Is it possible to fly with kids and keep your sanity? Yes!
If I can do it with an 8-month-old and a 4-year-old while having a layover, plane change, and missed plane you can do it to!
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Do you plan to fly with kids? If your kids have never been on a plane, you might be a little anxious, I know I was. That’s why I really planned ahead and thought through things that would help our trip go as smoothly as possible.
This July, my husband and I flew to Colorado to attend a church camp, called Nationwide Youth Roundup (aka, NYR). Years ago, I convinced my husband’s family (we were just dating at this point) to go along with my church’s youth group to Colorado. We drove the 17+ hours for 5 years in a row, we endured several flat tires, two bad alternators, an invitation to a rodeo, an impromptu hotel stay and much more.
Going to camp was truly one of the most life-changing experiences I can remember. Sitting under the stars, breathing the open air, worshiping and learning about God up in the mountains with over 2,000 people–it doesn’t get much better than that.
Did I mention the nice row of Port-o-Potties that lined the open field, or the small shower house where the water came out in a trickle. It’s funny that those are the talking points when we “promote” the camp to others. We don’t shy away from those “hardships” (first world problems) because we know that we will strengthen our relationship with Jesus and make unforgettable memories. If you’ve been to a life changing church camp you understand what I’m talking about.
My husband and I knew we wanted our kids to grow up learning about God and going to church camp, so why not start now? There is something about being in the wilderness away from everything. God’s leading feels so much stronger when we draw near to Him and get rid of all the distractions in life (there is no cell service at the camp). This camp changed my life with Christ forever. I baptized someone for the first time and I saw God working in a way that was bigger than me. At this point, I really knew there was something more to this life. I always came back challenged and ready to serve God in any way He wanted to use me. It’s sad to think that my fervor has faded, especially when I know God has never lost sight of me.
Rather than drive the 17+ hours with two kids we decided that we should probably fly this year, maybe next year we will drive– eek! That seems like a long time in a car!
Flying, although shorter than driving, can have it’s own set of challenges. I was a little worried about flying with kids. I decided to start packing early. I washed all my kids’ clothes and packed their bags first. That was pretty easy, minus toothbrushes, we would need to be using those. Then I made a list of all the gear we would need for the kids and for us.
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If you’re flying, here are some of the things that will help keep you sane
Snacks are a must! You don’t want a hangry (hungry + angry) meltdown in the middle of the flight, do you? No, no one wants that. So make sure you bring good snacks! When I flew a couple months ago, snacks saved my life. I flew with my daughter to my grandpa’s funeral, puffs kept her busy while we were waiting at the airport and during take-off. They were a pretty special treat, because I don’t give them to her often.
To prepare for our recent trip, I took my son through the bulk section of the grocery store. He never gets to pick out candy, so this was a very big treat! I asked him what 3 things he wanted for the trip. It’s always important to include your kids when making decisions. They love to have a little power, especially when it’s not that big of a deal.
- fig bars
- yogurt raisins
- bulk candy
- sesame sticks
- whole apple
- nuts (bulk)
- trail mix
- granola bars (I like to make my own, I use this recipe here)
- squeezies for the kids (apple sauce or other fruit blends)
- dried fruit
Portion Ziplock Bags (click for link)
Infant Ideas: (if over 6 mos.)
Who goes on a plane without something to pass the time? Before kids, I used to read. Now I spend the flight trying to keep them occupied.
I brought some activities for my 4 year old to do in case he got bored. As always, I had him help me decide what we should bring. If your traveling with kids, it’s a good idea to let them help you with this process. When choosing things, I steered the conversation for sure, like “Oh, wouldn’t it be good to bring something to color, which coloring book would you like to bring?” I had some ideas in mind, I just let him think he was making all the decisions. Oh, the manipulation of parenting! Insert happy mom face here 🙂
I knew he would probably ask a million questions and talk non-stop during the flight. (I have promoted an inquisitive mind from day one, so silence is something I only get during nap time. Ahhh.. nap time.) But, if he did need something to do, I wanted to be ready!
My son loves cars, so I had him pick out 2 cars to bring. I made sure to let him know that sometimes things get lost while on trips, so he shouldn’t pick his very favorites. I’m not sure this worked, because he picked a Mater and a Lightning McQueen– ones he plays with often. He assured me it was okay, because he doesn’t like them that much and he has other Maters and Lightnings.
Here’s what we brought:
- Lightning McQueen counting book
- mini coloring book
- Boogie Board (If you haven’t heard of this, you need to check it out, they are awesome! Great for little kids or big kids. It’s a mini erasable board that you can use over and over again. Not only are they affordable, but there is no mess! We have used ours to draw pictures, practice letters, play games and do all sorts of things. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed)
- Water Wow (This “painting” activity is great for the car too. Don’t worry, it only uses water, which means no mess! Once they dry, they can be used over again.)
- markers in a wipes container
- hand sanitizer
- 2 cars
I got these curtains for my daughter’s room and I decided to use the zipper bags to pack our travel activities in because they are a little more durable than ziplocks. Everything fit in there perfectly. It was a great way to keep things organized and reuse something I might have thrown away.
3. Extra clothes/wipes
This may be a given, but it’s always good to have some extra clothes. Kids are messy and sometimes they have accidents. Wipes are good to have even when you don’t have kids, but if you have kids, they are definitely a must have. Sticky fingers, snotty noses, spit up, you name it. You need wipes! You will be happy you have them.
4. A WHOLE lot of Jesus
Including Jesus may not be something you think about when you plan a trip, but praying is something I always try to do. I’m not perfect by any means, but I pray that during each trip my interaction with people show others that I am different. I want people to see Jesus shine through, wherever I go.
On our way back from Colorado we had to wake up at 3:30AM. Yes, you heard that right, we had to wake two sleeping children to return our car and make our 6:00AM flight. (For future reference, I would recommend daytime flights if you plan to travel with kids). Unfortunately, the employee checking us in didn’t see our infant (lap baby) on our ticket, so we had to go up to the 6th floor to see why she wasn’t showing up.
Surprisingly, the line was short. We only had to wait behind one woman, who happened to be checking 6 massive suitcases, one of which she could have fit inside. As the attending person explained that one of her bags was 30 pounds over the weight limit, we were motioned forward to another desk.
The representative informed us that our infant was indeed on our ticket, she just didn’t have a physical ticket, because she was a lap baby. Thank goodness! We were already running a little late and we didn’t want anything else slowing us down. As we made our way down an escalator, our eyes widened as we saw that the security line snaked around the massive airport entryway. By now it was 5:15 and we were beginning to worry.
We shuffled through the line and nervously watched the clock as it got closer and closer to 6:00. After removing every piece of property we planned to travel with, the TSA finally let us through. Apparently, I look like the bomb making type because they wiped my hands for explosives.
At this point it was 5:40. After a short tram ride, we squeezed our way through the crowd and raced through the airport on those fast walking tracks.
Out of breath we made it to the gate, to find out that we had missed boarding by 4 minutes. My human nature instinctively wanted to place blame on the attendant who didn’t understand that our lap baby was indeed on our tickets, but I didn’t get mad or upset, it was our fault, if we had allowed extra time we would have made our flight. The nice gentleman behind the counter said, “We waited for you guys and almost made the flight late.” He graciously changed our tickets to get us onto another flight at no charge.
We definitely deserved to be charged for new tickets, but he gave us grace. Maybe it was our flushed faces and tired kids or maybe he was just being nice. Either way, it was a reminder to us of what Jesus did when he died on the cross. He didn’t make us pay the price like we deserved. He gave us grace.
I hope that on your next trip you have a different perspective. When things don’t go your way, try to remember there is a reason for everything. Maybe there is an important lesson you need to learn.
I don’t know why we missed our flight, but maybe it was so that we could experience a small piece of grace, and understand a fraction of what Jesus did when he took our place and paid the price.
How do you keep your kids busy on the plane?