Traveling anywhere with kids can be a trial, even if you’re only making your weekly trip to the grocery store. But when you have to keep children calm and collected throughout the duration of an international flight, you’ll no doubt find that your difficulties increase exponentially. At least when you’ve got them strapped in the car for a road trip, you’re the only one who has to live with their discomfort and the tantrums it can produce. When you’re stuck on an airplane, everyone has to deal with the repercussions associated with fussy kids. And the situation can get pretty ugly if you’re unable to rein in your tots. Luckily, there are steps to ensure that your trip goes a little more smoothly, despite the fact that your kids are unused to sitting still for several hours at a stretch. Here are some tips to keep your kids calm and to carry on when you take an international trip.
- Identification. For the safety of your kids and for your own peace of mind, it’s important that you tag all family members with appropriate identification. This could mean strapping an I.D. bracelet on each child’s wrist or equipping them with a lanyard that features a plastic pocket to store a printout of pertinent data (including their name, any allergies, and of course, a means of contacting you if your child is found). You might also want to carry a current (and clear) photo of each child on you (school pictures are a good option) just in case one of them wanders off or gets snatched in the busy and crowded airport or while you are abroad. Hey, kids are prone to wandering and it’s certainly not unheard of for a parent to lose one when attention is diverted (as when going through security screenings). So you definitely want to be prepared for the possibility, however remote.
- Shots. Your kids probably aren’t too keen on visiting the doctor for shots, but if you want to haul them along on your international adventures they’re probably going to need some vaccinations (depending on where you intend to travel). Since you may need shots 4-6 weeks before your date of travel (or longer, in some cases), this is something you should get on top of immediately. This is also a good time to order passports, although you may want to allow several months for these to arrive before you plan to travel.
- Snacks. Kids appreciate stability and scheduling. While you’re certain to upset their normal routine when you travel, it doesn’t mean that you can’t offer them some comfort by ensuring that they stick to their eating schedule as closely as possible. Although you can certainly eat at the airport or on the plane, it couldn’t hurt to have plenty of snacks on hand to tide kids over in case of scheduling conflicts. The best snacks include foods and beverages that are low in sugar and preservatives that can make your kids hyper or mess with their motility. So opt for fresh fruit and veggies, homemade trail mix, or cheese sticks and crackers (if you have a portable cold case). And choose water over sugary sodas or juices to keep them hydrated without encouraging hyperactivity in a confined space.
- Entertainment. Keeping kids entertained on a long flight is a must. Even if you take a red eye, they’re bound to be awake for a portion of the flight, so bring travel games and toys, or better yet, multipurpose handheld devices that allow them to read books, watch movies, or play games to while away the time.
- Pacifiers. While you can certainly pack binkies for younger kids to suck on in order to calm them, the term “pacifier” could essentially embody any items that comfort your kids. A favorite blanket, doll, or plush toy might fit the bill, so when you’re making your travel checklist, make sure each child has the personal item he or she needs to remain even keel. Whether you’ve booked Paris, Tokyo, or Kiev accommodations, these essential pacifiers could make the entire trip a lot easier for you and your kids.