We've all been there -- the crowded flight, the screaming kid, the glares directed at the parent. Flying with your children can be one of the most stressful things you have to do as a parent. But it doesn't have to be a nightmare.
With the proper preparation and the right mindset, you can not only survive an airplane flight with your little one or little ones, you might even be able to walk off the airplane with your head held high and passengers saying,"Your child was so good!"
The first key to keeping kids comfortable on an airplane flight is to look at it from their perspective. Flying isn't a fun activity for most adults, and we're used to waiting, sitting still and maintaining our composure for long stretches of time.
Keep Them Entertained
Pack anything fits in a carry-on bag that will help keep your child entertained for as long as possible. That means toys, coloring books, reading books, stuffed animals, dolls, interactive learning toys, DVD players, MP3 or other music players --whatever you have that works. If you can afford it, buy some new toys, books, DVDs or music just for the flight.
Don't bring them all out at once, though. Bring out one item at a time for your child to play with. Some parents wrap up new items and give them to their kids to open at different stages during the flight.
Bring Lots of Food and Drinks
Don't count on the airline to have what your child needs to eat and drink. Bring along lots of healthy snacks to eat during the flight, including crackers, raisins, dry cereal and fruit snacks. If they're old enough, give them gum to chew on to help with air pressure changes after takeoff and before landing. If they're still drinking from the bottle or nursing, the sucking motion can also help relieve pressure problems.
Flying can dehydrate both children and adults. Make sure your child keeps drinking throughout the flight. Bring a sippy cup or bottle and keep it filled with water or milk.
Get Their Attention
When the toys get old and they're not hungry, play lots of games. Work hard to keep your child focused on something besides getting into mischief. Maybe it's "I Spy," "Peek-a-Boo" or "20 Questions," or maybe it's talking about how an airplane works or what you can see from the window.
Eventually, your child is going to have to move around. Walking up and down the airplane isn't always possible, but kids just aren't cut out for sitting still for hours, so get up and move around with them when you can. Just make sure that they're respectful of the other passengers.
Bring Something Familiar
Familiar blankets, pacifiers, stuffed animals and other comfort items can be essential tools for calming down a frustrated child. Bring backups in case you lose one or it gets left behind. You don't want a temper tantrum on the plane because a blanket was left at the gate.
Even if your kids doesn't need a favorite toy or other familiar item, pack a travel blanket and pillow to help them get as warm and comfortable as possible in their seats. Also, come prepared with some infant pain reliever, in case of ear pain or other discomfort.
A sleeping child is a happy child. Sometimes the best thing you can do to make your kid on a flight is to schedule it for his or her sleep time. This may mean a "red eye" flight or one that takes place during regular nap time.
If your child does fall asleep, you should do the same, if possible. A few minutes' nap can help you recharge your batteries so you can stay focused on your child when he or she wakes up and wants something to do. If you can't sleep, close your eyes, let your mind go blank and relax.
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- Wallace, Kim. "How to enjoy a plane trip with young children." BabyCenter. 2010. (May 20, 2010) http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-enjoy-a-plane-trip-with-young-children_65317.bc
- Child Development Institute. "Airplane Travel with a Baby." 2010. (May 20, 2010) http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/Airplane-Travel-Baby.shtml
- Family Education. "Airplane Travel with the Kids." 2010. (May 20, 2010) http://life.familyeducation.com/parenting/family-travel/45321.html