Prior to having children, traveling on a plane with the offspring of others did not bother me, but I realized that it seemed to bother some other passengers. When my turn as traveling mother came around, in an attempt to be considerate to my own children who could understandably be bored and restless on long flights; and ,less directly, in consideration to my fellow passengers, I approached travel with my angels with a 4-point plan – WTFE. Before you say, “Kay, I never knew you were one to use such language,” I should explain that WTFE stands for keeping the children well Watered, Toileted, Fed and Entertained. The premise lies in the fact that when the children are comfortable, they will be well-behaved.
As babies, I would be sure to have all of their supplies needed for feeding, cleaning, playing, etc.’ as well as extra changes of clothing in carry-ons. I would also plan to nurse or bottle-feed during liftoff so their ears would be unaffected; or change diapers before boarding to start the trip in comfort. Now they are a little older, at the ages of 9, 7, and 3, planning is still needed, but their happiness is much less dependent on me once I have my “Travel Survival Kit” aka “Sanity in a Carry-On.”
We usually let the children eat and drink, then go to the restroom if we have time before boarding, then, according to them, comes the fun once they get on the plane. We are a family of 5 so we travel with at least 5 carry-ons. The three most critical of the 5 would be the one with extra clothing, etc. in case checked baggage is lost, which is extremely likely with this particular airline that tends to ensure my husband’s luggage is Always Absent; the carry-on with food and snacks; and the carry-on that my children seem unable to live without, the carry-on with various toys and activities.
What I pack in that last carry-on depends on my children’s interests at the time, and this is key. Children’s enthusiasm for certain activities wax and wane over time, so what may have worked well on last year’s trip, may be a misstep for this year. Below is a photo of some of the items from the ‘sanity kit.’
All of the children love to draw and color, so crayons, markers, pencils and erasers were staples. Complementing these were coloring books, sketch pads, and for my daughter, a children’s brain teaser puzzle book that is not shown. I also packed small puzzles which I knew all three would like and would fit nicely on the airplane tray; small toys such as Hot Wheels; reading books based on their varying interests (e.g. animal books for the eldest and Thomas the Train books and activities for the youngest); and my middle child’s favorite V-reader, with extra batteries and a set of headphones so the noise would not disturb others.
This may seems like a lot, but it did the trick for the four plane rides of our round trip. The children were satiated, and once they were happy, we all were.