When your family lives in Florida you travel on a regular basis. My kids have been flying since they were babies and while the specific things that we pack for 7 year olds are certainly different than the things that we packed for two babies, (Bottles vs. Granola Bars) the three most important categories have not changed.
After more flights with my kids than I can remember, here are the three things that moms need to pack in order to make it to your destination with your sanity still in tack.
1. Things to Do:
Please I beg of you, do not put your child on a plane at any age with nothing to do. If you do this you have lost the right to be upset when your kids is loud and crying. You also lose the right to be annoyed when other passengers shoot you nasty looks. Packing things for your kids to do on the plane is more important than packing underwear. You can buy underwear when you land. You can not buy toys and games on the airplane. (Although, maybe I’m on to something here….?)
These things to do will differ greatly depending on the age of your kids. Babies don’t require too much in the way of toys but it certainly doesn’t hurt to pack few small, quiet toys. This category is the most important in the toddler world. At this age you need to have your game face on and be ready for battle. Toddlers do not enjoy being strapped to a seat and being told to be quiet so it is your job to give them lots and lots of reasons to forget about how long they have to sit still.
When my kids were toddlers they would not leave headphones on and we steered away from putting them on phones or tablets for long periods of time. My best defenses came from the dollar store. Before each trip I would wander the aisles of the dollar store and collect the most random assortment of items the cashier had ever seen. I kept all these little treasures a secret until we were on the plane. Once you are on the plane…
Here is my secret tip to success…
Take out one item at a time and only bring out another thing when you see that they have completely lost interest in their current treasure.
Here’s a small list of some on the items in mom’s bag of treasures.
- silly putty (less crumbly than playdoh)
- action figures
- coloring and activity books – the dollar store has more of these than meet the eye. Go through the boxes and you will find some really fun books.
- travel sized magnetic drawing board
- Dry erase board with markers
- Small notebooks with fun colored pens or pencils – Tip: put all pens and pencils into a plastic zip top bag so they don’t roll all over the place.
- Post-it notes
- small boxes, containers, pouches and purses – let them sort the stickers, “cook” with their silly putty, or make beds for their dolls
- bandaids – seems crazy but let them put the whole box on themselves and they’ll think you’re the coolest
- make up brushes or paint brushes – no paint or make up, but let them pretend on you. My kids love to pretend to facepaint.
- Empty squirt bottle and a small washcloth – super fun for kids who like to pretend to clean
- calculator – again boring to you and me, but awesome to a toddler who has never seen one
- squishy stress balls
The possibilities are endless if you just take some time to prepare. Make a note to look for cheap little stuff when you are out shopping the month or two before your trip and just throw it in a bag until you are ready to pack, but remember….
One item out at a time. Do not show all your cards or you will lose the game.
2. Things to Eat:
I don’t care if you are a mom who has super strict rules on snacking or swears to only feed your kid balanced, healthy meals. When you are on an airplane I feel like all bets are off. Little kids love food and a mouth filled with food is a quiet one. If they’re hungry, feed them. You can eat healthy for the rest of your trip but food can make kiddos happy, which makes moms happy, which makes your fellow passengers happy.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite airplane snacks:
- Granola Bars
- Fruit Snacks
- Raisins, Craisins, and other Dried Fruit
- Cheerios or any other fun cereal
- String Cheese
- Trail Mix
Be The Cool Mom:
Buy snacks you have always said “no” to. While I consider my kids to be pretty healthy eaters, and I pride myself on not giving into their every whim the grocery store, traveling is different. This is the time when I buy the fruit roll ups and crazy cereal that they always ask for. It is a special treat for a special time and it will keep them in a good mood. This in turn, once again, leads to a happy kiddo, which leads to a happy mom, which leads to a happy group of passengers around you.
Travel Like a Diabetic:
I pack enough food to feed a small army when I travel by myself, as well as an extra vial of insulin which needs to be kept cold. Take it from someone who always travels with my lunchbox, you can take freezer packs on an airplane. TSA requires that your ice packs be frozen solid when you go through security and they may hand check your bag, but there is no reason for them to take your food or your ice pack. So bring your sandwich, veggies, fruit and string cheese, but leave the yogurt and apple sauce at home as it is likely over the 3 oz. limit. And please eat anything super pungent before you get on the plane. I do not need to smell your garlic lemon chicken sitting two inches from my face.
Pack It So They Can See It:
TSA has recently added a new guideline about packaged food into their security check process and some airports are more strict about it than others. If you are carrying a bunch of packaged snacks (ie. granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.) put them all in a gallon sized zip top bag and pull them out of your carry on. Tell the agent that you have them and ask if they would prefer to hand check them. This will save you from them pulling your whole carry on bag off the belt and pulling everything out piece by piece.
The same goes for medical supplies. I have some items that can not go through an x-ray so I automatically give this gallon sized bag to them and ask for a hand check. I also add in anything else that may look odd from my medical supplies just to save the hassle of them checking my entire bag when all they are really interested in is one item.
3. Bring Their Favorite Stuffed Animal, Blanket, Toy
In our house Duck, Monkey and Blankies reign supreme on the favorite snuggly hierarchy. Their status was established long ago and they have been on every trip with the girls since they were babies.
As you are reading this you are likely thinking that this is a no brainer when it comes to packing, but I need to warn you of a possible mistake that could lead to anxiety greater than the fear of the wing falling off the plane.
When the girls were very small we had our carry on bags stuffed with diapers and bottles and who knows what else. Without thinking, I stuffed their blankies into our checked luggage thinking only of saving space in our carry ons. Immediately after I saw those bags travel down the belt into the great unknown of baggage land I had a panic attack. What had I done!! What if our luggage gets lost?!!! My deep breathing exercises on the plane were all for nothing as I saw our checked bags come out of baggage claim, safe and sound in Wisconsin.
Don’t make this mistake and keep track of those stuffies and blankies when traveling. Our rule for our girls is that babies stay in their bag until we are on the plane. They are not allowed to carry them in the airport for fear of them setting them down and mom and dad not noticing until the wheels of the plane have left the ground. Lay down the rule and stick to it, you have enough to keep track of.
A Few Bonus Tips:
- If your kids are old enough, pack small suckers for take off and landing if you kiddo has trouble with popping ears.
- Potty Training or Still in Diapers? Don’t forget an extra set of clothes and a plastic bag.
- If you kiddo is on any liquid meds, put them in the travel shampoo bottles. They are 3 oz., leak free, and make the meds super easy to dispense.
- It’s ok to be a momentary germ freak – Bring a zip top bag of a handful of antibacterial wipes and wipe down the arm rests, seat belt, wall, and tray table before your kid puts their snack and toys all over them.
- Close the air vents. Not fool-proof in stopping the spread of germs, but these little blowers are some of the germiest parts of a plane.
- Teach your kids to not kick the seat in front of them. You want a flight that is stress free? Teach this common courtesy to your kids when they are little and it will pay off in compliments from your fellow passengers when they are getting off the plane. Trust me, my kids regularly get complimented solely because other passengers don’t know they are sitting behind them. Mom Win and Kiddo Win!
As with anything else, traveling with your kids gets easier the more you do it and it pays to be prepared. Meltdowns and air sickness will happen but if you arm yourself with the right tools you have a much greater chance of flying the friendly skies. Safe and Happy Travels!!