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Some kids are good at baseball, some enjoy video games and some are simply born to fly.
Travel doesn’t have to stop when kids come along. In fact, an airplane can quickly become a familiar second home for young flyers who are always on the go with their jetsetting parents. After just a few flights, you might even notice your kids have transformed from being novice travelers to little expert frequent flyers.
Think your child is a tiny traveling pro? Consider this the litmus test.
1. Your child’s first passport photo was taken before they could even sit up.
If you want to leave the country with your baby, he or she will need their very own passport. For my family, that meant taking a passport photo of our baby when she was just two weeks old and resting on a white sheet. It’s a little funny when a four-year-old’s passport photo is still from before they could even raise their head, but it works just fine for US Customs and Border Protection agents.
2. Your baby received a frequent flyer account the day they were born.
Some international frequent flyer programs require children to be at least two years old before they can earn their own miles, but most programs within the United States allow you to open frequent flyer accounts for babies as soon as they are born. What better way to pass the time getting ready to be discharged from the hospital after giving birth than by opening up baby’s first frequent flyer account? (And yes, we absolutely did this.)
3. Your kids know the cardinal rules of flying.
Frequent flying tots are first taught three key commandments for commercial flights: Thou shall not cry on the airplane; thou shall not kick the seat in front of you; and thou shall always use headphones. Once your children have internalized these three rules, the rest is smooth sailing.
4. Your child’s collection of airplane wings is museum-worthy.
Several airlines still hand out little wings to junior frequent flyers (usually without the safety pins these days), and if your child travels often enough, he or she can quickly acquire a rather impressive collection of airplane wings — perfect for bedroom displays or show-and-tell.
5. Your toddler earned airline elite status before they could spell ‘elite’.
Kids can earn frequent flyer miles and elite status in most US programs just like the rest of us. With enough flights, your junior flyer may earn an airline’s elite status before he or she can even spell the word ‘elite’. Thanks to elite status, my oldest child has even scored her own upgrades on United, much to the amusement of some gate agents. As a fun perk, Alaska Airlines lets children with elite status fly as unaccompanied minors for no extra fee, since they are already little traveling pros.
6. Your kid thinks every airplane seat converts to a lie-flat bed.
Once your little one gets used to flying in international long-haul premium cabins where the seats transform into lie-flat beds, they may assume this is true of all airplane seats (and may even ask a Southwest flight attendant to turn convert their seat for nap time). During one phase, we had to prepare our oldest daughter in advance when our airplane seats could not lie-flat, to avoid her making embarrassing onboard requests.
7. Your child’s favorite white noise setting at bedtime is jet engine.
Forget falling asleep on a car ride — frequent flying kids may get their best sleep on an airplane. If you want to replicate the sweet sound of a Boeing 737 at home, download a white noise app and find the airplane or jet engine setting. You’re welcome.
8. Your kid treats turbulence like a theme park ride.
Turbulence doesn’t have to be scary. Tiny travelers who have experienced the sensation from an early age may even enjoy the occasional in-flight bumps and drops, seeing them as a bonus mid-air roller coaster ride.
9. Your child recognizes airports by the play areas or lounges with family rooms.
Many airports and airport lounges have spaces dedicated to children — and children really do memorize these spaces (and look forward to returning to their favorites). My daughter obsessed about the play areas at the airport in Edinburgh for years after that trip. The network of Amex Centurion Lounges is also great for families, as several of the lounges have dedicated family rooms with toys, TVs, video games and other diversions.
10. Your kid is on their second (or third) junior aviator logbook.
Whether you use a physical junior aviator logbook given to you by an airline to log your child’s flights, or you track them online with sites like myFlightradar24, a junior frequent flyer is guaranteed to fill up their pages in no time at all.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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