Traveling with little kids on an airplane or in a big, unfamiliar city can be a daunting task. In today’s post, we’ll discuss tips to help your next airplane ride and public transportation experience with children go more smoothly. Chasing kids around the airport while you wait to board the plane can be exercise in itself. However, if you still find yourself chronically feeling stiff and sore with traveling due to the extended time sitting, continue reading further in today’s post for four simple ways to keep your body moving and feeling well while at the airport.
Most people are aware that children fly for free under the age of two. However, do you know the laws regarding car seat usage and what you are permitted and not permitted to do on airplanes? No car seat is required. In fact, if you would like your under two-year-old to use a car seat, you are required to purchase their own ticket. If you aren’t willing to pay the extra $200-500/seat cost for your child who will most likely be on your lap anyways, gait checking the car seat is a nice option, but this depends on your personal risk tolerance.
Pro-mama traveler tip: always ask the airline when you arrive at your gait if there are any extra seats on the plane. If there are, the airline worker may accommodate by moving your seat in order to be adjacent to the empty seat. If you receive this blessing of extra space, consider taking the car seat with you instead of gait checking it after all. Not only is this the safer option, but having the option to buckle in your little one can be a lifesaver, especially for a busy infant who refuses to sit still despite all bribery with snacks or screen time.
It is also a good idea to check your destination’s car seat availability prior to packing for departure. If you will be renting a car upon arrival, explore your options for reserving and renting a car seat from the car rental place. If a shuttle service is provided from the airport to a resort for example, they may have an option to reserve a car seat ahead of time too. Is there availability for the type of seat you will need, and what is the cost? This could save you unnecessary stress and soreness from hauling around car seats through a busy airport.
It is also wise to check your destination’s car seat laws prior to leaving. If you are planning to use public transportation during your trip, subways and busses do not require your child to be in a car seat. Law in many states exempt taxi cabs from the car seat laws that apply to normal vehicle travel too. Use your best judgement though if you’re willing to take the risk of car-seat free travel in states that allow it. If you choose to do this, it is always better to buckle your child in their own seatbelt. Placing your child on your lap to buckle them is NOT a safe solution. Therefore, the only reasonable option for a small infant would be a rear-facing carseat. Even though the law may not require it, I feel your child should absolutely be in carseat in a taxi, with a driver you don’t know.
However, the modern traveler will most likely be using Uber or Lyft, and these transportation services do require that you adhere to the state’s child safety restraint laws. In some cities, they offer car seats for an additional charge, but most will require you to bring your own. Plan ahead by researching your location as this is not nation-wide, and drivers could (and should) refuse to provide transportation service to families with young children without car seats. For more great tips on car seats and travel, check out this 3-part post from Trips with Tykes.
If you chose to bring a car seat, whether it is to adhere to the law or for your own peace of mind, consider this tip. The infant bucket seat is much lighter than a convertible car seat. If your son or daughter is less than the maximum fit (for example, the Chicco Keyfit30 infant seat allows your child to use it until they are 30 inches or 30 pounds), consider bringing it on your next flying adventure. Even if they’ve already transitioned out of it for at-home travel, they may be able to tolerate it short-term during your trip. With a car seat adapter, it can easily be placed in a stroller. Strollers, like car seats, are free to gait check. Pushing a stroller can also give you added carrying/storage space.
Although I highly recommend using a stroller in an airport to contain your children (one of its many benefits), it is not feasible to use strollers at some destinations. For example, it wasn’t practical for me to bring a stroller with me when I flew to New York City solo with my infant daughter. The excessive amounts of stairs and busy, crowded sidewalks were not ideal for stroller navigation. In this scenario, consider baby wearing your child. The ergo 360 carrier is perfect for front or back carrying. There is even an infant insert for babies less than 4 months old. When flying as a single parent, I’d suggest carrying your child on your front and a backpack (diaper bag belongings) on your back. This will free up your hands to roll your suitcase through the airport. Place the infant bucket seat upside down over top of the handle of the rolling suitcase. No need to worry about hauling along the clunky car seat base. It is acceptable, to use the seat belt in the vehicle to secure the rear-facing bucket seat in place.
For older kids or larger infants, a convertible car seat might be your only option. Wearing a backpack to carry the car seat is usually the better choice than carrying in hand as it allows you to use your hands better to get through security more easily. This carseat carrying bag allows you to carry your car seat on your back.
Once at the airport, finding a “less busy” waiting area, even if it is a little ways from your gait, will allow your children to move more freely with less worry of disturbing others. It’s important to let them (safely) explore their environment, under very close supervision. They need to stretch out their bodies just YOU do (more on that in just a moment). “Exercise” for children may look differently depending on their age and interests. It may be laying out a blanket for your infant to kick their legs or do tummy time on. It could also be a hand-held walk around the terminal with your two-year old to check out each gait’s airplanes through the airport’s windows. Be cautious of using screen time to pass the waiting time though. Save this for the airplane when their bodies are restrained and they are forced to sit still. Their bodies desire to move around just as much or more as our bodies do as adults.
Most of us know that much-desired craving for a “good stretch” after a long day of traveling. This is especially important if you arrive early at the airport (which is highly recommended when traveling as a family). Since it’s not feasible to pack a big, clunky foam roller to keep your muscles loose and relaxed like mentioned in this post about foam rolling, try sneaking in these four stretches the next time you find yourself with extra time at the airport. They will help to combat that feeling of stiffness and prevent becoming sore from the extra time sitting.
Four Simple Exercises: Do these next time you find yourself at the airport to prevent much dreaded travel soreness and keep you feeling well
1.) Heel raises
Heel raises are a simple exercise with a big return because they are easy to sneak in anytime, anywhere. Heel raises exercise your calf muscles, specifically your gastrocnemius. Additionally, they decrease your risk of developing a blood clot, or DVT (deep vein thrombosis). By contracting your muscles around the deep veins that run through your lower leg, the muscles act as a “pump” forcing blood back up to your heart. This prevents it from pooling in your lower leg, the most common site of blood clots. This exercise is especially important when flying during pregnancy. Because of the extra blood flow in your body while pregnant, you are at a higher risk of developing a blood clot. This is easy to do while you stand in line waiting to board your plane. Three sets of ten repetitions is a traditional exercise prescription, but depending on how long your line is, you may be able to accomplish many more than that. Just prepare to be sore the next day if you are not typically physically active. Compression socks, walking at each lay-over, and seated ankle pumps/ankle circles on your flight are other ways to lower your risk of developing a blood clot.
2.) True Hip Flexor Stretch
Stretching out the hip flexors, the muscles on the front of the hip, after a day of traveling, is vital because prolonged sitting puts these muscles in a shortened position. This tends to lead to muscle stiffness. In the spirit of avoiding drawing attention to yourself in the airport, let’s consider how we can discretely address this with a kneeling stretch. Place your jacket, neck travel pillow or anything soft you may have with you on the floor and safely lower one knee down to this cushion. Place the foot of your opposite leg in front of your down knee. This knee should be bent at 90 degrees. Kneel tall, squeeze your glute (buttocks) on the side of the down knee. Slowly lean forward at your hips shifting wait into the leg with the foot down. Ensure you “stay tall” by maintaining a flat back to maximize the safety and effectiveness of this stretch. Try leaning forward gently ten times, then on the last repetition, hold for ten seconds. Repeat on the opposite side for up to three times. If this is too mild, progress this stretch by reaching back and lifting the foot (on the side with the knee down) off the ground.
3.) Hamstrings – Seated Lean or Standing Leg Prop
Another muscle group that is notorious for getting “tight” from prolonged sitting with your hips and knees at 90 degrees is the hamstring muscle, the back of your upper leg. If there is a nice quiet area, you may be interested in trying the leg prop stretch. Carefully lift one leg up onto a chair in the waiting area. If needed, hold onto a nearby wall to aid your balance. Keeping your chest out, standing tall, slowly lean forward at your hips. Try leaning slightly outward, then slightly inward/across your body. If you’d rather be more discrete, try this seated lean stretch. Sit on the edge of your seat. Extend one leg out straight, and pull your toes up towards you. Keeping your chest out, sitting tall, slowly lean forward at your hips. Try leaning slightly outward, then slightly inward/across your body. Similar to the hip flexor stretch, lean ten times, then hold for ten seconds. Repeat on the opposite side for up to three times per side for each of these dynamic hamstring stretches.
4.) Pelvic tilts
Lastly, due to the innate nature that pregnancy, labor and delivery takes on our bodies as mothers, you must be mindful of your pelvic posture. Prolonged sacral sitting or sitting slouched back with the majority of your weight on your tailbone can lead to increased low back pain or even radiating discomfort from an irritated disc (pain or numbness/tingling that extends from your low back down your leg). Pelvic tilts can be performed in seated, standing, or laying down. Place your hands on your hip bones so your thumb is in back and your pointer finger is in front. Roll your hips forward so your thumb moves up and you increase the arch in your low back. This is an anterior, or forward, pelvic tilt. Next, roll your hips backwards by contracting your abdominal and buttock muscles. Your thumb should lower down as your lower back flattens. This is a posterior, or backwards, pelvic tilt. Hold each for two-three seconds and repeat ten times. If one position relieves your discomfort better than the other, focus on working into that position and coming back to neutral.
What’s better at passing the time than people watching at an airport? People watching and getting in some much desired movement for your traveling body. If you aren’t comfortable trying these four stretches in public, simply get up and walk while you wait. Your mind and body will thank you if you chose to walk around the airport as you wait instead of sitting while you wait to sit in the plane shortly.
If you’re still motivated to take a trip with your family after considering all the planning it may take, hopefully these tips will help make your next airplane ride and public transportation experience with children go more smoothly. Although you may be able to stay active chasing your kids around alone, the four stretches listed above are a bonus to helping keep your body feeling better so you can move better. Ultimately this will allow you to mom better too.
Photo credit to www.hep2go.com