Yes, You Can Survive Holiday Travel With Your Kids

by December 12, 2014
My daughter on a Southwest Airlines flight. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

My daughter on a Southwest Airlines flight. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

It’s the holiday season, and one of the things you will not be able to avoid on your flights to hither and yon are children on your airplane.

A Harris Interactive poll in May found that 86 percent of those surveyed say they’re most annoyed by parents letting their children run wild or be disruptive in public places, including on flights.

Before I had my daughter, I was one of those who said “why can’t they control that child” or “why can’t they get it to stop crying?”  But I now remember that old saying, “before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.”

I took my first flight with my daughter when she was only 10 days old, and has traveled regularly ever since.

At age nine, she is now a seasoned traveler — complete with her own frequent flier numbers, passport and Global Entry card — who has been constantly complimented by passengers and crew every time we fly.  I have never seen her have a fit on a flight and she’s my favorite travel companion.  What’s my secret?

Easy. I was a Girl Scout through high school, and that organization’s motto is “Be Prepared.”

  • Before every trip, we involve our daughter in the preparation process.  When we made the transition to a bigger, airline friendly car seat for her, we did a demonstration so she would see how she fit in the new seat. And when she outgrew that and started using her CARES Airplane Safety Harness, we did a demo on that. We also showed her what to do when going through security, and she puts some adults to shame when going through the airport checkpoint.
  • We take out the map to show her exactly where she’s flying.  I let her print out and carry her own ticket.  She hands the skycap the tip when we check our bag.  To her, it’s just a  grand adventure. And it also helps that our airline of choice, Southwest Airlines, is very kid friendly.
  • My daughter packs and carries her own backpack, which includes an iPad and portable charger, change of clothes, hand sanitizer, paper and markers for drawing, gum and lollipops for ear pressure, snacks, lip balm and a travel-sized Pillow Pet. Having all these items in a bag she can carry or roll will sustain her on a trip from Baltimore to San Francisco with no problem.

Frankly, I am amazed at how many parents do nothing to prepare for a trip.  I carry a splitter and extra headsets, along with extra snacks, so my child can share her iPad with other kids trapped on a metal tube with nothing to do.  So with a little preparation by more parents, I think we’d see happier children — and adults — when flying the crowded skies this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!