We flew from Central Florida to Portland Oregon this summer for our family vacation. The children had never been on an airplane before. We didn’t book flights in first class, and we had connections to make both ways. I can hapily report that our trip went amazingly smoothly. Here are a few pointers I would like to pass on as to the steps that we took to help make that happen:
1. Tennis shoes with socks and sweaters. Our kids are ten and ten and nine. They are required to take their shoes off at security and we do not get any special boarding privileges on planes. The tennis shoes ensure that their feet stay protected through all of the dangers of the airport without any injuries, and they don’t have to go through security without socks…EWW! Airport and airplane climate control is always unpredictable. It helps to have a layer to take off when it is hot and put on when it is cold. The kids stayed comfortable for the majority of our trip.
2. Prepare and take food. I looked up the restrictions on the TSA website and I didn’t have trouble bringing anything that I packed on the plane. They do have some restrictions especially regarding sauces and liquids that are important to be aware of. On our trip out I packed homemade GF pizza, a pasta casserole, sliced apples, and sliced lunchmeat and cheese all in clear disposable plastic containers. I also packed chips and crackers in Ziploc bags, and lots and lots of napkins. The kids went through almost everything that I prepared. This came in especially handy on our return trip when we had to rush to make our connection, and could not waste any time stopping to pick up something in the airport.
3. Use the charging stations. Both ways, we had phones and laptops charging along with the Kindle to make sure that we were fully powered up when we got onto the plane. Of course, I was in the clear because I was reading paperbacks the whole time, but with three kids on a long flight, we wanted to make sure that they could watch their devices for as long as they lasted on the plane.
4. Pack loosely, and take plenty of luggage. With five of us on a ten-day trip, of course we needed to check bags. We checked four suitcases, and we all carried on a bag. It is important to make sure that the carry-ons will be of acceptable size before you plan to travel. I found that it was especially helpful to leave the bags with lots of empty room in them. Not only is it helpful if you are planning on picking up souvenirs on your trip, it also makes it easier to search through the bags quickly to find what you need while you are on a flight.
5. Pack everything that you absolutely need in the carry-on bags. Medicines and toiletries should all go in your carry-on luggage along with at least a change of clothes. You should also carry on anything fragile or valuable. Watch your luggage being thrown from cart to cart from the airplane window and you will pick up on this very quickly. Our checked baggage managed to make it right along with us on this trip, but that is not always the case. It is always best to be prepared.
6. Purchase large bottles of water or whatever else you want to drink as soon as you pass through security. Yes, there is still beverage service on airplanes, but the drink size is about six ounces and we all know that we need to be getting more water than that into our systems to stay well hydrated, especially when we fly.
7. In regards to alcohol. Once you have passed through security everything that you can purchase is cleared to go on the airplane. Some airports are terrible about what they have available and you may do no better purchasing alcohol at the airport than trying to get a couple of cocktails on your flight. Some airports are much better than others however. At the Portland airport I found a lovely bottle of Oregon pinot for thirteen dollars that my husband and I enjoyed on the plane.
8. Give yourself lots and lots…and lots and lots of time. Just figure in an extra hour of waiting for your flight as part of your travel time so that you will not have to be in a hurry. Travel is so stressful to begin with, and especially so with children in toe. You can always sit and read, or do work at the airport, and as I mentioned before, some airports have very nice restaurants to eat at. Some even have entertainment. Don’t worry about passing the time; just make sure that you have the time.
9. Fill up before you get on your way. There can be delays and you can always end up being stuck somewhere much longer than you expected, and that is no fun when you are traveling with hungry kids. In addition to making sure that you take food along with you, be sure to get them filled up with a good meal before you leave.
10. Be really, really, nice. I cannot stress this enough. I seriously recommend that you give your children lessons in treating the flight crew and airport staff politely before you go on a flight with them. It is not an easy job that any of those people do, and they can become just as tired and frustrated as the passengers can. We got first-rate service on each and every one of our flights because the attendants were so impressed with my children’s behavior, and they did not hesitate to tell us so. It is remarkable how far a little kindness and some good manners can go.