Monday we talked about traveling with babies, Tuesday was toddlers, and today we tackle preschoolers and older. Kids three and older are generally fun flying companions. They delight in watching the planes while waiting at the gate, they will charm flight attendants, they can display some level of patience, and they (sometimes) will carry some of the gear. My husband actually likes sitting next to our kids, since their tiny bodies only take up half the seat. He puts up the arm rest, and takes the extra room for himself, thankyouverymuch.
Much of my advice from the previous posts holds true with older kids. Sit in the back, this time you’ll want to be close to the bathroom for your smaller bladdered, newly potty trained flyers. Bring extra clothes for the same reason. The snacks are the same, you’ll still want wipes and a first aid kit, and my suggestions for brightly colored clothing and unique footwear hold true.
Try to avoid layovers.
If you must have a layover, it should still be at least an hour long to allow kids to run, bathroom breaks, maybe some food, and time to get to the next gate. If you can avoid a layover, do it. Around the age of three, my kids became angels on the plane, and holy terrors at the airport. We always have layovers, and they suck. My kids taste the freedom of the long concourse, and they have to have it. The weave in and out of the hundreds of busy travelers, and I do my best not to lose my shit, while doing my best not to lose my kids. If a direct flight is an option, take it.
Use your kids as pack-mules.
I let the kids carry a small backpack when they turned three. It usually holds snacks or extra clothes. When my son turned four, we bought him a small roller suitcase to bring as his carry-on. He promised he would wheel it himself. He’s a big fat liar, and I rolled that thing until he turned five. Now he manages it alone, and is able to keep up with the rest of us.
That little wheelie suitcase is awesome. It allows us to pack more stuff on the plane, and after take off, we stand it up in front of my six-year-old’s seat. He can put his feet on it, which is key, as his legs stick straight out when he is sitting properly in his seat. He has to actively try to keep his feet off of the seat in front of him, and seven hours of that is no fun.
Pack more advanced toys.
In addition to the Post-Its, pipe cleaners, multicolored pens, Play-Doh, and window clings I mentioned yesterday, when the kids got older we started bringing Legos, playing cards, and magnet sets. I have kids books on my Kindle, and I bring movies for them to watch.
Pack comfort items.
My four-year-old likes to bring a doll, and small Pillow Pets and favorite blankets round out my “Things to Bring For the Kids So They Don’t Annoy the Hell Out Of Me” list. Those blankets are used for snuggling (duh) and for catching stuff that falls. The kids sit on the blanket, and the bottom part gets tucked in the seat back in front of them. It saves many trips under the seat.
I don’t want to say that traveling with bigger kids is the most fun ever, but it easier than the early years. My kids are far less annoying than many of the adults we’ve encountered. Lady Who Talks the Entire Flight, Guy Watching Softcore Porn on the Laptop, and Person Eating What Smells Like an Onion and Garlic Sandwich, I’m looking at you. These days I usually get to read my book, enjoy a cup of coffee without it getting spilled, and even use the bathroom if I need to. It almost feels like a vacation!
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