient (in more ways than one). I’m sure I’ll be feeling the effects of it all throughout the course of the week. Thankfully, however, my 3-year-old will not. In my book, given the circumstances we overcame, that is the sign of a family travel victory.
What have been some of your worst family travel experiences, and how did you cope?
https://wanderingpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/20141207_162447-scaled.jpg14402560Matt Villanohttps://wanderingpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/wandering-pod-logo.pngMatt Villano2014-12-07 11:35:282022-02-08 18:33:35Turning family travel disaster into fun