Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Air Travel With Children

I promised myself that I would write something informative and helpful about traveling with children since we have now done Italy - Los Angeles roundtrip four times with the children. Each time I learn more and more about making the trip more pleasant for me, my children and the fellow passengers. I have also learned a bit about jet lag with kids. Read on:


Clothing and food/drinks:

Make sure you bring a complete change of clothing for your children (pants, sweater, shirt, undershirt, underwear or diapers and socks) and an extra shirt for yourself. During my last trip and one half hour into the flight, my 3 year old son spilled a cup of water all over himself and thank goodness I had a complete change of clothing.

You will need to bring enough food, snacks and bottled water or formula to fill the tummies and also keep them busy. You could easily be stuck on board and not have them serving anything. Don't depend on the airline as you could be disappointed. Also their snack food is usually not nutricious. Don't forget their sippy cups and /or baby bottle. For very young children you will need homogenized jars of fruit and meat dishes and whatever he or she usually eats at home. Other good snacks for travel are fruit, crackers, cookies and hard lollipops (I like Sees candies) for sucking on during landing. Call ahead to get childrens' meals as aside from being more kid friendly, they serve them first!

To prevent ear pain during landing I used on numerous occasions the following trick: bring a dropper and have handy some tea (sugared) in a bottle. When you are beginning the descent, start giving your baby the drink a drop at a time with the dropper. He or she is forced to swallow and the movement will pop their ears so as to prevent pain. Continue this until your own ears have popped too. I learned this from a German couple on a flight home one year. Their child had no problems while mine refused to suck, drink or use a pacifier. In the end mine cried the whole time due to the pain.

Toys and Activities:

Make sure you bring a variety of toys or activities for your child. You cannot always depend on the monitor in front of you since sometimes they are not working properly. A portable dvd player is great as well to see his or her favorite movies.

Be Early

Make sure you get to the airport at least 3 hours early for international flights to secure your seats. It is still a mystery to me why seat reservations are not respected but they are not so get there early and be persistent that your entire family sits together. I don't like bulkhead seats for the simple reason that those arm rests do not lift up. These arm rests, my friends, are lifesavers as you will need them to rise in order to lay your angels down when they are sleeping.

Jet Lag
Children are much more adaptable than adults. I don't believe in keeping the kids from sleeping if they are tired so they will sleep through the night sooner. I believe that if they are tired, they should sleep. You too should try to get a nap in while they sleep as the nights can be brutal otherwise. Know that it takes a full week to get over jet lag (Italy -Los Angeles trips) so be patient and hang in there.

I cannot say if it is better or worse to travel after a child is a certain age. It really depends on a lot of factors and each child is different. My oldest son (3) now is a great traveler and he adapted well in both places to the time and climate differences. For him it is all a wonderful adventure and is already asking about his next trip. So don't put off traveling because of the kids. Try to make it the best possible trip and just be prepared. Buon viaggio!!
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