Yes, you’re sure to get a couple of stares as you board a plane with little ones. They probably won’t be perfect angels the whole flight. There’s a lot of stuff to pack for them, and you might forget a thing or two. A shift in time zones might screw up their sleep patterns for a few days. Despite all this, traveling with kids is absolutely, positively worth it.
From a parent’s perspective, of course, there are precious memories you’ll treasure all your life. The kids will have those too, if they’re old enough to remember, but even if not the trip will work wonders for their developing brains. By the very act of traveling, they’re trying new things, and each experience opens them to a world of possibilities.
Even if they don’t understand all the nuances, they learn at a young age that there are different cultures and ways of life all over the world. They can meet other kids from different backgrounds. They can try new foods. They can see things that have previously only existed for them in storybooks. They’re not going to come back fluent, but hearing a new language can stimulate their language centers.
Kids learn so much those first few years. Teaching them that there’s life outside their everyday routine can pay all sorts of dividends for them throughout their lives. Traveling with kids can instill in them a sense of adventure that can help them develop healthy habits and hobbies down the line. They’ll learn a valuable lesson that all do when we travel: that even though people are different everywhere, we have much in common than we might realize. We’re all human, after all.
As great as the adventure will be, you do still have to get there. Here are some handy tips from our travel (and child-rearing) experts to make your time in the sky more enjoyable for everyone :
Reward each hour of good behavior with a surprise toy or activity. It will help the kids mark the time and keep them focused. Much better than a few thousand, “Are we there yets?”
Magnetic checkers. The kids can play for hours, and the pieces won’t go flying everywhere. Magnetic hangman also does the trick.
Window clings. Aside from the sights of takeoff and landing, the window seat can be kind of boring. With window clings, kids can accessorize and make a mess to their hearts’ content.
Invisible ink coloring books. The kids are kept occupied with no ink or marker getting all over everything. Sounds like a win-win.
Educational apps. The battle over screen time is an epic one. On a plane, some rules have to fly out the window. But with educational apps, you reach a compromise where the kids have an iPad in their hands and you have some peace and quiet without the worry of turning their little minds to mush.
Snacks. This one’s probably a no-brainer, but those meal services and few and far between. Bring along plenty of dry, relatively mess-free snacks (your fellow travelers will thank you for opting for less-sugary items).