No doubt you know all about the challenges of airplane travel. However, there are many ways to reduce stress, paving the way for a streamlined flight. Here are five tips for enjoying flying with family.
1. Book the best flight and seating well in advance.
Buy airline tickets on Tuesdays, around 3pm. Cheaper carriers list new sales early in the day. By mid-afternoon, larger airlines reduce their fares to match those of competitors.
Did you know that rough air and thunderstorms are most common during afternoon flights? To lessen the likelihood of turbulence, book a morning trip. Summer is also prime time for bumpy rides. Uneven heating of the Earth's surface produces thermals, bubbles of warm air. Especially during summer months, try to fly early in the day.
Coinciding with booking your flight, reserve seating. For easy access to an overhead bin and the restroom, choose an aisle seat. Although window seats offer the best views, they tend to be chillier than the rest, so dress appropriately. You'll be subject to less turbulence if you sit over the wings of the aircraft. This position puts you close to its center, reducing the effect of opposing air currents. Like a seesaw, the middle of a plane is most stable. If you're traveling with a baby, reserve a bulkhead seat, next to a partition. Bulkheads have designated spaces for securing a bassinet, along with generous legroom.
As for spots to avoid, close to the restrooms is a high-traffic area. The coldest cabin sections are near the fuselage, exit doors, and rear of the plane. Back row seats may only be upright, not reclining. Also, they may lack windows.
2. Minimize jet lag.
Traveling across time zones is confusing for the hypothalamus, the brain region governing sleep patterns, hormones, appetite, and body temperature. The resultant syndrome is termed "jet lag," which can last up to three days after arrival. Common symptoms are nausea, insomnia, weakness, lethargy, forgetfulness, stiffness, and joint swelling. However, with some preparation, you can minimize the effects of jet lag on your family.
Traveling east is more disruptive than heading west. To prime everyone for the time shift, modify bedtime. If you're heading east, have the family asleep one hour earlier each night for three days. If heading west, have everyone in bed an hour later for three days before leaving.
Serve healthy meals up to and including your flight. Emphasize fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. Have everyone engage in regular exercise on the days before departure. They should also avoid caffeine intake.
The night before departure, make sure all get adequate rest. Also, have your packing completely done, suitcases at the ready. Once on-board, change your watch to the local time of your destination. Then, adjust family routines accordingly.
3. Make everyone comfortable.
Cabin temperature is never constant and can be dramatically different from outdoors. It's common to sweat while parked at the gate and freeze once airborne. While waiting to depart, a plane is cooled differently to save fuel. Additionally, the older the plane, the colder it tends to be in-flight. While newer models are equipped to regulate climate in all cabin areas, older ones are not.
Despite varying temperatures, there are ways to be comfortable. First, dress in loose-fitting layers, giving you the flexibility to adjust. Even during summer, Traveler advises not to wear shorts or sandals. Short sleeves or a sleeveless top will work, provided you carry a sweater. If you're bringing a carry-on, pack clothing in which to change upon arriving at your destination. You may be able to obtain a blanket from the flight crew, if available. If you're on a newer model plane, ask the attendant to adjust the temperature.
To regulate air pressure for yourself during takeoff and landing, chew gum. If you're flying with a baby or toddler, give them a bottle or lollipop. Young ears don't have the ability to equalize air pressure. For this reason, babies often wail during landing. However, swallowing helps. For older kids, give them a snack to chew.
Sitting idle for long periods on flights typically results in ankle stiffness and swelling. Additionally, lack of circulation through the legs can cause dangerous blood clots. To prevent this, try to pump your ankles every 15 minutes.
Also, make a game of ankle exercises with your child. While seated, have them "draw" the letters of the alphabet with their feet in the air. Then, ask them to point their toes up and down, in a pumping motion. When the seat belt sign is off, walk with your child up and down the aisle. Try strolling once per hour.
If your kids are old enough to fly with minimal supervision, bring a neck pillow, ear plugs, and eye mask so you can nap. Throughout your flight, stay hydrated by sipping from a water bottle. Alternatively, bring chamomile tea bags for a calming brew.
If your child is amenable to sleeping, their downtime will give you a reprieve. Try to promote this by letting them rest on a pillow in your lap. Give them a stuffed animal to cuddle, and cover them with a blanket or sweater. Here are more helpful suggestions for flying with kids.
4. Keep kids occupied.
First, pack healthy drinks and snacks, such as low-sugar cereal, granola bars, applesauce cups, bananas, oranges, juice boxes, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If you're flying with an infant, you're allowed to bring formula, water, and any food they require. It may be useful to review the regulations by the Transportation Security Administration.
Once on board with your brood, get organized. If traveling with a partner, have your child sit between the two of you, in the middle seat. This way, they won't be able to sneak into the aisle. Also, store everything you'll need in the seat pockets or under your seat. Now, when your child needs items, you're ready.
Reward your kids every half-hour or so for good behavior. This strategy gives them an incentive for being mannerly. Rewards can even be old toys that haven't seen action for a while. Here are suggestions by age:
- toddlers: self-inking stamps, stickers, toys with buttons or flashing lights, stuffed animals
- ages 3–6: activity books, coloring books, sticker books, dolls, hand-held video games, self-contained art kits, portable DVD players and headsets
- age 7+: word search games, hand-held video games, books, MP3 players, iPads for movie viewing
For added incentive, you can wrap these presents in gift wrap so that the children can be excited about what they’ll find to occupy them next.
5. If finances allow, consider chartering a plane.
If you can afford a customized flight, a charter from a company like Silverhawk Aviation is the ultimate way to travel. You'll receive VIP service, along with unmatched ease and privacy. With an aircraft charter, you have total control over your travel mode, schedule, and destination. You can opt for a private plane or turboprop aircraft, departing whenever you wish. You also have more airports from which to choose, currently over 5,000 nationwide.
Boarding a charter is simple. Drive directly to the aircraft and have your luggage loaded. Step inside and settle in. That's it! You eliminate the steps of parking a car, checking baggage, and waiting at a ticket counter. You aren't subject to flight delays, layovers, and cancellations. You decide what amenities you'd like, requesting them through a charter service broker.
A turboprop plane suits flights of 3-4 hours, along with heavy loads and short landing strips. This craft is propeller-driven. A turbine engine powers the propeller, generating the force to move the plane. A turboprop has a capacity of two to eight passengers. A private jet doesn't use a propeller, relying solely on engine power. It can accommodate up to several hundred passengers and travel anywhere in the world.
Though no flight will be free of surprises, you can minimize angst by following these tips. Whatever your flying circumstances, try to stay upbeat. Think of the fun at your destination!
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.