Airplane Jitters When Traveling With Kids? Just Relax

Filed under: Places To Go, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Just For You, Family Time

Flying with kids doesn't have to be painful.
Credit: jyri, Flickr

You want to be very careful when you go on an airplane trip with children.

Remember the famous case of the McCallister family in 1990? In the rush of the family leaving for Paris, a young Macaulay Culkin was forgotten and left "Home Alone." We all had to endure three sequels before that nightmare was finally over.

The Web site has a checklist for the bazillion things you need to remember before you go flying with little ones. A whole three months ahead of time, the site recommends you do everything from visit the travel agent with your child to check with the airlines on their car seat and sky cot policies.

Then, a month before you take off, the site suggests you find a container and create an in-flight first aid kit. Of course, the kit can't contain much more than Band-Aids. Airport security won't allow you to take any of the usual contents of a first aid kit on board, such as tubes of lotion or tiny scissors.

But don't stress about it. The site also suggests you take the month before your flight to practice in-flight relaxation techniques.

Is all this really necessary?

Lenore Skenazy doesn't think so. She's the author of "Free-Range Kids" and has become something of a guru in a national movement to get parents to chill out.

She says fretful parents try to plan for every possible contingency, something, of course, you can't really do. Airlines already have first aid kits. And you don't need to -- as suggests -- double and triple check the airline's cot policy. Very nice people will make sure kids get all the cots and special seats they need, she says.

One of the biggest fears parents face is their children flying alone. During summers and holidays, children of divorced parents are often put on planes by themselves to visit one parent or the other.

"Fear of kids flying makes less sense to me than fear of kids walking to school alone," Skenazy says. "After all, it's not like they're going to get lost. They can only get off at their final destination."

Some parents transfer their own fear of flying to their children. Skenazy suggests getting a grip: They are in more danger traveling by car. Flying is much safer. "Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel," she says.

Skenazy says she hears from kids about how liberating it is to fly solo for the first time.

"There is something thrilling about taking to the air without a parent with you," she says. "It makes you feel grown up."

Parents should welcome such opportunities to put kids on planes by themselves, Skenazy says. "This is one of the safest things you can do to foster a feeling of independence in a kid."

As for the checklists and all the things you should remember, family therapist and ParentDish "Ask AdviceMama" columnist Susan Stiffelman says there are just a couple of basics to remember.

"Be prepared with some new toys and books (for a toddler or child) that you produce once in awhile (depending on the length of the flight)," she says.

And don't forget food. "Bring some special snacks that kids can munch on," she says.

Stiffelman traveled with her son to India when he was 2, and to Australia when he was 3. Long trips, for sure. Yet, Stiffelman says she had no problems. It gets back to the theme echoed by Skenazy: Relax.

"I'm convinced my relaxed attitude about the whole thing made a significant difference in his adaptability to the constriction and length of the flights and has probably influenced him to be a more adaptable person," she says.

It really is all very simple, Stiffelman says: "Do a bit of preparing, make sure your child is in general good health and enjoy your travels."

Related: Fake Vacations -- the New Staycation


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.