Interview with Anya Clowers of Jet with Kids

I had the privilege of being able to ask Travel Comfort Specialist Anya Clowers, RN from Jet with Kids a few questions about traveling with children. Anya has been interviewed in:

The New York Times
The USA Today
ABC News
NBC Today
Web MD

as well as various other online resources. Her website and blog are chock full of helpful resources. You can also follow Jet with Kids on Facebook or Twitter.  Other links that may be of value are:
Make it comfortable
Entertaining kids on planes
Respecting others on planes

Enjoy her helpful tips about traveling with children.

1. What is the biggest mistake you see parents make when flying with young children?
Parents are busy making sure flights are on time, bag contents are airport security approved, and diapers are stocked. We sometimes get so busy we forget to guide our children through the process. Eliminating fears, explaining noises and scenes, and involving them at age appropriate levels at every step is important so they know what to expect and what is expected of them. (& recognizing that as kids change and grow new fears or issues may arise… even if they are frequent fliers!)

It’s ultra important to pack extra time into the itinerary to be able to encourage involved children. Airport and airplane books help start the conversation weeks before a trip from the comfort of home. I encourage parents to bring those same books along when traveling and read them again when the child can point to the objects they see in front of them – bringing the book to life! However, be realistic with travel day expectations. Too much “new and exciting” can also be overwhelming and backfire.

Don’t expect kids to wait in long lines with nothing to do, eat, or drink. Interact with them, play quiet games by observing the colors or suitcases nearby, and always have a back up plan when these things fail. A well timed video or soothing music with headphones may help bridge the gap. Think simple and distraction. A brown paper bag with markers and bandaids to decorate it are inexpensive and time consuming. (& new! Bandaids are not usually allowed as toys!)

The other thing often overlooked is recognition that tantrums are usually a result of some form of discomfort. Hungry, tired, dehydrated, restless, teething, or ill children will act out when their system is overloaded. Sometimes just taking a quiet moment to evaluate the situation can help parents to see the solution. Air travel often distracts parents and may result in parents missing windows of opportunity or signs a meltdown is on the way. Time and patience as well as involvement are key to successful flights with kids.

2. For many of us basketball wives, we end up traveling on our own with multiple children, what one tip would you give us to make the travel easier?
Remember, you know your children best, and every child is unique. Avoid looking at the “multiple” side of things and plan each child’s travel day individually. What does the oldest do best? What are they most sensitive to? What can they “help” with? Which child is most sensitive to noise? View them as “only” children when planning for their individual needs. Although they travel as a group, if their bags are packed for individual needs and the day is discussed planning what each child’s role will be, then the “team” will do well. On the other hand, lumping them all together as “a group of kids” is overwhelming and likely to short circuit the parent! Bring headphone splitters for multiple users.

3. We are also often making long international flights with multiple connections. In that time, it can be tough for our children to be perfectly behaved and quiet the entire time. When we reach a moment of a child having a meltdown and we have done all we can, what should we say to another passenger who is being “less than kind” towards being on the same plane with children?

Well first, we can’t expect kids to be perfect – and let’s face it, there are plenty of adults who are less than perfect on those incredibly long international days. There will always be people who don’t like to be near crying children. However, realize they too are probably tired and it’s always easier to hear our own child cry than someone else’s child simply because we understand the reason for the tears.

I know this may sound strange – but….Be sympathetic. I found my crabbiest hospital patients were the most unhappy inside. Once I understood their anger and crabbiness, I didn’t take their rude behavior personally. Instead I loved the challenge. Look at those crabby passengers as a challenge. Observe things from their viewpoint. They are tired and sick of traveling – maybe even have a headache or are sitting on an inflamed hemorrhoid. Give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t take their comments or looks personally. However, ignoring them may just increase tension in an already tense environment. Remember that laughter does wonders – even if on top of a screaming child. Break the tension… be creative… it will help you in the process!

I always recommend immediately establishing contact with passengers nearby when boarding. Make eye contact, smile, and tell them you will do your best to not interrupt their flight. Ask them to tell you if your child is kicking their seat or bothering them. This acknowledges respect.

Recognize that in cramped quarters reality is your child does affect others. Be kind. Bring a bag of earplugs or some chocolate. Offer to buy someone a drink on the plane if appropriate. My point is parents often just get offended by others not being kind. Turn it around. Reality is crying does affect the quality of travel for others. Reality is we choose to have kids and bring them on airplanes. Be kind. Although no parent enjoys a crying child, it is a sacrifice we accept as their parents. Expecting others to be as tolerant is not fair and only sets us up for disappointment. Many times others just want to know that parents will take responsibility for kids. They want parents to acknowledge that their kids are affecting them. They need comfort!

Take it to the unexpected level. Have your child make a small card with the outline of their handprint before the day of travel. Attach a sealed piece of candy and some individually wrapped ear plugs. On the card, write, “I have had a long day of travel. Are you sick of traveling too?” or something silly.

4. One of the problems I have run into in travel is that certain European airlines do not allow car seats on the plane. When this is your only option to getting to the city your husband is playing in, what do you suggest to offer the best safety measures available for your child?

This is a bit out of my expertise as I am not as familiar with European standards. However, this Fall I have a meeting in London with Virgin Atlantic and with the TUV in Germany so I will be better able to address these issues. But I am able to comment on one product I love and have used worldwide…

If a child is between 22-44lbs. the CARES harness will change the way you travel. It is literally one of my favorite travel products because of the incredible convenience, comfort, and safety it provides to my family. Do you want more info on this? I have used our CARES on airlines around the world.

According to inventor Louise Stoll, it can be used widely throughout Europe.
“The UK Civil Aviation Authority–(approves it), which means you can use it on any UK airline. It is also certified for all phases of flight by the US Federal Aviation restraint (FAA), and the aviation authorities of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Singapore and Israel. It is welcomed by nearly all the major airlines of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, as they generally recognize and honour the certification of the FAA.”

5. The list of what to pack on your website is a great resource and very extensive, but for women like me who are traveling with multiple children on my own, it can often be a bigger stress to have more things to take care of. What would be your top 3 essentials to pack in a child’s carry-on?

I often tell parents the most important things to pack in the carry on are products addressing illness. Never rely on airports or airlines to supply infant or children’s dose products.
1. CeraLyte after/during diarrhea or vomiting to prevent dehydration is ultra important for little ones,
2. Fever and pain reducer (ibuprofen or acetaminophen),
3. Consider EarPopper for kids 3-4yrs and older who suffer with ear issues when flying that don’t respond to yawning or swallowing.  The EarPopper turned my son’s cries into laughter and made me a lifelong believer!
*EarPopper is prescription in USA and over the counter everywhere else. Please note my position on the Advisory Board for Summit Medical, Inc. represents my belief in this product.
4. One last thing? I have had great success treating my son’s cold symptoms with Boiron Cold Calm and flu symptoms with Oscillococcinum (these are manufactured by a French company and popular in European pharmacies).

There are a lot of great products listed on my site, however, it is recommended to identify issues causing stress and specific needs for the family and then find “Products Worth Packing” according to your needs. Overpacking is never advised. Think quality versus quantity!

ERGObaby carriers can hold kids up to 40lbs. and traveling with this comfortable carrier is almost like traveling with an assistant! For infants, toddlers, and even some preschoolers- this ergonomically correct carrier keeps little ones nearby while mom is busy. Using the ERGObaby in airports and at destinations is a back and sanity saver! Naps, snacks, and people watching are great activities for the carriers- keeping little ones happy, safe, and close by. However, please note carriers and slings are NOT appropriate for use in flight as a restraint. Every passenger regardless of age should have their own seat belt. Nothing else is safe.

As mentioned earlier, CARES harness is fantastic for safety and eliminates hauling multiple car seats through airports -or facing car seats that don’t fit in cramped airplane rows!

Entertainment: Wikki Sticks, Wyzi Wipes, and Airplane Activity Kits are great for kids on airplanes.  A well stocked iPhone/iPod/iPad can hold favorite photo slideshows, apps for kids to “color” and games to play, fun with taking photos and video while on the plane, audiobooks, soothing music to sleep to or just block out all the noise and stimulation of travel, and of course when the time calls for it – a video of a favorite tv show or movie. Use the Mophie Juice Pack to bring along extra battery power!  Even if not normally allowed to watch television or videos, traveling for hours and hours is not a normal event for little ones. Sometimes a little assistance from a video will give all a breather.