As you can imagine, working for an airline comes with some pretty great travel perks, but when I became a mom two years ago, exercising those perks became a whole lot more difficult. Suddenly, my spontaneous jet-setting lifestyle was no longer feasible, and I had to re-learn how to travel with my little one in tow. I’m by no means an expert at traveling with kids, but given the holiday season is upon us, I thought it might be worth sharing a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Flight schedules matter.
Choosing a flight is of course dependent on how old your little one is, and their ability to adapt to new schedules or sleep in strange places. When my daughter was an infant, she’d sleep just about anywhere so long as she had a bottle of milk (and moodlighting always helped). But as she got older and her sleep schedule became more defined, I learned that it was best to pick flights that didn’t disrupt her naps and bedtime routine – whenever possible. For those of you that have kiddos that can tune out the noise and distractions of a commercial flight – count your blessings! But for the rest of us, avoiding red eyes may be a good idea.
If you’re traveling across time zones (and you live on the west coast) I find that for shorter trips – three days or less – it helps to try to keep my daughter on her home time zone to avoid having to switch her back just a few days later. If you’re lucky, that also possibly means you get to sleep in while on vacation. But the time zone transition is much harder for those based on the east coast. The only suggestion I have is to check out our new JFK-FLL seasonal route and avoid time zone changes all together!
I used to pride myself on fitting everything I needed for a week-long trip into a simple carry-on. Those days are gone. Car seats, pack ‘n’ plays, diapers…these are the new travel essentials when flying with a little one. But I’ve learned that with a little advance preparation, you can potentially avoid lugging around half your life’s possessions on each weekend getaway. If you’re renting a car at your destination, many rental companies will rent you a car seat. Just be sure to ask if the seat is guaranteed or on a first-come-first-serve basis. Last thing you want is to be stranded without one! Many major cities and popular vacation destinations have rental services with delivery, assembly, and pick up for items like cribs, high chairs, beach toys, you name it. Here’s an example of one in Palm Springs. Also, rather than packing a week’s worth of diapers and baby food, I find that it’s always easier to just stop by a grocery store when you hit your destination to grab the necessities.
Distraction is key.
Thankfully, my daughter has just recently developed an affection for Elmo, which means that she can be distracted for a good chunk of a cross-continental flight with an iPad pre-loaded with Sesame Street episodes. But before TV and movies were an option, we had to get pretty creative. Here’s a list of the different ploys I’ve stored in my toolkit in the hopes that each distraction would fill at least 10-15 minutes of time before the screaming ensued:
1. Snacks – and a lot of them. You can order food on demand through our Red™ touch-screen, including kid-friendly items like our PB&J sandwich.
2. Quiet toys and games like coloring and the Magnadoodle. (Try to avoid toys with small pieces that can easily get dropped or misplaced.)
3. Books about airplanes and airports.
4. Frequent walks up and down the aisles.
5. Soothing toys like a lovey or blanket – just be extra careful not to leave them on the plane!
6. Examining different objects on the plane like the remote controls, reading lights, or window shades.
7. If your baby is young enough, even simple distractions like an empty plastic cup can sometimes be the most entertaining toy of all.
What I’ve found to be key about each of these distractions is that you space each one out just right to hopefully last you the entire length of the flight. And if your kids have reached the glorious stage of liking movies, TV, music, and games, be sure to check out all of the content Red™ has to offer onboard, including an entire Kids section with parental controls.
Give yourself a break.
Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Traveling with kids can be hard. But exposing your kids to different places and people is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Sure, not everyone is going to offer up sympathy when they’re seated near a wailing toddler. Some parents try to win over their seatmates with candy, while others take a different approach. But regardless of your philosophy, just remember that you’re doing your very best. And if you get a chance, book yourself a babysitter at your destination and get a much needed massage! You deserve it.