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Preparations are in full swing for our move to American Samoa. If everything goes according to the plan, our journey from Texas to American Samoa will take about 22 hours. This includes two layovers. That is a hard day for anyone, but especially for a 7-year-old! So, to help eliminate some of the meltdowns, I am preparing Boston for our travel day as best as I can. Here are my tips for preparing kids for long flights.
Talk to them about the plan
I am a firm believer in talking to your kids about what to expect. Whether it is a trip across town to visit Aunt Sally tomorrow or starting a new school next month, the more you talk to your children about the changes in their day-to-day schedules, the better they will handle those changes. Traveling is no different. As soon as you tell your kids about your trip, start talking to them about what to expect on your travel day. Show them your flight itinerary. Talk to them about the layovers and how long they will be. Discuss when you will be getting to the airport and arriving at your destination. Explain what the security procedures at the airport will be like. The more they know, the better.
For our trip to American Samoa, I have had several talks with Boston about the travel day. I have told him that we will be getting to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. We have talked about what we will do during each of our layovers. I have explained to him how long each of the flights are. We have discussed that he will need to sleep on the plane at some point and that we will probably be eating some of our meals during our flights.
Make it fun
While a day of travel can be stressful for adults, it can be a lot of fun for kids. So, capitalize on this sense of playfulness and use it to your advantage. During those times when you are waiting and need your kids to be good, engage them in a game. It doesn’t have to be hard. Use your imagination to make something up. See who can spot the most people wearing red shirts, or have them to make up a story about the next person they see. It doesn’t matter what the game is, the point is to just engage them in a way that will keep them entertained when you need them to wait patiently. The more fun they have, the better they will act and the more pleasant your trip will be for you.
Dress them comfortably
Regardless of how long your travel day will be, dress your kids comfortably. This will help with less whining and hopefully will allow them to rest some during the trip. If possible, let them wear one of their favorite outfits. If you will be taking an early morning or night time flight, consider putting them in pajamas for the flight.
Put them in slip-on shoes
Dress your children in slip-on shoes for your flight. This will make them easy to get on and off while at the airport. It will also allow them to get comfortable and settle in better while on the plane. Any maybe, with any luck, they will go to sleep at some point on your journey.
Pack their carry-on’s with lots of entertainment
A great way to prepare kids for long flights is to let them help with the packing of their things. Give them their own carry-on bag. Their school backpack is a great bag to use for their carry-on. Let them pick out what entertainment and activities they want to pack in it for the plane ride. Be sure they choose a variety of activities to cure boredom. Also, mix in low-tech with high-tech options in case they run out of batteries.
Load up on snacks
Generally speaking, hungry kids are cranky kids. So, be prepared with lots of snacks. This way, when hunger strikes your little ones, you will be ready for it. Pack several different snacks in either single-serve containers or ziploc bags. Go for snacks that are easy to eat without a huge mess. Some of my go-to travel snacks are Cheerios, animal crackers, and grapes. Always pack more snacks than you think you will need because you never know when you will face an unexpected delay.
Don’t forget to bring their comfort items
In order for your children to handle long flights like little champs, don’t forget to pack their comfort items! This could be their favorite stuffed animal, a beloved blanket, or other comfort item. This can help to settle their nerves, provide comfort when they get grumpy, and can even help them to fall asleep on a plane. We can’t go anywhere without at least one stuffed animal! I always pack a pillow and small blanket for Boston as well. These help him to get more comfortable when it is time to sleep.
Give them time to get their wiggles out
All parents know that kids can only stay still for a limited amount of time. In order to avoid your kids getting antsy and wound-up during the flight, give them time to get their wiggles out while at the airport. Take them for a walk, move to an uncrowded area and let them jump up and down, or have them to stand up and wiggle around for a while. Burning off some of their energy before you board your plane will make everyone’s flight more enjoyable.
There is no reason why kids can’t handle long flights as well as, or better, than adults can. You just need to take a little time before your flight to prepare them for it. Pack the right items. Give them time to burn off some energy, and talk to them about what to expect. With these simple tips, you can prepare your children to be world-class travelers from a very early age. I hope these tips help you the next time you are preparing kids for long flights. Happy travels!