Have you heard the term “revenge travel”? Or maybe you haven’t heard of it but you have experienced it? If you are thinking no, and no, please let me explain. Revenge travel is the name given to this sudden urgent need to hit the road as soon as possible that many of us are feeling, now that vaccines have made travel somewhat safer. After two years of sticking close to home, we are raring to see sites beyond our desk, kitchen, and Mount Laundry.
In March 2020, our family canceled all of our travel plans. It was hard for our children to understand why we were unable to travel across the country to see extended family members or go on vacation. The myriad of unknowns related to COVID intertwined into every decision.
This June, we were able to travel to the Midwest to see family. It felt like it was our first time traveling as a family all over again. It wasn’t exactly revenge travel, but I found myself slowly remembering all our travel tricks and discovering new ones.
Here are favorite tips for easier air travel with children, revenge inspired, or not:
1. Reusable water bottles and flavor enhancers
Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, still rules air travel with a much-appreciated iron fist. No container holding more than 3.4 oz of any sort of liquid may go through security. Formula and breast milk, and ice to keep them fresh are allowed, but the liquids will probably be tested by TSA agents. This rule can be frustrating for travelers with specific drink preferences or those wishing to avoid buying expensive airport options.
You can bring your own empty reusable water bottle in your carry-on and fill it once you are through security. Many airports have water bottle fillers near the bathrooms.
I also readily admit that I really do not like the taste of plain water. To combat this, I usually bring along a few flavor enhancers from the grocery store. Those single-serve packets of Crystal Lite or Mio drops are super convenient. Just remember, any liquid-based enhancers need to be pulled from your carry-on to pass through security. Most are less than 3.4oz so they will get through with no issue.
2. Pack an extra duffle bag
Always pack an extra soft-sided bag in your luggage. Nothing is worse than repacking your luggage to head home and realizing you do not have enough space. Somehow extra things always end up coming home with you!
Packing an extra bag helps avoid the frustration of cramming it all into your luggage, figuring out how to ship items back last minute, or buying an overpriced duffle bag at a local store. You can even use this extra bag just to segregate dirty clothes inside your main luggage if you don’t need it for extra room.
3. Bring zip-up baggies
I like to pack a few extra zip-up baggies in my carry-on bag. These can be a lifesaver when trying to contain snack packages that do not reseal. My daughter likes to graze, and it drives me crazy to have crumbs all over the bottom of bags. Additionally, you might as well put leak-prone items inside these bags because why tempt fate? Another thing I like to do is bring a tightly rolled outfit change for me or my kids in a Ziploc. One trip with a barfer taught me how vitally important this trick is.
And, since your carry-on is already a thousand pounds, throw in your bathing suits. Delayed luggage is annoying but when you’ve got suits ready for when you get to your hotel, you’re everyone’s MVP. My kids agree that this tip for easier air travel with children is absolutely essential.
4. Not all bathrooms are the same
As much as airports all seem the same, one element varies widely from airport to airport. This is the bathrooms. I found it necessary to escort my daughter to every bathroom in case she needed help. Super aggressive auto-flush is the bane of parents everywhere. And, often the placement of the soap and the height of the counters made it impossible for her to wash her hands on her own.
5. Never pass a chance to use the bathroom
Travel is taking longer than it ever has before. Between supply issues and lack of staff, expect to wait everywhere! It is important to take a bathroom break when you pass by one. You don’t know how long you might be waiting in the next line.
6. Airports are great places to explore
Did you know that Burlington Airport has a Kids’ Zone? It’s past the security area and separate from the Main Terminal. There are some play mats, large windows, and activities that keep kids busy. And one of the best things – it’s quiet! This is great if you have a child who prefers a less crowded or quieter environment.
Many airports have art installations, educational exhibits, or light shows they rotate throughout the year. Although it can be tempting to sit by your gate and rest – get the kids moving while you can. Once you are on the plane, their options for movement are slim. If time allows, let the kids check out the exhibits or watch the overhead light show on the moving sidewalk. It’s a great way to keep their minds engaged, build memories of a fun trip, and for them to see something they may never see again.
7. Observation questions
One of my favorite games to play with my kids is called Observation Questions. It’s a very simple game. When we visit new areas, I look for a unique factoid or item in the vicinity. Then a small amount of time later (when we are away from the factoid or item) I’ll ask the kids a question about something I observed.
For example, after we are seated on the plane, I might ask them how many kids were in the family sitting next to us at the gate or the color of the gate agent’s hair. I like this game for two reasons. First, we only do it when we travel so it’s a fun activity that doesn’t get overplayed. Second, it encourages my children to be observant of the world around them.
8. Consider travel utensils
If you enjoy sturdy cutlery, or simply cutlery that doesn’t snap in half when you try to slice an egg (true story)– I encourage you to bring your own for travel. We had extra time on one of our layovers and decided to have a sit-down meal in the airport. The eatery was using very flimsy plastic utensils.
Also, if you prefer a particular type of straw, you may want to carry a few with you. I know some do not like paper straws and that may be your only option available in the airport, especially as states continue to implement laws banning plastic straws.
9. Pressurization hurts
No matter your age, air pressure changes hurt! I always pack the kids’ favorite gum and make sure to hand out pieces at take-off or when I know we are starting our descent. These are the two most likely times to cause trouble for ears. You can also keep drinks handy to help facilitate swallowing for kids who do not chew gum. This can take the edge off the pressure and helps ears equalize.
10. Use the apps
Throughout our travels, we made sure to use our airline’s app. This was the fastest way for us to get notifications of changes to our travel, see airport maps, and know gates and baggage claim carousels. Be sure to download your airline’s app before arriving at the airport. I ended up being especially glad I had downloaded the app because the airline had gone contactless. If we wanted to purchase any items while in the air, we had to add our credit card. This tip is my personal favorite for easier air travel with children.
Don’t forget to dress in layers. Even if you are going from a cooler climate to a warmer one, don’t forget to bring something warm to wear! Planes are typically cold and airports are often warm.
When we left our trip, each kid wore a hoodie and pair of sweatpants over their tanks and shorts. My kids were thankful they weren’t cold on the plane and could simply remove layers as they wanted and add them to their carry-on. They could even use their hoodie as a pillow if they felt tired.
12. Enjoy the trip
Travel can be stressful – especially when unexpected issues hit. Focus on the time together and your children will respond positively to that. After all, they are just as excited as we are to be exploring the world again. Whether your trips are fueled by wanderlust or rage, I hope you enjoy my tips for easier air travel with children. Have I forgotten any tips? What tips would you suggest for easier air travel with children?
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