Summer vacation season is here! Whether you are venturing out on your preschooler’s first plane trip, or if you and your kiddo are pros at flying, it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make your next flight an easier one. Our family of three are novice flyers, with our five year old son having four round trip plane rides under his belt. Over the past years, and with some trial and error, I have found some things that work for us. In the hopes of making your flight a happier one, consider if any of our tips will work for your crew.
One of my son’s favorite flying tradition is his backpack. The week prior to the flight, I sneak out by myself to Target and grab some surprises for his backpack. He carries his backpack through security and the airport but he isn’t allowed to open it up and see his surprises until we have taken off and are in the air. It is the perfect distraction, and since every surprise is new and different, it kicks off even long flights with plenty of new things to do.
I always try to pack some of his favorite snacks, usually in cool disposable containers that I grab for a few bucks. The containers are handy to have during the vacation time itself, and he loves to find goodies like Rolos and his favorite popcorn inside. I also try to include an empty water bottle or sippy cup (depending on what he uses at the time). Remember, when you pack the cup, it needs to be empty in order to go through security. We fill ours up when he isn’t watching at the water fountain after we go through the TSA checkpoints. I usually grab a toy – this summer, I am tucking in a dinosaur action figure from Jurassic World – and a few activity books. This year, I am putting in a dinosaur sticker book and a plain notebook that we can draw in, write in, or play tic tac toe in. Add in a Ziplock full of some crayons and pencils, a book to read together (this year’s vacation book is a Junie B. Jones), and you are the best mom ever. Our backpack of surprises has never disappointed and so far has always made for a busy preschooler and happy parents.
Call out bad behavior
Flying isn’t exactly a pleasant experience – long wait times in lines at the airport, delays, and switched gates can make anyone frustrated even before you jump on the plane. No one is immune to whiney behavior, kids or adults. In our family, we call each other out on our whining behavior. Daddy is whining because the lines to gate check the booster seat is long? Call him out nicely. Kiddo is whining because he wants a cup of hot chocolate from Starbucks and the line is just too much to bear? Call him out on his behavior and ask him to adjust it. Mama is whining about other people in the terminal eating Chicago style hot dogs at 7am (I mean, seriously, why do they do that?!)? Call her out on it.
We have found that if we tell each other when we are acting ungrateful or frustrated, it helps us all better adjust our attitude. It is also a great lesson for our son to see us recognizing our behavior and changing it up. We also talk to him when we see adults throwing fits and being rude to one another and to airport employees. The airport is a great place to see people acting out of control and not using good coping skills. My husband and I have found that these can be good lessons to talk through, and troubleshoot, with our son.
Vacation is all about doing something new and exciting. Use your airport time to have an adventure. If you are checked in early enough, find out if the airport has a child play area or your favorite restaurant. Here in our O’Hare airport, the child playground is awesome and there is even a yoga room. When we were in New Orleans, we found plenty of places to eat our favorites before we headed home, and in Orlando we were able to stroll through the gift shops to finish up any remaining Disney sightings.
The best part about travel is that you are exposing your child to new things, while teaching them skills like self-control, patience, and tolerance. You can make anything in an airport or airplane exciting for your little one. I have found that as long as I go in prepared with a few of these tricks and outlooks, our whole family starts and ends the vacation right. Happy flying!
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