It is always really good until it is really bad – like the kind of bad that has you running through the third largest airport pushing a stroller whilst juggling a diaper bag, three backpacks, the precious blankie, all to a sound track of whining, or a perpetual chorus of “Why…?” questions.
In short, travelling with young children is not easy; it throws all sorts of challenges at you, and your days of travelling with just carry-on are gone. Yet, after 50+ flights with my tiny, travelling companions I’ve realized there are some things you can do to make the journey more enjoyable, and less epic.
Sometimes it seems that the cost of bringing luggage rivals the cost of the airline ticket – unless of course you are flying on Yukon’s own Air North. On Air Canada, for example, it would cost you over $100 for a family of four to each bring a bag. Do your best to pack light and consider combining suitcases. If you fear this will cause mass confusion, pack lightweight, collapsible duffels in your luggage so that you can move into separate bags upon reaching your destination. Remember there are laundry facilities almost everywhere.
You do not want your bag to be pregnant with stuffed toys. Introducing the stuffie passport warded off this situation for us. We told our son in advance that we were going on a trip, and he was entitled to one stuffie passport, unfortunately, without a passport all the other stuffed animals would have to stay home.
We talked about what a passport was, and told our youngster that it was his responsibility to carry Little Bear’s, homemade passport. This also warded off his interest in carrying his own passport. Little Bear got to ride in our youngster’s backpack along with other light-weight items such as child-specific headphones, a colouring book and small games. Inside there was also a pair of quick dry pants. In the event of an accident you will need these.
Speaking of extra pants I was thankful that I brought extra pants for myself when my toddler accidentally dumped an entire cup of juice on me one hour into a nine hour flight.
Consider packing an empty water bottle; I have never had a flight attendant refuse to fill a spill-proof cup rather than passing a flimsy plastic cup to a toddler.
This brings me to snacks. Always bring more than you think you need – mostly healthy ones, but a few treats, too. To be honest, pack some extras for yourself and your spouse – nobody likes a hangry parent. By the time you finish packing you will likely really feel the need for a vacation!
Always leave early for the airport. The last thing you need is a long check-in line up and a hassle when you are trying to gate-check your car seat or stroller.
In large urban centres find your gate early, and then head to the play-space – Vancouver has a few gems. Expending energy before you have to strap your youngsters in is always a good idea.
On a long flight, we always try to bring something brand new for the little ones so it perks their interest.
It’s not just the same old. Instead, new games, a new book, or a new interactive toy. Some parents just plug their kids in, but on our last flight this only lasted 30 minutes of a nine hour flight. Take shifts: one parent enjoys a movie, while the other is in full-on entertain-the-kiddos mode.
On overnight flights, bring pajamas, books, toothbrushes and that special stuffed toy. Take them through a regular bedtime routine, and tell them this is a sleeping flight. Finally, save boarding passes; they make great toys when your little one is pretending to fly a plane (the couch) to a far off destination later!
While you are at your destination utilize the maintenance pee. It does not matter if your kiddo claims that they don’t have to pee, if there is a convenient bathroom, utilize it.
Carry snacks everywhere.
Remember to be flexible — you are literally overturning their routines. And do your best to be patient with jet lag.
Lastly, have fun, take pictures, eat ice cream – and be sure to squeeze in some me time, or even a date night!