Flying with Kids: Frugal Survival Guide

kids_flyingAre you heading off on a vacation on Spring Break? Does part of your travel include flying? Are you traveling with one or more child? Trust me, flying with a child (especially if it is part of a long journey) can be trying and exhausting (for you and fellow passengers) but with a little planning, you can arrive at your destination with sanity intact.

Plan Ahead

There is nothing like an unruly small child in an enclosed space to drive parents towards impulse spending (on snack items or on items at airport gift shops for distraction purposes). You plan to pack your clothes and toiletries for the duration of your trip, right? Plan to pack for the travel to get to your destination- with food and entertainment distractions.

Depending on your child’s age, have them pack a carry-on of their own, with their own toys- but pack one on their behalf as well- which will be a treasure box. Keep its contents a surprise- that is part of the entertainment value!

Pros and Cons of Non-Stop

While Non-Stop flights are more convenient in one sense, because you arrive more directly at your destination, consider flights that involve one or more stops.

These flights tend to be far less expensive, first of all, and they give your youngsters a chance to stretch their legs and run around a little bit part way through your travel. Many airports are outfitted with indoor playgrounds or children’s play areas that are perfect for stopovers. Do some research before you arrive in your connecting city to find out where in the terminal these are located, and head there straight away for some mid-flight fun (that is free as well!).

Pre-Flight Prep

If this is your child’s first time on the plane, spend some time reading about planes. Get some small plane toys and let them play. Tell them what to expect.

Do some role-playing with other family members playing the roles of pilot, flight attendant and other passengers.

Your Friend, the Dollar Store

You have two best friends and allies when you are traveling with children- the element of surprise, and supplies from your local Dollar or discount store.

Stock up on crafts, colouring, playdoh, and small toys. The key is to disperse these surprises at intervals over the flight, so that there is always something new.

Your kids will quickly learn that your carry-on is really a treasure chest. For an extra element of surprise, wrap items in gift wrap. Kids will think they are getting presents, which makes it even more fun.

Food: The Great Distraction

Beyond toys, what often holds the attention of children? Food! Along with your bag o’ toys, pack an assortment of healthy treats and snacks. Snacks that are in individual wrappers are good, because you lighten your load as you go. You may even (if you have time in pre-travel mode) to bake some items yourself, like muffins or cereal bars.

Also pack water or juice boxes with straws (one trick, have your child drink through a straw when taking off and landing to reduce pressure in their ears. Chewing gum works too).

Yay for Electronics         

If ever there was a time that called for video games, portable movie devices, tablets or laptops, flying with kids is it!

Load up on movies, including a selection of new ones that will have appeal, along with old faves, that you know can hold interest for a longish period of time.