Saturday, August 15, 2009

Up, Up and Away!

Is there anything worse than traveling cross-country by air with four small boys? Well, yes -- not traveling and deadly disease come to mind -- but when hubby and I traveled to California two summers ago, kids in tow, for my brother's wedding, we both agreed that traveling via covered wagon might be a more appropriate means of transportation for four active and rambunctious boys.

Our youngest was just a year-and-a-half at the time. If you've even had a toddler, you know they have exactly one purpose in life: To Move. A four-hour plane ride is not exactly conducive to moment.

We drew up and plan, and not suprisingly, our plan looked remarkably similar to our road trip plan. The essentials? Snacks and diversions.

So here, then, are my Top 5 Tips for Surviving Air Travel with Boys:

  1. Prepare. Have each boy pack a backpack with a simple change of clothes (at least clean underwear) and whatever toys, games, books he thinks he'll enjoy. It's a lot of fun to see what each boy chooses -- and it might not be what you'd expect. (Boy #2 can have a ball pretending with cheap McDonald's toys.)
  2. Bring the car seat, even if you haven't purchased a ticket for your youngest. When you check in, ask if there are any extra seats on the flight. If so, you may be able to strap in the seat and your youngest, at least for a portion of the flight. We were able to do this on the return flight and thank goodness! Strapped in, our youngest was able to settle down and sleep, at least for a couple minutes.
  3. Embrace electronics. I don't care how opposed you are to Playstation and the Disney channel at home. On board an airplane, electronic diversions can be a lifesaver. Think Leapfrog, Nintendo DS and laptops equipped with DVD players. But don't break out the electronics right away. Wait. And then wait some more. Wait til the kids are completely bored and antsy and you're about to lose your mind. Then plug in a DVD. Any former objections to electronic babysitters will immediately be erased.
  4. Play with your kids. Rock, paper, scissors, Hangman, cards -- whatever. Engaging with your kids in a meaningful way will help keep their minds off the fact that their butts have been in a chair for over two hours.
  5. Expect meltdowns. I'm not saying that your toddler will wail for hours on end, or that your usually-polite grade schooler will kick the seat in front of him for the entire flight. I'm just saying that if you expect some hitches, the entire trip will go more smoothly. Your boys will not be perfect angels for the entire flight, despite your proximity to the heavens. And you won't be the perfect parent. So when glitches occur, take a deep breath and move on.

In the end, our trip was worth every minute of whining and in-air struggle. (On the plus side, my arms were in great shape from wrangling my one-year-old!).

Have more great tips for air travel with boys? Share them here!


  1. These are great tips! I've had to do quite a few international trips w/ the children (sometimes alone) and 1.5 years is definitely the hardest age.
    We eschew electronics at home but embrace them wholeheartedly on those trips - we have an iPod with some movies on it which we bring out just for plane trips.

    One more thing that I think can be helpful is having some snacks (including fun things you might not normally give them, like chewing gum - plus it's good for helping their ears during takeoff and landing), and water. I remember one trip when we were stuck on the tarmac and they weren't passing out water and my second son got so, so thirsty!
    Of course, you can't get water to bring on the plane until once you're past security.

    Other things our kids might bring along are books and origami paper. And one great thing is Stockmar beeswax. It's like playdough, but it won't stick to anything and it lasts a long long time. I think WikiStix would be similar. Sometimes being able to use their hands helps them feel less antsy.

  2. You might enjoy reading this: entertaining post about traveling with kids.

  3. My sister had a great idea... they just got back from Clearwater, FL. She got three copies (one for each kid) of all the tourist brochures and magazines she could get from the local tourism department, as well as what she could print online, and put them all in binders in their backpacks and surprised them on the plane. Kept them busy on the way there at least!