Flying with Children, Turn Your Nightmare to a Dream Vacation - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Flying with Children, Turn Your Nightmare to a Dream Vacation

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Are you traveling with your family this summer? Are you dreading the flight? The drive? Parenthood gives new meaning to traveling. 5 must follow tips to turn your travel the Beginning of a DREAM vacation. 

It is the beginning of the summer, and I am excited. I will be traveling out of the country with my two children, both under 10 years old. I am excited, to see new places, meet people, collect memories, and enjoy our summer vacation. We will start our much anticipated vacation with… almost 24 hours, door-to-door traveling!

The start of our summer vacation will consist of 17 hours of flying, plus airport time, customs time, and endless hours of waiting. Does that sound familiar? 

If you are a parent, you probably know that flying has a new meaning. No more choosing your own movies, enjoying a glass of orange juice (or even champagne), munching on a bag of pretzels, while chatting and getting to know new people on the flight, or even taking a nap. All that belongs to the BC era (= before children).

Flying now has one goal—to keep your kids entertained, busy, happy, and QUIET. Mostly, to avoid being the parent who is THE target of those ‘looks' from other passengers. You know what I am referring to; your baby is crying, or your child is kicking the front chair and asking: "Are we there yet?" for the five-hundred and seventh time. 

In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I have been focusing on preparing my entire family for our trip. My preparations have not only included packing, purchasing presents for our cousins, and making mini-shampoos and lotions, but I have also been preparing my kids for the trip. I would like to share with you some key elements that will make your flight with your kids easy and pleasant. 

Traveling is filled with new and potentially complex concepts for our little ones: leaving home for a short period of time, staying the night somewhere else, new foods, new cultures, new schedules, and sometimes new time zones and new languages. Here are five helpful tips and activities for communicating with your children, before, during, and after the trip to ensure everyone has a blast! 

  1. Visual Preparation is KEY.  Devote quality time before the trip to talk about it, learn about where you are going, and explain what is going to happen. Invite discussions during the trip to help them process and enjoy the fun of travel. 

Help your kids get excited while preparing them for a few of the difficult parts of a long trip by sharing specific information. Kids are visual. The more visual your preparation is, the easier it is for the kids to feel calm and safe.

  • Flight: Clue your child in on how many flights you will take.
  • Map: Show them a map of your destination, and then refer to the digital/real-time map on the airplane.
  • Length: Discuss how many nights (or "sleeps") you will be away.
  • Place: Be sure to include where you will be staying. If you are staying in a hotel, show the kids the hotel's website and let them see the pool and pictures of the room!
  • Friend: If it is with family or friends, show pictures or have a Skype call, beforehand.  

Since the source of any fear is the unknown, this visual preparation will help fill in the blanks and calm fears. When kids begin to get a little overwhelmed during travel, it's good to talk about the specifics mentioned above. Ask them to tell you what they are most excited about. (This is a great activity for that long layover or mid-way through the flight.) 

2. Share Feelings: Talking about feelings, even the not so exciting feelings, provides an opportunity for a successful trip. Just as we are excited and nervous about the upcoming trip, so are your kids. Accept it.   

  • Invite them to share with you how he or she is feeling both before and during the trip. Ask specifically how they are feeling: scared, excited, happy, and sad? Do they miss home, their bed, and their friends? Use the same verb-age during these conversations. Ask "How does your heart feel?" or "What are you feeling right now?"
  • Share a little bit of your feelings first to create a safe sharing space.
  • Share one positive and one concern (let your concern be lighthearted- we don't want to put extra worry on our little ones.) For instance, share your excitement over seeing a particular person/place, and your concern over getting to sleep a bit on the plane.
  • Listen and validate what they want to share with you, and do not dismiss it by saying, ‘"Oh it will be ok." 

3. "BEYOND the CHEESE and Smile": this is one of my favorite travel activities with kids, at any age, creating a "BEYOND the CHEESE and Smile" album. Take a special toy or stuffed animal; let your little one pick.  Take pictures of this special friend along the trip, in different places: the airport, Eiffel Tower, Western Wall, or Dead Sea…. This is a VISUAL journal and a memory that will last forever. It also assists your little one to take in his or her surroundings, and enjoy the trip more fully. You will be surprised at how excited your child will be to find fun places to take pictures with their special toy. They will reflect their feelings onto their ‘friend' and will be relaxed and happy, you will not have to ask them ‘say cheese' over and over again. This is much easier now with digital instead of film, use your iPhone or you can even create a private Instagram account for them to store and add a filter!  

4. Bring a Security Object: Believe it or not, I STILL bring my pillow on every trip, business or personal. It isn't that you cannot find a feather pillow in every hotel, but I just like to take my pillow. Not a traveling pillow. My pillow, from my bed. I don't pack it in the suitcase, but I bring it with me, on the airplane.
It is all about security, about feeling safe… What is your child's security object? You might find this an easier task with your younger kids, but encourage the older kids as well! Especially when you are on a far away journey; something special and safe from home can make all the difference in feeling safe and secure- even if you are half way across the world. 

5. Writing postcard: Remember postcards? That was before the time of emailing, Facebook, Pinterest, Skyping, Twitter, and Instagram. This is a fun activity for both young and older kids. They can write a couple of sentences or even draw a picture. They can write a postcard to a special friend, grandma, grandpa, an auntie, or even the babysitter. I find ‘Old School' communication very soothing; it has a visual benefit and is a great literacy skill activity.  Most hotels will provide you with their postcards, and you can always find a stand with some interesting and beautiful pictures.  

Travel can be a super way to connect with your little ones; see the world through their eyes, and walk with them as they experience it for the first time! Enjoy all of your trips; with a little preparation and good communication, especially visual communication, your journey can and will be a blast.   

Safe travels to you and yours!


By Etel Leit, SignShine®'s Founder


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