A teething 18-month-old child. A 6 a.m. takeoff. A 2 1/2-hour flight. What could possibly go wrong?
For Las Vegas mom Stefanie Van Aken, just about everything.
Don’t forget to pack these:
• Snacks, water and milk (or formula, if needed)
• Baby wipes
• Hand sanitizer
• Games and activities
• Chargers for electronic devices
• Light sweater or blanket
“By the time we got in the air, he was full-blown screaming,” said Van Aken, whose blog, rockstarmomlv.com, chronicles her family of six’s adventures. “Fortunately, the flight attendant was very helpful, offering anything to get his gums to numb and for him to feel better.”
Most parents can recount at least one flying-with-kids horror story. So with the summer travel season upon us, here are some tips to make sure families arrive at their destination still smiling.
Christine Crews, spokeswoman for McCarran International Airport, advises parents to study up on the airports they’ll be flying in and out of. Look at online maps and note the location of security checkpoints, restaurants, restrooms and play areas.
Visit tsa.gov/traveler-information/traveling-children for information on the security process. For example, children 12 and under can leave their shoes on during screening, but you’ll have to take your baby out of the stroller or carrier to get through the checkpoint.
Also, prepare your children for the process. Explain what they can expect at the airport and on the plane.
Most important, try to set your itinerary around your child’s needs. Children who are likely to fall asleep do well on night flights; those who will be kept awake by the noise of the plane should probably travel in the morning, when they’re happy and rested.
“I try to book two extra days into our itinerary as it is, just for flying, travel and adjusting time,” Van Aken said. “I know when we get home on a late flight, especially from the East Coast, it is very stressful to get the kids off the plane, pick up the luggage and get to the car. I’d rather get in sometime between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to avoid those moments.”
Be a savvy packer
Children need to be entertained on a plane, and this is no place to be a stickler about screen time.
Van Aken brings an iPad or portable DVD player, snacks galore and a bag full of small, new $1 toys. Try coloring books, play dough or word searches. Avoid puzzles or anything with lots of little parts, which can scatter. And bring headphones for your child, to spare yourself and your fellow passengers from listening to Caillou’s lisp for hours on end.
“Check with your hotel to see what you can leave at home,” Van Aken said. “Most hotels now have all kinds of baby gear to offer. Some cities have places to rent gear. Order ahead so it’s there when you are.”
Lower your expectations
Give yourself at least two hours at the airport, and try to arrive with rested, fed children. Let them explore before boarding, recommends Lonely Planet, to get their wiggles out.
“I always dress them in their Sunday best,” said Crews, a mother. “I always give them something that will make them look adorable in case they stop being adorable.”
But don’t expect your kids to be perfect.
“Go with the flow,” Van Aken said. “Family trips are great, and this is where you make the memories and have stories to tell for years to come.”