Start early and be consistent: Travel tips for expectant parents.

Every family website has them: “travel tips for parents,” all of which are helpful and insightful, but most are difficult to implement when your child is, say, over four.  Let’s face it; if your child throws a fit at home, more than likely they will on a plane.

Here’s my point – start early.

Of course, your 8-week-old can slide, but say your four or five-month-old… begin at once demonstrating good travel habits.  If there’s one thing I’m very proud of as a parent, it’s always traveling with my three-year-old son.

Tristan in Venice

Tristan in Venice

There is no greater joy.  Tristan is an amazing traveler, a gold member cardholder-type-of-traveler, my trusted travel companion.  Yes, there is a tendency to view travel with young children as a nightmare, forcing one back to the bliss of what was travel-before-parenthood, but I think differently.  I am convinced – children and travel DO go together.  Meaningful family travel experience, with all its uncertainties and challenges, establishes not only strong family bonds, but a library of cherished memories.

Tristan was 8 weeks when he took his first airplane ride – Zurich to Hollywood.Since then, he has visited countless cities and countries… he and I have traveled five times across the Atlantic without a hiccup.  I have fond memories of our journeys and would like other parents to experience the same pleasure.

Tristan making friends in London

Tristan making friends in London

The benefit of Tristan flying at such an early age was that his fertile mind quickly absorbed travel was an integral part of his global world, but more importantly, he learned that a good flyer is a happy flyer.  How do I do it?

Pack your sense of humor and patience.  Kids are kids.  They will have cranky times on holidays just like they do at home.  Things will go wrong and you will just have to laugh about it and enjoy the ride.

Follow these basic, simple tips and you will raise a happy flyer:

  • At home, make noise while your infant sleeps. This is the most crucial travel tip.  I understand it goes against all parental instincts… vacuum, play the radio, talk, go about your daily life while your newborn slumbers.  Trust me, this conditioning pays off threefold on the road.  Tristan sleeps anywhere.
  • Encourage your child to get involved in the travel process.
  • Refrain from hauling your child’s bag. I am not referring to their luggage I mean toy bags. They enjoy being responsible… being helpful offers them a sense of pride.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that smile on Tristan’s face the first time he handed the gate agent his boarding pass.  She smiled at him and said, ‘You’re a big boy.’ Tristan beamed, so proud of himself.
  • Explain to your child the security process.  Before lining up for the X-ray machine, we prepare ourselves beforehand.  Please don’t be those parents who remove items from their carry-on at the X-ray machine. Tristan removes his jacket, places it and his bag into the gray bin and proceeds under amazed eyes of security personnel, who by the way are always extremely friendly.
  • Show your child how to present his/her boarding pass to the gate agent.
  • On the plane, introduce ‘airplane’ voice, and stress the importance of that voice while on the plane – or anywhere, for that matter!
  • Show your little travel companion how to locate the seat number on their ticket as well as their seat.
  • Ask your child to immediately take their seat and fasten seat-belts.
  • Share with them never kick the seat in front, or turn around and stare behind.
  • Tell your child not to get up from their seat unless going to the water closet.
  • Build them a nest.  Make your child’s surroundings cozy and comfortable.
  • If your child does become upset, keep calm; a frantic parent is no help to a crying child. Remember your little one is a foreign place – help make them feel at ease.
  • Establish before you board the trip’s itinerary, and stick to it. This is a timetable of what your child should expect during the flight: 1) Review the safety card 2) Have a beverage 3) A meal 4) Nap-time 5) Book/playtime 6) Thirty minutes movie/iPad time 7) Receives a small new toy/book. 8) Arrives at destination.
  • As much as possible, I avoid the iPad or any electronic toy; I don’t want Tristan getting used to them. On our travels, like at home, we either read or play games.
  • Be ever so polite to flight attendants – they are the key to a wonderful flight. This is important, and I have noticed most traveling parents refuse to heed this advice. Trust me, if you enjoy being treated like business class passengers flying economy – be nice!                                          

Now – be consistent – make every effort to enforce/implement the same procedures every time you fly.  Be mindful what you allow your child to get away with.  Be strong. Don’t give in.  Not only will you be rewarded with a pleasant journey, but a good travel companion down the road.

Tristan in Texas (LBJ's Ranch)

Tristan in Texas (LBJ's Ranch)

The great part about travel is that it sweeps each of us to a state of childhood allowing us to view the world with a sense of wonder – much like wonder our kids view the crazy, unrecognizable and incomprehensible world they travel.  At the end of the day, the trips with your child are cherished memories…and much like those sleepless three months of a new parent, the ‘bad’ times receded into a faint recollection leaving … only the amazing journeys to memory.

My wife gives birth to our second boy next month, I’ll keep you posted how he travels.

Until then… Bon Voyage and hey -- have fun!!

by Monty C. Floyd

Outcast Otter – May 2013       

#travel #family