This largely unedited free-write is linking up with the Write 31 Days Challenge. // indicates the start and stop of five minutes. The prompt word for today is LITTLE. Go!
// So, in light of yesterday’s post about when we made the decision to move to South Africa, today’s prompt word―LITTLE―gave me the brilliant idea of writing a list of “Tips and Tricks for Traveling Internationally with Little Children.”
The problem was that, after an hour and a half, I was STILL writing. Apparently, ten years of dragging our kids around the planet has taught us a few things. (What a great topic for another book! Watch this space…)
So, for the purpose of this simple writing exercise, and the fact that I don’t want to blather on so long that you exit this page, I’m going to limit this post to
9 TIPS FOR ENTERTAINING LITTLE ONES ON A LONG PLANE TRIP
Tip #1: HELP THEM PACK THEIR CARRY-ON BAG. Less is More!
The first time we flew, we told the kids that the ONLY toys they could take with them to South Africa (for a 4 month long trip) had to fit into their backpack. We thought it would help them reduce the amount of stuff they brought.
Such a bad idea!
We were only 5 hours into the journey when we realized that their poor backs couldn’t handle the weight of their ‘toys.’ We ended up having to help them all the way to SA.
So, here’s what we think kids’ backpacks should contain:
- Small blanket and pillow (or a blow-up neck pillow)
- Favourite toy(s)
- Basic clothing, such as extra underwear, t-shirts, sweater/jersey, jacket, socks, (just in case their suitcase gets lost)
- Try to wear slip-on shoes or Velcro shoes (much easier when they wake up on the plane and need to go to the bathroom NOW).
- Toiletries in a Ziploc bag (toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, facecloth, hand sanitizer, hair brush/comb, etc.)
Tip #2: SURPRISE THEM WITH A SECRET BAG
I loved planning secret bags for each child which they would ONLY get once they were on the plane.
- Small toys, small reading books, colouring books and crayons, etc.
- Snacks―small packets of sweets, chips, granola bars (try to avoid too much sugar unless you enjoy children bouncing off the walls)
- Another good idea = stickers and a new water bottle (if you don’t mind picking stickers off the seat in front of you).
Tip #3: PRIZES FOR GOOD BEHAVIOUR
For long flights with little kids, you can even wrap up little presents that you can give them throughout the journey for good behavior. This is especially effective if they are highly motivated by rewards. What would this look like? Tell them that they can earn a prize for being
WELL-BEHAVED, QUIET, and SITTING NICELY IN THEIR SEAT.
Is it bribery? Absolutely! Does it work? Absolutely! Don’t get all preachy about not bribing your kids; this is an airplane with hundreds of other tired people who don’t want to hear your kid screaming. Be a strict mom tomorrow.
- Gift ideas = snacks, stickers, puzzles, and inexpensive toys.
- I’ve even heard of someone wrapping up some of their kids’ forgotten toys. Ingenious!
- But be warned… DO NOT reward them if they are being bad, or you’ll defeat the whole purpose. Stick to your guns, girls!
Tip #4: ELECTRONICS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Don’t try to entertain them solely on your own, especially if you need to distract them from turbulence or other frightening flying issues. Get a portable DVD player or tablet and load it with their favourite shows. There’s no guarantee that the movies on the plane will be suitable for younger kids, or that they’ll even work. And there’s nothing worse than having a bored toddler with a broken TV, except maybe a bored toddler with a broken TV AND an earache.
Tip #5: POPPING EARS?
Popping ears are part of traveling, but they’re not the fun part. So, before take-off and landing, be prepared to offer…
- For babies―bottles, sippy cups, breastfeeding, or anything that will stimulate sucking and swallowing.
- For toddlers―sippy cups, water bottles, lollipops, etc. (but don’t give them too much sugar or you will have a hard time keeping them in their seat).
Discuss popping ears with your kids in advance, and tell them what to expect. Kids are pretty smart. Warn them that WHEN (not if) their ears feel weird, that they should drink something and swallow as much as possible.
Model it. Make it normal and not scary. When the plane is taking off, say “Oh my goodness, my ears are feeling weird. I’d better drink something.” (haha, that sounded funny)
Tip #6: GIVE THEM A SMALL CAMERA AND LET THEM TAKE PICTURES
- This is especially effective when you are waiting in airports. You don’t need an expensive camera; just something small and cheap. (If you can, strap it to their arm so it doesn’t fall.)
- Walk around with them and let them show you what they find interesting.
- OR make it like a treasure hunt and ask them to take a picture of something red… or something cold…
Remember to take LOTS of pictures of them too. Eating, sleeping, playing, watching movies. Don’t wait for the fancy tourist spots. These candid pictures of the journey together will be the pictures you treasure most.
Tip #7: GAMES
Some people LOVE games, and then there’s my husband. He’ll only play if we beg him. But if a game keeps your child occupied for another 20 minutes, it’s totally worth it.
- Card games―there are some really great card games for kids, and many of them come with travel versions where the cards won’t fall all over the floor.
- Writing games―like Hangman or X&Os. Just make sure that everyone has a decent notebook in their bag to play with.
- Guessing games―like “I Spy with My Little Eye” or “I’m thinking of an animal…” (you must ask them questions but they can only answer “yes” or “no” until you finally guess what they’re thinking about)
- Electronic games―there are so many nice options available. Have fun.
Tip #8: TALK THROUGH WHAT A LONG PLANE RIDE WILL LOOK LIKE
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Kids only know what they know. If they don’t know that it’s disrespectful to kick the seat in front of them, then explain it. Same thing goes for having a routine. Here’s what ours looked like…
Play nicely with toys or watch movies
Go to the bathroom and stretch your legs
Put toys away. Get comfortable with your blanket, pillow, etc.
Watch another movie (usually, by this time, the airline staff have dimmed the lights and people are settling down for a rest)
After the movie, turn off the TV. Time to sleep. (yes, you will need to remind them multiple times)
Tip #9: STAY RELAXED!
Most importantly, STAY RELAXED AND CALM. Kids are perceptive little creatures, and they can feel your stress. In fact,Kids usually reflect our mood like a mirror. Stay Sweet! Click To Tweet
So, use that to your benefit.
STAY PLEASANT | STAY CALM | STAY FLEXIBLE
And you’ll find that they’ll also be pleasant, calm, and flexible.
Have a great trip!
To read more of 31 Days of Mom Awesomeness, click here.
For more information on the Write 31 Days challenge, check out Christina Hubbard’s site!