Last week, we took Walt on his very first flight. I was so excited for the trip, but the idea of getting my 4-year-old on his first flight was terrifying. He’s a very active little guy and spends most of time running around the house. I was afraid that he would antsy and a meltdown was almost guaranteed. So I took to KSON’s Facebook page to get advice and our listeners were SO helpful. Some of this advice is so good that I wanted to share with you here:
Bring Lots of Activities
“A friend of mine took small brown paper bags and put a surprise in each bag (games, a toy, a very special snack). If the child was good they got to open one very hour ( or less if a shorter trip). Basically, distraction!” Dee
“When my kids were tiny, I’d bring a book of stickers and paper. I would help peel stickers and they’d put them on the paper. Once, my little girl decided to put them on me, which was fine. The flight attendant came by to offer cart service and busted out laughing because my face was covered in random stickers.” Melissa
This was the most common piece of advice I got, bring LOTS of things for your kid to do. We had a ton of the $1 activity packets from Target among other activities to switch it up in case he got bored. Plus, we had his tablet and mine charged up and ready to go if all else failed.
Snacks, Snacks and more Snacks
“Snacks. You might think you have enough snacks, but you don’t. Inevitably the snack you offer will NOT be the snack they want, so backups for the backups is a must. On early morning flights, I bring oatmeal packets and then get hot water/cup from a coffee place. No one wants to drop a ton on airport breakfast!!” Emily
There was a time when flights had full meals provided. Now, you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels. Snacks are going to be necessary in a flight, especially as you never know how long you’ll be stuck on a plane. Our original plan was to grab a to-go lunch at the airport for our flight out for myself and my husband. Unfortunately, we had a ton of complications getting checked in and through security that led to us getting to the gate two minutes before we boarded. That meant no time to grab food for us, but luckily we had plenty for Walt to eat. Might had stolen a few goodies to get us through the flight.
Treats for the Passengers Around You
“Little goodie bags for the passengers traveling around you! They’ll be so appreciative and more apt to patience with your little one.” Krystal
I’ve seen friends that do this and I always thought it was such a lovely idea, especially because half the stress is worrying about ruin other people’s flight. Another listener told me she always reminders herself she can buy drinks for those around her if her child gets too out of hand. She never had to do it but just the knowledge she could helped ease the stress.
Help Keep Their Ears Clear
“Lollipops for the young babies who can’t chew gum. The flavor distracts them and it keeps them swallowing to clear their ears.” Lisa
I didn’t realize how big of an issue this was till I asked, but a lot of kids having trouble with the pressure when flying for the first time. Parents suggested everything from gum and lollipops or even making sure they have a sippy cup of their favorite juice to keep them swallowing during take-off and landing. Some parents suggested giving your child Benadryl, but obviously you want to check with your pediatrician first.
Help for Your Child to Sleep
“Melatonin gummy bears. Just traveled cross country with 3 year old, 2 year old an 6 month old. Gummy’s worked like a charm on two older kids!” Divelle
Walt has had a lot of sleep issues because of his autism so we always have melatonin on hand. We gave him a couple on our flight out, which really helped him calm down. This is another one to check with your pediatrician on first but this might be a good to help your child get to where they can nap on the plane in case they are too excited.
Wait to Board
“Wait to board last or later instead of first. Let them run around as much as possible before boarding.” Laura B
This one is going to depend on your airline and how much carry-on luggage you have. If you are on a busy flight and have a lot of carry-ons, I would suggest getting on as early as possible to ensure your stuff still get its proper room. But if you just have some personal items to stow under the seat, feel free to wait to board. Another parent suggested having the other parent or someone else traveling with you board first and then wait to board with your child. Now if you are on Southwest get on as SOON as possible. Otherwise there is a very good chance your family might not sit together.
The Most Unique Suggestion
“A box of bandaids for Walt to unwrap. Maybe just give him a few at a time and bring a small bag to pick up the mess.” Laura M
This is such a great idea! I can’t believe I never thought of it before.
From An Experienced Traveler
“I have a 3 and 1 year old and some of my go to tips are to keep them engaged, embrace and leave time to explore the novelty of the experience with them, and keep your hands free:
1) have an easy game to play in line: we like “find something” it’s like I-spy but more age appropriate. We usually do colors like “find something pink” and then he names it. Or we give clues and he has to guess the animal. Or quiet dance battles. Or counting how many baseball caps you can find. Requires nothing and can keep them occupied while awaiting TSA.
2) he’s in charge of his backpack with toys and comfort items
3) gate check! Or check that car seat – can somebody say free???
4) if traveling with someone else, send them in during family boarding with all the gear. Keep the littles out with you to burn off energy and board almost last. Then point out how everyone else is sitting as models for when you get to your seat.
5) if it’s during naptime sit closer to the wing for more white noise = likelier to nap
6) hit up dollar aisle for new toys to bring out when needed.
7) don’t let them know you can walk the aisle. If you view walking the aisle as a Hail Mary move, you won’t get stuck walking it for 2 hours and will probably avoid it altogether.
No matter what happens – you’re making memories! Have fun!” Alyssa
I think she said it all!
What helped you during your child’s first flight?