On a good day, air travel alone is stressful. Bring a child or two into the equation, and you’re close to reaching critical mass. From meltdowns in the security line to a child vomiting in my lap, I’ve seen it all. (Trust me when I tell you that shopping for clothes in an airport is not nearly as fun as it sounds.)
Aside from arriving early and loading the iPad with movies and games, these six tips will make your travels less stressful.
Two in diapers?
Carry on two diaper bags. This may sound silly, but when you are sitting at the front of the plane with your chosen child and your husband is at the back with his, you will thank me.
Snacks, snacks, snacks, pack snacks
The peanuts, pretzels and overpriced snack boxes will not cut it. So bring stuff they will want to eat to avoid a tired, hungry, crabby meltdown.
Also, bring a water bottle for your child — one with a sport top, so your child has to suck to get the water out — great for blocked ears. (Just be sure to empty the contents of the water bottle before going through security!) Once on board, the flight attendants will usually put a “complimentary beverage” of your child’s choice in the bottle.
Consider your seat neighbors and go old school: Pack activity books and coloring books, paper for drawing, colored pencils or crayons, books, a small favorite stuffed toy and a blankie. My girls are able to fit their travel items including snacks (I told you about the snacks, right?) into their Benjamin backpacks.
Long layovers and delays
Before you travel, do an internet search to see if the airport(s) you are going to have child play areas. You may not feel like you have time to do this, but do it! There is nothing like letting your kids blow off steam before a long flight.
Checking all that baby stuff and those cursed baggage fees
Contact your airline to find out what are considered “baby items” that will fly for free. Don’t be afraid to planeside check your stroller. Do you know how big a BOB Duallie is? Well, it’s a behemoth! And guess what: I have had zero problems taking it through security and checking it planeside.
There is no one magic trick for this situation. I have had two screaming at once for what seemed like hours! Add to this the people who are staring at you. To soothe ear pain, you can try a pacifier, nursing, sucking on a bottle or — if your child is older — a water bottle.
Keep cool. Pay no mind to the other people who look at you annoyed. Smile and just give your child love and comfort. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.
The Transportation Security Administration has more useful advice for parents on its website.