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ULTIMATE ADVENTURE: Long flights are such a fun adventure! Talk about it! Discuss the airports. Talk about the size of the planes. Have a conversation about spending the night on the plane. Team Ryan likes to use our map and point out our route and where we are going. We also like to look up the flag of that state or country and have children try to color it. Read books and learn about where you are traveling. Watch planes at the airport & make up stories about where people are going. All this discussion prepares children for this flight as well as future travel.
- SIMPLE CARRY ON LESSON: Do not over pack toys. Team Ryan made that mistake the first time we flew a long haul flight. We discovered our children really didn’t play with them and we just ended up having more to carry. We have learned our children need very little to fly. Minimal small toys, their favorite stuffed toys and art supplies. We are big fans of Papo figurines and we highly recommend them in general and for travel. We love crayons & paper. Call us old school, but few things keep my children as occupied as crayons or colored pencils and a notebook. Usbornne Wipe-Clean books are educational and fun choice especially for younger children. The small toys by Oball are light and pack well for a infant. We do not recommend much more than that as it goes unused most of the time. You can tell your back and sanity they can thank us later.
- SNACKS & WATER: My sister, a very wise and highly experienced travel mom, once told me you can never pack enough snacks! She was RIGHT! We do a lot of animal crackers, m&m’s, dried fruit, granola bars & gummy snacks. I am pretty sure my children think plane rides mean ALL THE SNACKS their little hearts desire. Team Ryan always packs our own water cups no matter the flight duration. We feel airlines were thinking a lot when creating how to efficiently give customers drinks and food. Unfortunately they paid zero attention to the fact that the cups they offer have a spill success rate of 110% among children. (This was our experience anyway.) so we vote you pack your own water bottles. We are big fans of Camelbak & Sip by Swell. Just make sure the water cups are empty before you get to the front of the security check in.
- MEDIA DEVICES: For the love of your sanity & all other travelers GIVE THEM THE iPAD & headphones! We download a few movies & shows so we can avoid paying WiFi charges. Then when our child desires to watch Hi-5, Mary Poppins or FROZEN on repeat for 12 hours we are prepared. (This also gives Mama a free hand to hold the coffee or wine she desperately needs to survive the trip!) Always make sure to pack a power bank for your device or save some battery for the passport check line as well because it always proves to be longest when your kids are the most out of control. When I took my first solo parent international flight with my 2-year-old, I let her pick out a special pair of child size headphones as a “special airport gift.” The airport gift was a fun memory that she still talks about to this day. Overpriced-yes, but worth it in my humble opinion. She then also discovered she loves long haul flights because she gets a lot more screen time than usual.
- SPARE OUTFITS AND ALL THE DIAPERS: Pack them! The one time you don’t-you will regret it. Trust me. Last year on one of our long flights the stomach flu hit as we were about to board the plane. LIKE IN LINE to board. They were super excited I am sure. It was lovely learning experience that Team Ryan will never forget. The thing I did forget that day was a spare outfit. My girls ended up rocking their new souvenir t-shirts and panties and a diaper on the flight. So, as I mentioned pack a spare outfit, underpants and ALL THE DIAPERS. (Also, know in advance if you ever ask my daughters about the airport in Sri Lanka they have very good memories and like to go into specific details.)
- Flight Attire: I often have my girls fly in jammies for late night flights and then they can change in the morning. If we have a day time flight I have them wear regular clothes & change into jammies to signal it’s time to sleep. (CONFESSION: I am a big fan of cute pajamas.) I personally like button up pajamas for flights. This way if they are hot or spill they can peel the top layer and wear the shirt underneath. I also have my girls wear boots. Boots are easy to slip on & off-which is so crucial. Airplane bathrooms can get a bit gross and I definitely do not want to battle the, “I do it myself! I tie my own laces!” every time someone needs to go potty. Wearing boots rather than packing them also takes weight out of your suitcase.
- BOUNDLESS ENERGY: They are children. They have energy. Boundless amounts of energy and they do not understand why they need to sit for 6 plus hours or even lower their voices. (If we are talking about my children anyway.) They only see a plane as a small part of the adventure. However, in an attempt to make the adventure more enjoyable for everyone we try exert as much energy as possible pre-flight or during layovers. Team Ryan always try to find the playground or open space and get energy out. I might look like the mom who lets their child run wild in public spaces, but hey I feel passengers often thank me that it is in the terminal and not on the flight. We often use those moving walkways as a track. We ride it and run back to the beginning and repeat. We have also be known to do a little fun cardio or yoga session in a back area of an airport lounge. As I said anything to exert some energy.
BOARDING: Team Ryan prefers to board LAST to allow our children get as much energy out as possible and to be on board as short amount as possible. I understand some people are very happy to get on board & settle in their seats. We tried that a few times and our children got entirely too restless before takeoff. We learned boarding last allows for a more peaceful flight for Team Ryan. So, we decided from then on it was best for us. You might need to try both ways and then see what works best for your family. If you find you need to board early to help your child have a more peaceful flight-DO IT! I recently watched a great video and read a great article by Khalid Al Ameri on Airplanes and Autism. He discusses the “Special Service Code” DPNA. Team Ryan feels everyone should have the opportunity to travel and experience an adventure and that you do what works best for your family.
- YOU MADE IT! You are tired, but you feel like a winner because you survived the flight. Now, please in your haste do not forget to CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN and then DO ONE MORE CHECK that you have all of your belongings. Few things are as frustrating as getting to a new place and realizing your child’s lovey is on the next flight rather than with you.
- REMINDER: Babies Cry-Toddlers Cry-Teenagers Cry…even adults cry. Get passed it. People will stare. Deep breath-the calmer you remain-the better. My daughter recently decided to cry for 4.5 hours of a 4 hour flight-she wanted to cry that extra 30 minutes just for kicks. It happens. Babies cry. REMEMBER: “You GOT THIS!” I wear a Wonder Woman bracelet & a cross necklace to remind myself I am the boss of my kids & our stress level & that God is in complete control. Do you have tips or tricks that have helped you on long flights with your children? We would love to hear from you!
PS More to come on this, but Team Ryan just survived our first long haul flight as a family of 5!!