Summer vacation is here! Outside of the holidays, this is the biggest traveling season, and that means there are going to be a lot of first-time travelers headed out on their first adventures. ParkDIA wants to help you take the stress out of traveling with children by giving you some tips to keep them focused on the experience over getting scared by all the new sights and sounds.
How Does The Airport Work
There is a lot going on in an airport, which can be overwhelming for a first time flyer. In airports with lots of interesting sculptures and artwork like in DIA, standing in line at check-in or through TSA will be particularly boring. Break up the wait by explaining to your child why you’re in the line with playing easy waiting games, like Eye Spy or with a homemade Bingo board of common airport objects so they have something to do while they wait with you.
There are also a lot of interesting things to see at the airport while you’re waiting that your child might be interested in seeing. Tell them your gate number and have them help you find your gate. If you have time before your flight, walk around the airport to show them different things they need to know about or might be interested to see. Show them where they can find the airport call phones in case they get separated. Introduce them to a flight attendant at a gate (as long as they aren’t boarding a plane) and talk to your child about what flight attendants do. There may even be a play area somewhere in your terminal for your child to relax, and if not, finding a bird inside will probably get a giggle out of your kiddo.
Walking your child through the airport will help them start to understand how airports work and what they should be looking for. When kids grow up, they can use these skills to navigate the airport without having to worry because you already taught them where they need to go.
The Plane & Funny Feelings
Even for grown-ups, the gut drop from takeoff can be a little scary. A kid is going to be more than a little weirded out the first time the plane pushes off and suddenly their tummies flip. Prepare your child for the experience they’ll go through during the flight, from the loud roaring of the engines and speed up of takeoff to the rushing wind around the plane and sudden bump of landing.
Once your child has a good understanding of what the flight’s start and end will be like, make sure they know you’re right there when they get scared. Offer to hold their hand and give light squeezes for reassurances. If their ears start to pop, walk them through holding their breath and then releasing the pressure. For kids not afraid of heights, you can use the scene outside the window to distract them with trying to point out familiar places. Or remind them that your flight attendants will be coming through with the snacks and, usually, wings to pin on for your child to brag about getting to go on a trip.
Let Them Help You Pack
While it may be faster to do the packing yourself, giving your child a chance to help you pack will help them become a better traveler. For one, they get to pick what they want to take on the trip and have a conversation about where they’re going, which can make them more excited about the trip. This means they’ll be more eager, even if they’re scared, with going through the airport and flying.
Two, it helps teach your child the concept of living in a smaller space, or with a smaller amount of things, which living out of a suitcase requires. Remind your child that they will only have what they put in their suitcase and to take things that are important and that any hotels you stay at while you’re traveling, they’ll have to be able to fit everything back into their suitcase. If you plan on picking up souvenirs on your trip, suggest leaving a little space for any surprises they might find while you’re traveling.
A Miniature Passport
Even if you’re just traveling local, having some kind of passport or travel journal can help get your child excited about their adventures. Whether this is a physical journal that they can get stamped or put notes in or a digital one for collecting photos along the trip, you’re giving your child something to build up and to hold onto for memories as they travel more. You could also use this to collect plane tickets or wing pins to make scrapbooks for a family photo book for big or international trips.
If you’re going somewhere different from where you live, this can also be a good place to put information your child will find useful. For instance, if you’re going to another country where English isn’t the most spoken language, you can try putting in a few phrases like “Where’s the bathroom?” or “Thank you!” that your child can practice on the flight and use when you’re traveling abroad. This can also be a fun way to teach your child about the country you’re visiting and get them excited about learning about people from other places around the world.
Whenever you and your first-time flyers travel, don’t worry about where you’ll leave your car. ParkDIA will give you some peace of mind as you and your family travel together. Make a reservation today and focus on what really matters about your trip.