Flying with kids. Does that fragment of a sentence send shivers down your spine?
Do you get all panicky at the prospect of boarding a giant metal flying machine and flitting across time and space with your squirmy children all cooped up and contained in one small gray square of a space for hours on end?
Flying with kids does not have be scary
Flying with kids means one really cool thing – NOT driving with kids.
Flying means faster to the destination. Flying means no traffic stops and bathroom breaks and fast food binges.
You should fly with your kids.
And – flying with kids can actually be cheaper than driving – especially if you are talking about a road trip that includes more than eight or nine hours in the car. Airlines are all about ridiculously low fares for one way tickets. Plus, you can fly the super cheap airlines – like Spirit – and the cost for tickets can be wildly lower than the cost of gas in a Suburban like ours.
Here’s a few tips and tricks
1. Believe that you CAN do it. Because you can. For real.
2. Pack light. As in – pack very truly really light. This is much easier in the summer seasons than in the winter months. Roll clothes. Pack shorts that can be worn multiple times without needing to be washed – hiking shorts and athletic shorts. Shorts that can even be washed in a hotel bathroom sink and dried overnight on the towel rack if need be. Skip the bulky khakis – or have your child wear them on the travel day if he (or you) insist on bringing one pair of khakis or cargo shorts. And you only need a few pairs of shorts. Pack more shirts than shorts. The shorts can handle repeat wears in between washings better than the shirts can. You can always wash clothes on your trip if need be. For your girls – pack dresses. One piece, rolls tightly, minimal effort in getting dressed and in packing.
3. Plan appropriate footwear. For airport security it is good to have shoes that are easy to slide off and on, although kids under twelve are not obligated to follow the “take your shoes off please” rule at airports. (A fact I learned after requiring all five of my traveling kids to take their shoes off while standing in line at security.) But don’t pick flip flops. That’s too easy for the sliding off and on. Kids can’t walk quickly in flip flops and they aren’t versatile enough for all of your traveling needs. Don’t waste packing space for shoes so choose wisely just the one pair your child will be wearing. (We are still a Keens for Kids family so that’s generally our go-to shoe. Handy also is the fact that Keens require no socks, eliminating yet another unnecessary packing item.)
4. Let kids carry their own weight. Literally. Every kid can carry their own backpack and in their backpack can be all of their own items. On certain cheap flights with special fares, checked bags will cost you a fortune. And costing you a fortune defeats the entire purpose of flying cheap with kids anyway. Besides, not checking a bag makes departure and pick up a breeze – and who doesn’t want travel to be more of a breeze and less of a stiff wind? So roll those clothes tightly into that backpack and fit all your kid’s stuff on a tote you strap to their perfectly capable little backs. When we spent a week in Texas it was no problem to fit enough clothes for every kid in their one backpack. If there is any space leftover kids can carefully chose a toy or a special item to fit in their bags. I worked hard to fit a book into each kid’s bag so they would have something to occupy their time during the many waiting periods that air travel supplies.
5. Relax and let the trip be fun. Expect delays. Expect crowds when you think there should be no crowds and expect to occasionally eat at weird times and in weird places. A Five Guys burger at the airport at 3:56 pm? Sure – that sounds great. Laugh when you can and breathe deeply when you need to and realize that, even with the delays, you are traveling a bazillion times faster in the air than you would be on the crowded interstate. You can choose to engage with your children because you aren’t having to monitor traffic conditions and navigate unfamiliar city streets. You can marvel at the wonder of hurtling through clouds and you can people watch until your eyes bulge out of your head.
Now you can consider yourself equipped
The next time you receive one of those tempting e-mail announcements about the lowest fare to Timbuktu and you realize that you have always wanted to take your kids to Timbuktu to see that one thing, don’t hesitate. Buy the tickets. Make the plan. Take the kids. Adventure awaits.
Do you have a tip for flying with kids to add to our list?