We had our first plane ride adventure this year for a trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL. This was the first time in 8 years that my husband and I had been on a plane (this would be the first time with our child) so we were both a bit nervous to say the least. I did my research before our trip and made my extensive preparation lists so I felt a bit more at ease. Regardless of my own personal anxiety for travel, I wanted this trip to be ALL fun, a new adventure for our family and ease our lack of flying fears so we can be a family on-the-go in the future! Here is what worked for us;
Preparing for Your Trip
-Get a passport for your child. I know it sounds a bit over the top if you are only traveling in the country, but it is the most official document as a U.S. Citizen you can carry. It only took us 4 weeks to process. Plus, its super cute!
-Think ahead to your child’s favorite activities. My son loves books on tape. I downloaded all of his book CD’s onto the iPod and brought the books in the carry-on. We also made sure to have his favorite snacks, stuffed animal & blanket for comfort items.
-Buy Headphones! We bought some sound controlled (child headphones) and it made all the difference. He felt very independent watching the TV, his DVD player and listening to his books.
-Bring as much technology as you can stomach: DVD player/iPad/leapfrog/etc. You cannot have enough distractions! Remember that travel days are long -early wake up, traveling to airport, getting through security, waiting for your flight, the flight itself, waiting for your rental car, hotel check in -before you know it, 10 hours later…you are on vacation. It is a lot for a little kid.
Arrival at the Airport
-Be at the airport 2 hours early. You never know what type of hang-ups will happen. I would rather be through check-in and security, grabbing a coffee, snacks or lunch in the airport. There is no need to be freaking out and running around with your family in a stressful situation.
-Bring your stroller! Don’t listen to anyone who says you don’t need a stroller. It helps calm the initial rush of the situation and contain your child. We have a 4 yr. old and he is NEVER in the stroller normally. But, even he preferred to chill in the stroller while we were running around getting checked in. You can gate check the stroller and push it straight through security.
-Gate check your car seat. This, to me, sounded super annoying so we did not do it. The thought of dragging the car seat, a 4 year old in a stroller and 3 suitcases through the airport sounded like a nightmare, but I wish we had. We rented a car seat with the car rental place in Florida and it just was not as secure as our own. It was easy enough to rent one, but because you can never be sure of the rental and what you are going to get, I would suggest just sucking it up, bringing your own, lugging it along and gate checking it.
Going through Security
-Prepare your medicine and other items that must be stored in a plastic bag ahead of time. You can read about the TSA specific medicine rules here. Make sure to bring any valuables with you in your purse. We brought Advil and Benadryl, along with my son’s inhaler for emergencies. We stored his nebulizer/additional medicine in the checked luggage because it would have been an extra search/approval to bring it through security. We did not need any of it on our trip, but better safe than sorry!
-Give your child a heads up that they will need to be extra diligent in listening ears when going through security. We of course set the buzzer off so they had my son and I stand to the side and double checked us with a wand.
-Know your rights. It is important to read up on what exemptions you can make given that some mothers travel with multiple children and need to carry on breast milk and additional medicines. If you are pregnant, avoid the x-ray machine. You can opt out for a feel up session.
-Pray for priority check in. It will be a little check mark on your ticket. We got this on our way home, and it was literally amazing. We didn’t have to empty any bags and it took a total of 2 minutes to go through security with no lines. I believe with some airlines you can purchase this upgrade and it is totally worth it.
Take Off & Cruise
-This was the fun part, yet (a little anxious) for me. It was important to keep him distracted enough so he didn’t want to get up and run around. We put him on the inside, so that helped a lot with keeping him contained.
-Let kids be kids. My child was loudly singing “Its a small world after all!” and shouting “Blast off!” We then subsequently heard many other children repeating, “Blast off!” It was really cute.
-Utilize your many tools for entertainment during the trip. Florida is only 3 hrs. away so it was a reasonable first plane ride for us. He had a bunch of different media to pick from so it made the plane ride go by quickly.
-Moms-don’t expect to have a break. If anything, I was more attentive than normal sitting next to my child on the plane. He wanted constant attention and that was OK. It helped him feel comfortable. My husband on the other hand, looked like he had a very relaxing trip, and said he enjoyed listening to music and watching movies. Keep in mind, this will help you negotiate for more “alone time” a.k.a. 15 minutes of peace, once at the hotel
Last 15 Minutes
-Kids are just like little adults, but they express how they REALLY feel to everyone. The last 15 minutes was quite entertaining as our son was yelling “Can’t we just get off this plane already?” and “What are we waiting for?” coupled with a bunch of annoyed sounding expressions, wiggle worming and squirming.
My final advice? Hang on, you are almost on vacation!!!
Cherish these moments. For us -traveling vacations are few and far between. Good luck Mamas!