Flying with kids who are prepared for airline travel takes the pressure off of you and is more fun for them. Get them excited about their trip while you show them what to expect on the ground and in the sky.
1. Count Down the DaysFlying with kids who are ready to explore the world begins weeks or even months before your trip. Start a countdown to your child's big adventure. Print a calendar, and hang it where he can see it. Also print a small piece of airplane clipart, and glue it to the day he'll travel on an airplane.
Every day, let him mark an X on the current day of his calendar. Have him count how many days are left until his plane takes off.
2. Make Airline TicketsCreate plane tickets for everyone who's going on on the plane. Print the names and seat numbers on each ticket.
Let him decorate the airplane tickets you've made together. Just be sure he knows he can't color the real ones!
3. Pack a SuitcaseHelp him pack a small bag to take on a pretend airplane ride. Stuffed animals, coloring books, some clothes and DVDs are just a few of the items he should put in his bag. Add in small electronics to explain the security process he'll be going through.
4. Set Up a Security CheckpointPut a small table on a basket. This will be the table at the security checkpoint.
Tell him he'll have to take off his shoes, unpack the electronics from his bag and remove any jewelry. Have him put everything in the basket and move the basket down the table just like you will at the airport.
5. Go Through SecurityNow he's ready to go through security by himself. Have him walk through a doorway.
Tell him that sometimes people have items the detectors pick up. When this happens, some travelers have to be manually scanned.
Use a rolling pin as a security wand. Show him how the security screen works. With his arms out from his side, wave the rolling pin around him. Let him know this won't hurt and won't touch him.
Security check complete! Gather everything from the basket and proceed to the plane.
6. Board Your FlightSet up chairs in rows just like a real airplane. Make sure there's a center aisle for him to walk down to find his seat.
Of course, no flight would be complete without passengers. Seat some of his stuffed animals on your plane to fill up your airplane.
Tape the seat numbers to each chair or place them underneath the chairs. He'll use the tickets you made together to find his seat.
7. Simulate a FlightNow that he's safe in his seat and ready for takeoff, it's time to simulate a flight. Takeoff and landing can feel a little rough, especially to kids. It can be scary with the noise, vibrations, the feel of the plane leave the ground and ears popping as you ascend into the sky.
Give him a taste of this experience so he'll be more comfortable on a real flight. Slightly shake his chair to act out the takeoff process. Ease his chair back to demonstrate the plane going up into the sky.
The more you make it a game, the less he'll be scared when the plane's racing down the runway.
8. Enjoy Snack TimeWith your plane safely in the sky, serve up a snack. Use a tray to offer all of the passengers a snack, stuffed animals included.
Get him settled with a snack and airplane activities. He should understand he'll have to stay in his seat through most of the flight.
9. Take a Bathroom BreakIt never fails. The potty calls at the highest altitude.
Take a mock bathroom break. Get up from your seats and walk to a small closet in your home. The cramped quarters will give him a good feel for the lavatories on the plane.
10. Visit an AirportHe's quickly becoming a seasoned traveler at home. But how will he react on the actual day his plane takes off, when travelers are hurrying past him with their bags and the many sights and sounds of the airport are bombarding those tiny eyes and ears?
Visit an airport at least once before your travel date. You can't go all the way to your gate, of course, but you can sit and watch all of the action together. He'll get a preview of what an airport is like so he's not overwhelmed the day he travels.
Watch planes take off. See travelers walk through security. Look at the monitors to find flight information. Every activity you do now will get him one step closer to becoming a traveling pro.