Traveling with kids can feel daunting. However, I truly believe that showing our kids the world, and creating as many memories as possible is worth it! I would like to share some tips and tricks I have learned that help ease my anxiety of traveling with a preschooler and a six-year-old with special needs.
First, I know it might be a no-brainer, but I make sure their devices are charged! The last thing I want is to get on an airplane and have the iPad die which sends one of the kids into a meltdown before we have even taken off. This also goes for any medical equipment that does not have a rechargeable battery such as a feeding pump, and portable nebulizer.
Make sure you know TSA regulations about any formula or medical equipment you need to bring on board. It will save time and help so much to know what to expect. This does not account for tantrums due to unexpected extended waiting periods, but if I am knowledgeable I have often times been able to tell the TSA newbies let’s get this luggage search and pat down over with. My kid is ready to go! Also, make sure your medical equipment is properly labeled. Although you so not need a medical document for a C Pap sleep apnea machine, you do need to ensure it has a proper tag. Ultimately you cannot count on someone to give you the right information! I also communicate this to the flight attendants as soon as I board so they know what they are carrying on board and that my daughter might need extra help.
Have the kids help and give them some independence. It is so much easier to strap the kids in the stroller, but as they get older they want to be a part of the process, and I am all about teaching any self-help skills when I can. Jet Kids is based in Norway and has come out with an amazing ride on suitcase that also turns into a bed once on board called, BedBox! A six-year-old can stow their favorite blanket in the ride on, and smash through the airport to keep up! It also fits perfectly under the seat in front of you. My kid is a first-class diva so the moment we get on the plane she wants to sit in the first row and put her feet up. Sometimes she gets to, but realistically we not flying first class every flight. BedBox is a great product and can be found here www.jet-kids.com. You can also view some cute pictures of her rolling through LAX!
I make sure to have favorite snacks and drinks packed! My three-year-old loves to eat, but he gets antsy and doesn’t like waiting for his apple juice until we are at cruising altitude. The same goes for his sister, not every plane has her favorite buttery popcorn snack, so I make sure I am prepared. She also has a feeding tube, so I need to have water, napkins and an extra cup with me before I board so I can handle her feeding needs. Most flight attendants have been so helpful if I forget, but I try not to after that one time the stewardess really didn’t care to help us. Lesson learned!
Once the ears start popping, tears start dropping! I make sure my son is eating something, usually his favorite Vitamin C lollipops. Sienna does not eat much by mouth and is nonverbal, so I have to be one step ahead to help her with any discomfort. I have a list in my head of things I check off if she starts to get upset, but I have learned that massaging behind her ears downward toward her jaw gets her to open her mouth for a yawn. Singing and reading books are also a good distraction for the discomfort.
Speaking of distractions, a short 45-minute flight to LA is easy, but going cross country is quite a different story. Although they love their iPad, there comes a time when that is even boring. I have my son pack his favorite toys in his backpack, so The Flash and Superman never miss out on an adventure. I also have to be extra careful that everyone makes it off that plane when we land! Coloring books, puzzles stowed in individual zip lock baggies, and play-doh make a nice mix of fun activities that can also give some sensory input. Sienna loves her sensory brush which can be found on amazon Wilbarger Method Thera pressure Therapy Brush (Bag of 2), and it soothes her when she gets upset.
Communication is key. I am a very friendly person and will talk to anyone, but I understand sometimes people have had a long day and don’t want to talk. I still say hi and have my kids say hi as well. We are polite and kind to everyone, and I make sure that despite any special needs my kids are as well behaved as possible. I cannot control if they get upset, but I do have a plethora of ways to help them. I find being very nice takes away any “red in the face” moments because truly I am doing my best and staying positive helps the kids enjoy the experience. I also always say, yes please and huge thank you if someone offers to help me because it takes a village!
I also do potty checks. We go before we board. And usually every hour on the plane. At first, my kids were not to keen on the small space especially when I am alone and have to cram both kids in the bathroom together, but they are much more used to it now. I also like this easy portable potty seat if they are just toilet training it helps so much so with their comfort level. Gimars Upgrade Folding Large Non-Slip Silicone Pads Travel Portable Reusable Toilet Potty Training Seat Covers Liners with Carry Bag for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids, Pink.
You can also never have enough extra supplies. I have a full pack of baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and wipes, and always have an extra set of clothes including socks and underwear in my bag I keep under my seat, so it is in reach. Everything that I could need immediately I keep close by and everything else can go in the overhead bin.
When we land and get to baggage claim, I always rent of the carts. I will gladly pay the $5 for sanity to pile up out bags and go because we literally travel with a mini hospital! Plus Rainbow Dash, Batman, and the Seven Dwarfs all needed their own suitcases as well.
Let’s talk car seats! Luckily, my kids are now big enough for a portable booster which is perfect when you don’t plan on long car trips to your destination. I found this one mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat, Slate Grey and love it. We have a red one for my son and pink for my daughter. If you still have a baby don’t worry, I would push my stroller with the buggy to the gate then it would be ready valet style upon arrival. Available on Amazon.
Finally, I take as many pictures as possible. I want to remember every flight we take, and every airport we visit so I can show the kids how amazing their lives are. It also helps my autistic daughter know what to expect when we show her the social story of going to the airport and flying that her ABA team has helped me make. They are growing up so fast, and all I can do is make sure that they get to experience life to the fullest. Also, check out these other great products that can help along the way.
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