If you are interested in aviation, sooner or later there will come a day when you will want to take your children with you to an airshow. When you think about it, taking the kids to an airshow or fly-in is not much different than taking them to the fair or shopping at the mall. The better your planning and preparation, the better the day will be for all involved.
GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
A good pair of walking shoes is a must. You will probably be spending a lot of time walking on asphalt. Make sure the insoles are in good condition. Socks should be worn to avoid blisters.
If you have young children, a stroller or wagon is a must. There is a lot of ground to cover at these shows and the kids will tire quickly. Make sure the stroller is in good shape and can navigate over different kinds of terrain. Be wary about taking the stroller into confined spaces, such as display hangars, because they can be difficult to maneuver.
Wear sunglasses and keep them on a lanyard so they will stay around your neck.
You’ll also want everyone in the family to wear hats, also on lanyards so they won’t go very far if blown off by prop wash or a stiff breeze.
Wear comfortable clothing, preferably cotton. Dress in layers. Many families dress all their children in the same color to make identification in a large crowd easier.
Wear clothes you can get into and out of easily when nature calls (remember the limited space inside the Portalets). Some children will balk at using the Portalets. See if there is an indoor facility, such as at an FBO or a museum on the grounds, that you can use during the show. Also be prepared to help your children wash (or sanitize) their hands. Often the water or sanitizer is too high for young children to reach. Best bet? Keep moist towelettes in your bag.
Find the changing stations for the kids before you need them, or pack your own in the form of baby wipes, hand sanitizer, travel size toiletries and a small tarp or poncho to use as a changing table.
Have your name and your cell phone number written on belongings so if you lose something, there is a better chance of getting it back. Make sure each of your children knows your cell phone number. If they are too young to remember the number, find some place to write it down (a shoelace is a good place — your child knows it’s there, but strangers can’t find it easily).
Point out airshow officials or volunteers (who are often wearing an “official” T-shirt) to your children and tell them to go to them or a police officer if they are separated from you. Also, locate the First Aid station or the Lost and Found building and let children know they can go there if they are lost.
Designate a meeting place inside the show grounds for the end of the day, preferably away from the exit gates since every one will be heading that way and it may be difficult to find each other in the crowd.
Also, keep track of your cell phone – you wouldn’t believe how many people lose them at shows. It’s really easy to set it down when looking at a product at an exhibit and then walk away without picking it up.
Bring a lightweight rain poncho. Even if it doesn’t rain you can use it as a seat to avoid grass rash during the airshow and as an emergency changing table if your children are still in diapers.
Earplugs are a must. Those jets are loud and can do damage to your hearing. Children, especially, are sensitive to the noise, but it can be a challenge to get kids to wear ear plugs (or keep them in). If you attend lots of airshows, you might consider child-sized headsets to block the noise.
Apply sun block liberally and frequently. Try to use the highest protection factor you can find. Don’t forget to get the back of the neck, ears, and backs of legs.
Use lip balm to protect from chapped lips.
If you carry a conventional backpack, wear it on both shoulders. Slinging it over one shoulder only invites back pain. Before you enter a Portalet make sure all pockets are zippered and Velcroed shut. If the Portalet door has a hook on the inside, hang the pack on that while you answer the call of nature. Be wary about placing the pack on the floor or behind the seat.
Limit the contents of your wallet to only what you need for that day, such as cash, identification and perhaps one credit card. Also limit what’s on your key ring. If you lose either of these items there is less to replace.
PLAN YOUR DAY
Get a map of the grounds. Note where the First Aid and Lost and Found are in the event you need them.
Visit the exhibits in the hangars early in the day, since the temperature in the buildings rises rapidly and is usually 10° hotter than outside.
Plan your visit to the flight line well before the airshow.
Think carefully before buying an item or picking up the pencils, posters and other hand-outs from the exhibitors (children especially love to see how much stuff they can collect during the day).
Whatever you pick up you will have to carry. If you are flying home, remember you’ll have to figure the weight of all your purchases into your weight and balance calculations.
Try to avoid walking and talking on your cell phone at the same time. Your lack of attention could put you in the path of a golf cart or another pedestrian — not to mention a moving airplane.
When the sun is at its zenith, rest in the shade. Do not forget to stretch your legs.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Try to avoid sugary drinks as they increase your thirst.
Carry a small first aid kit. It should contain aspirin or Ibuprofen, Band-Aids, tissue paper (in case the Portalets run out), anti-diarrhea medicine, antacid and hand cleaner. Moist towelettes are also useful.
If it is allowed, bring your own snacks, such as dried fruit and Cheerios.
You may want to think about keeping the kids on tethers. Attach one end to the kid, the other to a responsible adult. Better safe than sorry.
Also, take some time before the show to teach your children how to behave around airplanes. Tell them no touching and no climbing. A little time spent before the airshow on proper etiquette can ensure a good time for you and your children.
Lastly, have fun! Most children delight in being around airplanes. Let their new-found wonder reenergize your love of aviation.