Imagine you are about to embark on a family vacation and the easiest and fastest way to get there is to fly. How does that make you feel? Are you giddy? Anxious? Worried? Terrified?
Personally, I love flying. Granted to small seats, inconvenient flight times, ridiculously priced prices, and refusal to serve meals on most flights has led us to drive more in the past few years, but I do love flying.
I was a little nervous the first time we took our kids on a plane. They were two months old and since they slept the entire time I am positive that the overstuffed bags we carried on were overkill. Now our twins are four and they are still wonderful fliers.
Practice makes perfect.
This does not mean that we never have problems though. Our twins are active kids. Sitting still is not their forte and plane travel often involves a lot of patience and waiting. So how do we do it? How do we travel successfully with super active twins?
updated from original post from November 2013 & affiliate links are included
Yes, preparation begins before we even get to the airport.
We read a lot of books about airplanes and airports before their first plane ride (see our list of 10 Books: Airplanes for some ideas). We used these as a starting point for a dialogue about our upcoming trip. This helps to get them excited and talk a little about what to expect.
*Rules for the plane. Such as: You must have your seatbelt buckled at all times
*Things that might make them nervous such as the loud noise of the plane or being separated from their teddy while it goes through security.
*Where you are going AND when you are coming back.
*New Small Toys (some ideas; cars, planes, trains, little people, lacing cards)
*Rattles & Chew Toys (for infants)
*New Books (Board Books for little ones, paperbacks for older kids)
*Paper or a small notebook
*Triangle Crayons (don't roll away)
*DVD player and DVDs or Kindle Fire for Kids
*Child Sized Headphones
*Snacks (Prepped in little baggies)
*Water Bottles (Empty. Fill it at the airport)
*Diapers (if needed)
*Lots of Wipes (regardless of age)
*Gallon Sized Ziplock Bag (Handy in a million ways)
*Change of Clothes (For everyone. Extra if you are toilet training)
When we got to the airport we talked a lot about the different things we saw and what we had read about in the books. Talk to your child calmly and remind them before each major event (ie. Security, Boarding, Trays needing to be Raised, etc). Our kids each carry a backpack (like this one) with a few things to do, diapers and their change of clothing.
Find somewhere to let out some energy before you board. Don't expect your little active child to sit still and wait for the plane and then sit still on the plane. It's too much and they will meltdown.
*Our favorite airports have playgrounds (like this one at Chicago O'Hare International) but most have at least somewhere to move around a little. Try to research this ahead of time and check how long your layover is - if relevant.
*Play some movement games. Here are 5 we enjoy.
*Take a walk to a far away water fountain or bathroom together.
We put on seatbelts first and our rule is that they have to stay on. (Obviously when they need to use the bathroom, they can get up) This rule avoids having children climbing all over the seats.
For take off and landing - when our children were babies nursing or bottles helped them. Now our twins drink water or eat a chewy snack.
Flying with newborns is possibly the easiest age. We haven't found an easier one. We carried them both in their baby bjorns and they slept the majority of the trips.
We carried most of the snacks and new toys and books in our carry on. A second set of new toys, movies, and books was packed in our suitcase and kept hidden away until the flight home. Always wait until toys/snacks are needed before bringing them out one at a time. For our son, this moment didn't come until the flight home. He spent the whole first flight playing with the Thomas trains in his backpack. Our daughter steadily worked her way through the items on each flight. Keeping their hands and minds occupied, while getting their parents' undivided attention, helps them stay focused and willing to sit.
Try more active and imaginative toys that can be used on the tray. Cars and trains, little people to pretend with, or putty and playdo to squish are more entertaining and active than writing or coloring.
Try to find a way for your kids to move around a little after the flight. Let them play a movement game with you in a corner while the other adult waits for the luggage. Let them use a pool or go to the playground as soon as you arrive at your destination. If neither are possible, just get your wiggles out a little together. Jump, wiggle, twist, shake around a little while you wait for your luggage or taxi.
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