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10 Genius Strategies for Stress-Free Air Travel With Children

Flying with your children — especially if they’re little — can be frustrating, to say the least. There are long lines at the airport, and kids can get antsy and whiny. Then there’s the prospect of a long flight to contend with. (Remember, even a couple of hours can seem like an eternity to a small child who might be feeling a little airsick, scared or just bored silly!)

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to make the journey a little less nerve-wracking for both you and your children. Here are 10 strategies used by seasoned parents (including airline professionals like flight attendants) that can make your travel day a lot more palatable and even, dare we say, enjoyable …

Leave the Family Car at Home and Hire a Chauffeur Service

  • Loading up the family car with luggage, navigating traffic and then having to find parking — not to mention schlepping through the airport with baggage and kids in tow — is not exactly a relaxing way to begin your trip. A smarter option is to hire a chauffeur service. The driver always helps with loading and unloading the luggage and will drop you off right in front of the terminal, eliminating a huge amount of stress right from the get-go.

Arrive Early

  • The last thing you need is to be caught in the ultra-stressful position of trying to run to the gate to board the plane with kids and carry-on baggage in tow. Arriving early also allows you time to buy pre-flight treats and make it to the bathroom before boarding starts.

Request Seats In Between Rows 10 and 30

  • Try to secure “wing” seats for you and your kids. Why? “A seat directly over the wings(typically found in rows 10 to 30) is your best option to reduce the sensation of turbulence”, says Dr. Quay Snyder, the president of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service. That’s because the area over the wings is the most stable part of the plane, he contends. The front of the plane is your next-best bet, although that area can experience some bumpiness in landings where the front wheels touch down first.

Take Advantage of the Early Boarding Perk

  • Airlines typically invite people traveling with children to board the plane early, which gives you the opportunity to stow your carry-on baggage before the bins turn into “prime real estate” and get your kids settled in their seats, trays down and coloring or sticker books at the ready. Ian Mendes, writing for Today’s Parent, somewhat wryly refers to early the boarding privilege as the “only known benefit to traveling with small children”!

Bring Snacks But Buy the Juice or Milk AfterYou’ve Cleared Security

  • There’s nothing like a treat to keep a kid quiet, at least for as long as it takes her to devour it. Stuff some special treats (meaning those they are rarely allowed to indulge in) into your purse or carry on and dispense them when kids start to get antsy or grumpy. One caveat: Wait until you’re through security to buy juice boxes or cartons of chocolate milk since any you bring with you will be confiscated at the security checkpoint! (i.e., The “no liquids” rule applies here.) By the way, be sure to include chewing gum in your snack arsenal for kids who are old enough since it’ll help clear their ears as the cabin pressure changes, possibly eliminating whining and crying over the odd sensation.

Entertainment is a Must

  • Bring along activities that your children really like to do. New toys, gadgets and activity books a-plenty should keep them occupied for quite some time. (The key here is the fact that they’re new. Make them seem even more special by wrapping them up or putting them in a gift bag, just be sure to bring along an empty plastic bag to stow the wrappings and stuff them back into your carry on bag.) For babies and toddlers, be sure to bring along their “blanket” or favorite stuffed animal and maybe even a bottle of juice for comfort’s sake.

Arrange a Trip to the Cockpit

  • Most kids from aged two through eight or so will be fascinated by a trip to the cockpit and a chance to meet the flight crew. As long as the pilot and flight crew aren’t preoccupied with bad weather, they’re usually willing to accommodate the request. Check with your flight attendant about the possibility, since it can make a young child more interested in the whole flight experience and can even allay some of their fears.

Take Care of Trips to the Potty BeforeYou Board

  • Be sure to insist on a trip to the airport restroom before you board the plane. Once on the plan, be mindful of how much you’re giving your child to drink since this could necessitate a trip to the teeny-tiny plane bathroom, which might not even be available when you need it! And if you’re traveling with a baby, be sure to bring plenty of diapers since most airlines don’t stock them for parents who forget about this all-important detail!

Consider a Kid-Free Zone for One Parent

  • This may sound a bit odd, but you should consider reserving one seat a few rows away from the rest of the family. This seat can be occupied by one parent for part of the flight and the other parent for another part. This allows each parent to take a breather from supervising kids and trying to keep them calm and quiet. People who regularly fly with their children say that this idea can be a sanity saver.

Book an Early Flight

    This is one flying with kids tip that more than one expert agrees on. If you book an “early bird” flight, it’s often less crowded, for one thing. Then there’s the “nap factor”. When you wake kids up well before their usual rise and shine time, they’re likely to be tired (and okay, a little grouchy and whiny). But — and this is key: They’re more likely to fall asleep on the plane if they’re still tired and in need of more rest. The longer they sleep on the plane, the better flight is likely to be for you and for other passengers as well! Another good reason to fly in the early morning? According to airline pilots, the morning air is generally less turbulent that it is later in the day. Apparently, it’s the heat on the ground that causes bumpy air. Thunderstorms are also more likely to occur in the afternoon, which is yet another reason to book a morning flight when you’re flying with kids who might be prone to air sickness in turbulent air.

Flying with your kids might not be something you look forward to, but there’s no question that a little strategic preparedness can make the whole experience a lot easier for everyone involved — that means you, your kids, the flight crew and your fellow passengers!

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