February 3, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)
Planning that great family vacation to Disneyland, SeaWorld or some other fun family destination, sometimes includes flying there. Flying can often be the most stressful part of the trip. But the good news is there are ways to make the trip to the airport and the flight less stressful for you and your family by being organized and planning ahead.
Pack smartly. Ask yourself what you really need to take and eliminate non essential items. Having less luggage will save you time by not having to carry so much and you’ll spend less time checking your bags. Try packing all the items you’ll need during the flight for yourself and your children or others you’re traveling with in one carry-on bag, so that everything is in one place. If you’re still carrying a lot of bags, get help from an airport attendant. They can help carry bags or transport you on a cart to the gate. If you’re traveling with an elderly parent or grandparent that needs assistance, you can often arrange a wheelchair or other special assistance at the gate ahead of time. Arranging this first, will save time and stress. Packing any of their items, like medications in their own carry-on bag will keep them and you more organized.
Plan Your Time
First, plan your time carefully. You probably have a lot of luggage, strollers, toys and more to take along on your trip. Hauling all your gear can take up valuable time. By giving yourself lots of extra time at the airport to deal with your luggage, will reduce a lot of your stress. No one wants to rush through the airport with all those items in tow, and we all know how time consuming it is at the airport to get through the security checkpoint. So, give yourself plenty of extra time. Checking in online and printing your boarding pass at home will save time too. Most airlines allow you to check in on their website, so you can print your boarding pass right at home, allowing you to skip the counter check-in at the airport. Check out your parking options in advance of arriving at the airport. Knowing the different parking options, shuttle services and the layout of the airport is a time saver too.
The Dreaded Security Check
Okay, you’ve arrived nice and early, you’ve checked your luggage and you’ve got time to spare. Then you get to the security check out, only to find a long line resembling those at a theme park. So, now you and the kids have to take off your shoes and pile your personal belongings into a bin for x-ray and get scanned. This can be a little overwhelming for children, if they haven’t gone through it before. What you may want to consider is practicing this at home a few times before hand. It can be fun and then your children won’t be scared or confused the day of the real event. Stay organized as well; keep your boarding passes and photo IDs in a small folder. Put all non essential items away before going through the line. This will assure that you don’t have a lot of loose items that could get lost.
At The Gate
So, you made it. Now you’re at the gate and you probably have about an hour or so before the flight leaves, pending any delays, that is. The kids might be bored and a little anxious. So how do you spend this time and make it less stressful? Depending on the time of day, it might be a good time for a snack. It’s also a good time to see if anyone needs to use the restroom. Perhaps bring a favorite book, game or toy that will keep them amused. Some parents have games on their tablets or laptops that the kids can play to keep them occupied. Sit by a window, so they can see all the action taking place on the ramp area. This can be fascinating watching the planes come and go, baggage being loaded and unloaded, fuel trucks and other vehicles moving all about. Discuss it with your kids. Tell them all about the people out there that make it possible for your family to fly.
During The Flight
Well, it’s boarding time! Finally, you’re on your way. Perhaps you can practice this at home like you did the security checkpoint, this way the kids know what’s about to happen. They’ll be excited about getting on the plane and if it’s their first time and they know what to expect when they get onboard, it will probably be easier for them. Try to pack any items they’ll want to play with or need in one carry-on bag just with their items in it. This way, you know everything is in one place and you don’t have to fumble through multiple bags. You can keep this bag under the seat in front of you to get to easily. Before getting to the airport and during your rehearsals at home, let the kids know that flying is fun. Tell them about takeoffs and landings. (There are some great books about flying in a plane that you can find at the bookstore or on Amazon).
Also, let them know their ears might hurt during ascent and decent. This is probably the most stressful in-flight event for kids. Their Eustachian tubes are smaller than adults and pressure really affects them and it can be very painful. Number one tip; always have chewing gum on hand for the kids old enough to use it. Also, practice ahead of time with having them swallow when they feel pressure or pain. This helps clear the tubes and equalize the pressure. If they know about all of this ahead of time, they won’t be as shocked when they feel this pain and they’ll know how to cope with it better. You can also ask the flight attendant before takeoff and landing for a little cup of water or juice for them to swallow with.
While in-flight, they can play with the items you put in your special bag for them; they can read, watch the in-flight movie or play a game on a tablet. Playing cards or a kid’s card game is another great way to pass the time. You can tell them about the flight too. Explain how fast you’re traveling, how planes fly, what pilots do to fly the plane. It can be fun and educational.
Use these tips and come up with some original ones of your own and chance are you‘ll have a well organized less stressful flight.