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Airline Travel with Children


When our son was 16 months old, my husband Matt and I traveled to Thailand. My father had been living in Asia for a number of years. Other than an occasional visit stateside, we realized the only way grandfather and grandson would have a chance to spend some quality time together was for us to travel half-way around the world.

Crazy, you say? Not really. Actually, it was a wonderful time with my husband, our young son Christopher and my dad. Other than photographs, Christopher has no recollection of the exotic travel he experienced. Matt and I, however, still welcome the memories when the three of us flew for 23 hours in order to visit my father.

Parents believe that traveling with very young children can be overly nerve-wracking. The longer the flight, the more obstacles parents have to tackle. Sadly, for this reason, many parents forgo air travel anywhere until they decide their children are "old enough". It doesn't have to be this way. Here are six tips to help out:

1. Flight timing
Look for flights when either your child will be sleeping or during off-peak, less crowded times. When traveling to Thailand, we boarded a plane at 2am. Yes, you read that correctly. Our toddler was awake and alert when we checked in and boarded. He was fast asleep the second the engines turned on.


2. Ears Pop
Cabin pressure during a flight causes ears to pop, and it's painful - even for adults. I always chew gum during takeoff and landing. Nursing or offering a bottle during these times helps soothe this ear pain as swallowing can relieve the pressure. When our expanded family of four headed to Disneyland with a five year old son and two year old daughter, Christopher enjoyed his first stick of gum. Our daughter Jaimia, while being weaned off her pacifier at the time, was excited that during take-off and landing she could get her pacifier fix.


3. Terminals were made for walking.
Children like to explore. If you have a layover, or are even just waiting to board the plane, walk toddlers and children around the gate area. Bring them to a play space, if the airport terminal has one. Helping young ones burn off all their energy and excitement before boarding can lead to less fuss during flight.

4. Opt for a bigger bathroom
Try your best to take your children to the bathroom just before boarding. The time from boarding until the seat belt light is off indicating it's safe to move about the cabin can be lengthy (especially if your flight gets delayed on the tarmac). Bathrooms in airport terminals are much larger than those on a plane. Utilize the space, and the time you have, by using the restrooms just before boarding. Your kids will then be more likely to make it until a restroom is available again.

5. Kids get carry-ons.
Be sure to pack a small carry-on with comfort toys, snacks, water, games, books, and digital devices. These items are easy to play with but won't disturb anyone sitting near them. Our children had colorful stacking cups that ensured enough distraction so we could have a conversation and maybe relax a little. Be sure to check battery life on your devices and that headphones work before they are packed.

6. Do apologize to fellow passengers
If your child becomes disruptive (kicking a seat, bopping a head), be sure to remedy the troublesome behavior and apologize to the recipient. Don't feel, however, that you have to apologize profusely for a crying or upset child. You can acknowledge the difficulty they may be having with an initial apology. As long as you are actively trying to quiet an upset child, other passengers shouldn't be glaring at you. Truly, they should be empathizing with you as you make every attempt to help your child to be more calm.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Lisa Plancich. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Plancich. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lisa Plancich for details.

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