Flyers- Tips From Families that Travel Often!
November/December 2008 Issue
Written by Stacey Corbett
No, it’s not an urban myth…there are
some families who are frequent flyers and travel to
destinations all over the globe with children in tow. I
talked to two families who make travel a major part of their
lives. Both families have one or two parents who work in the
airline industry and both have lots of experience in ‘the
air’. They share their tips on how to make air travel with
children an enjoyable experience for everyone.
7 year old Alexandra celebrated her 100th
flight on a recent trip to Disneyworld with her family this
year. Her mom, Deb says that being married to a pilot meant
that flying has always been a component of their family
vacations and visits. When she was on Maternity Leave she
was fortunate enough to be able to jump on a plane with her
baby and visit family and friends all over Canada and the
US. She learned a lot
in those early days and says that now friends call
her for tips and advice whenever they are preparing for a flight.
Flying with kids doesn’t intimidate
her. “Ask, Ask, Ask!” Deb says. She uses that first contact
with flight attendants to ask them for the items she needs
to make the flight ‘work for the kids’. Pillows and blankets
are not offered to all passengers anymore. Asking the flight
attendant for these items early on improves your chances of
having it on hand when you need it. “Be proactive,” she
adds, “if you see a block of open seats, ask if you can move
over to them.” You want to make sure you set the ‘stage’ for
a good flight.
The family now has 3 children including
Christopher (age 4) and Mathew (20 months old). Deb and her
husband Paul make sure each of her three children all pack a
small backpack for their flights. There are 3 items that she
recommends to go into these bags including a change of
clothes (with underwear and socks), a water bottle, and
their favourite toy. Deb also packs ‘a surprise’ toy or treat
that she unveils “when the time is right.” Seat back TV’s
have made entertainment easier too, kids can watch their
favourite shows while the time flys by!
With all of the flying that this family
has done they haven’t experienced any major delays. When
there is a delay or a stopover Deb gets the kids moving,
“Most airports have play areas with squishy floors. That is
where you will find the other families too.”
When that isn’t available she finds the nearest ice
cream shop to get a treat or even takes the kids to ride the
shuttles from one terminal to another. The family’s
way to pass the time in the waiting area is with bubbles.
They always pack a small sealed container of bubbles (the
kind you get at a wedding) in their carry-on baggage. (As
long as the size of it meets the security restrictions
regarding liquids it should be allowed). The kids have fun
blowing bubbles and it ends up entertaining the other
children who are waiting to get on the plane too!
Deb is also careful to pack snacks that
she knows her kids will eat on board. She has been on too
many busy flights where they run out of snacks half way down
Another family of frequent flyers, Lori
and Les have made sure that their daughter Charlea has
become as comfortable flying as her parents are. At 15
months old she has already been on more than 30 flights.
With family in Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and the
Cayman Islands they don’t let a flight get in the way of
seeing their loved ones. “Even though family is far away- it
is never too far to fly!” says Lori.
When planning a trip she tries to get
on flights that accommodate Charlea’s scheduled nap time.
She is also diligent about making sure Charlea’s next bottle
is prepared immediately after one is emptied. Lori suggests
stopping by a coffee shop in the airport and asking them to
heat your bottle before you board because as she says,
“there are no microwaves on the plane.” She described a
bottle warming technique the flight attendants use on board
that includes a waterproof air sickness bag and hot water!
Getting through security is something
that both moms advise you plan for before you arrive. Lori
uses a backpack carrier to hold Charlea in now that she is a
toddler. With the backpack on her back it leaves her hands
free to get out her boarding pass and set her bags on the
belt without having to chase after a busy toddler. Getting
Charlea out of her backpack is the last thing she does
before she goes through security and putting her back in is
the first things she does once she is through.
Lori often sees
parents who are overloaded with gear, toys and bulky
strollers trying to maneuver through the airport. She says
when it comes to air travel, “Less is more.”
Charlea is definitely a frequent flyer
and for the most part enjoys ‘the ride’.
When something comes up that Lori needs help with she
asks for it, “Ring the bell, that’s what it is there for!”
she says. With your diaper bag in reach and the seat pocket
in front of you stocked with all of the essentials,
you should be pretty
self sufficient but asking for help is always an option.
Lori improvises when
she needs to. Although most airplanes have at least one
bathroom equipped with a change table she has had to change
Charlea’s diaper on the galley floor at the back of the
plane when the bathroom was occupied.
Lori says that sometimes she sees
parents struggling because they are intimidated by the other
passengers around them. “You paid for your seat too,” Lori
says, adding that parents shouldn’t get too anxious trying
to keep their children quiet. She stressed that it was okay
to get up and move around the cabin (when it is safe to do
so) if you are trying to soothe a crying infant or entertain
a toddler. The passenger sitting next to you would rather
let you out of the row to walk the aisles than sit next to a
child who is agitated.
Travel has become more and more
accessible for many families.
Businesses in the tourism industry realize that
families have special needs and are starting to cater to
them. Some airlines offer bassinets for infants on board,
special children’s meals and one airline (British Airways)
has even started to offer
BRITAX car seats for use on some
of their flights. The key to a smooth trip is asking for
what you need, you may be surprised what is available.
When I asked these families what they
hoped their children would take away from the experience of
travelling so much, both of them said they wanted their
children to see the world. Travel
teaches kids how to be flexible and about the diversity of
the destinations they visit. Deb and Paul’s family of 5 are
off to Disneyworld (for the second time).
Lori and Les (with
Charlea too!) are planning an African Safari in the next
couple of years. Bon Voyage!
Stacey Corbett is a mother to 3 year old twins and an avid traveler. Her
travels led her to create her Calgary based baby equipment
rental company, One Tiny Suitcase. Visit the website,
for more travel resources or contact her at