... There are long airport lines, security checkpoint(s), boarding the plane, sitting in a confined, shaking, noisy space that can pressure little ears, and travel etiquette issues like not kicking the seats...

But when children understand what to expect and what is expected of them, they are always much better behaved.

If parents are prepared and prepare their children as well, travel with little ones can be an absolute joy!

Links to recommended articles - each emphasizing the need to involve children in preparation for the trip!

Packing and Pre-Trip Considerations.
Links to our
favorite checklists.

Tools (DVDs & Books) to Prepare Toddlers for Travel.

26 June 2008

Flight Delayed? What To Do With Toddlers At the Airport

Airlines are feeling the squeeze just as we are and flights are being cancelled, delayed and re-routed at an unprecedented rate. When you are a parent flying with a toddler, the prospect of an extra hour (or three) at the airport can be daunting. But fear not! Tried and true plans of action await you below...

First, and most importantly, if possible, keep moving!!!

Exhausting as it may be for the parent, ideally it will be for your kiddos, too, so that when they do finally board the plane, they’ll be ready to nap or snack (ie, sit still). If a family sits, sits, sits during the delay, parents shouldn't be surprised when their children are ready to consider the airplane seat their own personal jungle gym! As one parent writes, "As a professional speaker, I spend many hours in airports. It amazes me how many parents insist that their toddler or preschooler sit in a stroller or a chair waiting for the flight. Since everyone will be constricted on the plane, it’s better to keep active in the airport."

What is a travelling parent to do?

  • Explore. Most airports have displays on loan from local museum collections. Many airports have kid play areas.
  • Count baggage. Identify colors of shoes walking by. Make a scavenger list together (let your child help think of silly things to look for and then set off to see if any of the items can be found)
  • Play "One Sip" - I am quoting directly from a great Travel Tips page over at Silvana from Nashville writes about this fabulous game: "My daughter and I like to play the “one sip” game. We walk through the airport from drinking fountain to drinking fountain, taking only one sip at each. The idea is to walk as far as possible with your child."
  • Hit the loo. If your plane is delayed for a long time, find a bathroom in a different terminal – ideally arrived at by a tram, train or long people mover, all of which are always entertaining for little ones. For that matter, up and down the escalator you go!

More great ideas from more traveling families:

08 June 2008

How To Fly Successfully With Small Children

Come June, most schools are out and many family vacations underway - and thus begins the season of negative family travel articles ... and (finally!) one very positive one.

It is a shame that flying families receive press only in cases of scandal or dread, especially when so many families do it right. This week about a dozen people emailed me from the (alas, not-so-surprising) article headlined "Surviving a flight with your baby or toddler". Despite the great advice, I object on the grounds of semantics! Given that the article, like all the others, is essentially a checklist of what to consider and prepare for, it should instead be called Preparing for a flight with your baby or toddler.

Of course, back on the soapbox that started it all, missing from the equation as per usual is the part about preparing the kiddos for the flight. With babies, it's about parents knowing their child's propensity for motion sickness, sleep and eat schedule, etc. In situations with traveling infants, parents really only have themselves to prepare. But with toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners - this is not the case. Small children are very capable of grasping new concepts and understanding boundaries. It is of paramount importance that in planning for the trip, the kiddos are included in the process:

  • Go to the airport before your trip with your 3-year-old son who has never been on a plane. Watch the planes take off, notice people queuing up for security - tell him why these things are happening and how soon it will be his turn to stand in the line and board the plane, and take off into the sky. Let him get excited! and then ...

  • Let your child help pack: if you're headed to the beach, ask your 2-year-old what she might want to wear at the ocean. She will answer bathing suit, and she can help you put it in the suitcase.

  • Let children pull their own carry-on bag. It gives you a separate space to pack your child's extra pull-ups, change of clothes, etc. (that doesn't constitute an extra bag since your youngster has his or her own seat) and gives your kiddo a responsibility during the pre-flight process. For most children, having a "job" is a treat and a privilege (just ask a preschool or kindergarten teacher). A toddler who knows he has to get his bag to the airplane will be a little more focused than one whose only responsibility is to follow meekly along behind his parents (boring!).

  • (You knew this was coming, if you know me at all) Buy the Shae by Air DVD Toolkit™ or one of the few books/media available that SHOW children what goes on at the airport. Give kids something to relate to. The security checkpoint alone was a source of major fear for my daughter when she was almost 2. The lound metal doorway with beeping lights and the expectation by serious people in uniforms that she walk through said doorway alone was enough on one trip to reduce her to tears. Couple that with wanding or the air puff room ... if a child doesn't know this is coming, and hasn't been prepared for it such that she isn't scared, parents are setting themselves up for trouble.

    Also, it is worth noting that my little one had been flying since infancy, but as children grow and change, things that were once unnoticed can suddenly become very important. So even if your child is flying for the 30th time, it is always worth a mention before and at the airport and on the plane what he or she can expect. That goes for the literal (long lines) and the behavioral: ie, those seatback tray tables (only a parent should open and close them), and the feet (not on the seat in front) as well. (All of these are reasons why the I'm A Good Little Traveler! Series was created, in particular the Shae by Air DVD Toolkit.)

  • Dress for Success. I cannot stress this enough, despite the fact that it seems like an innocuous piece of advice. Keep reading, please.

I was so excited, given my recent post and published tip, that David Elliott's article entitled "What Not to Wear on the Plane" was recently published on's Travel Section front page. Despite the negative title (what not vs. what to), the entire article was positive - and about respect: for fellow passengers, for airline and airport staff, and for the journey itself. One major point was that airline staff judge passengers and treat them according to that judgement. But passengers judge one another as well.

It follows, then, that if a family arrives on board respectably attired that the usual dread of the potential seatmates can be mitigated or even avoided. If I take care in preparing for the flight so far as to include how my daughter and I dress for it, fellow passengers' first impression of me (and we all know how important first impressions can be) is that I respect them, and the journey, and that I and my family are not taking the experience lightly.

People are far more apt to be patient and less likely to presume that my kiddo will be a detriment to their flight if the we appear respectable. More importantly, my daughter understands, not only because she is told, but also because it is evident in the extra care taken in getting dressed, that traveling by air is something special. When she is not dressed as if it's just another day at daycare or preschool, and I am not dressed like the family is making a quick run to the supermarket, it sets a positive, exciting tone. And children who are excited to be doing something are far more apt to listen and behave in order to continue doing it. This is an airplane trip! Whether it's the first or the 500th it is still thrilling. My daughter has been on countless planes now, and every time it's exciting - for both of us - and we dress for the journey.

One additional note about "dressing up" - one mom I know (thanks, Lexi!) took that advice literally when her son was a toddler. He was prone to taking off in the crowd, and she was used to having to chase him. Two things happened to make that tendency easier on the both of them: she dressed him up in costume, and he felt like a superhero. Superheroes don't run away, they stay and protect their mom! And if superheroes forget that they are superheroes, and get curious about something over there ... all his mom had to do was ask, "Have you seen Mr. Incredible?" Easily found, and easily persuaded to return to his mother's side.

The Parent & Toddler Flight Kit

Parent & Toddler Flight Kit
Prepare now for a great flight! Our complete package has everything your family needs to make the journey as much fun as the destination, with items for both parents and children. Parents will learn what to avoid and what to prepare for with the expert guidebook Jet With Kids:Taking the Fear Out of Flying...WITH YOUR KIDS! Toddlers and child fliers will love the Shae By Air DVD Toolkit™, which demonstrates for kiddos what to expect and what is expected of them with a fun DVD movie about flying, plus a picture packing list and luggage tags. Available for purchase from our affiliate (and trusted favorite) site

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