Family Air Travel Tips

The holiday season is fast-approaching, and for many people that means travel. If you're one of the many families who needs to travel by air this season, you're probably well aware that doing so with kids in tow has the potential to be even more stressful. Air travel can be hard enough solo -- add a young child or two and the task gets even more difficult. To help you better deal with getting to your destination without vowing never to set foot in an airport again, we created an air travel survival kit for flying with children. Read on for our best tips for avoiding a meltown, from take-off to landing.

Little girl being buckled into airplane

Get them aisle seats

If you can, try to get an aisle seat for your kids. That way no one needs to shuffle around constantly to let them out to use the bathroom or stretch their legs. We don't suggest you let them have the run of the entire aircraft (this will just get you a lot of angry stares from passengers and flight attendants) but being able to easily allow your little one to use the bathroom or get up should they get restless goes a long way toward making the trip easier.

Pack distractions

Quick tip: Keep a few small (brand-new) items hidden from your kids (a new travel game, a set of markers, a new book) so that if they get particularly fussy, you can surprise them with something totally new, which should keep them quiet for at least a little while.

As a parent, you probably know that a busy kid is a happy kid. If they're occupied they won't be complaining about being bored or why the plane isn't moving yet. Pack a small carry-on bag for each of your kids that contains everything they like to do -- coloring books and markers, sticker books, comic books, handheld game systems, small stuffed toys, travel games. Whatever keeps them happy and distracted will make everything -- from airport time to flying time -- much better for everyone

Implement a reward system

Before you leave, sit down with your kids and work out a reward system in which they get points for being good travelers. Include things like staying quiet, not fighting, helping you or each other, saying please and thank you, etc. On the trip, have a notebook with you where you record points for each child (and take away points when they do something wrong), tally up the points at the end of the trip and then have prizes ready. If you have more than one child, make sure the prizes are equal -- the last thing you need is a fight on your hands. You don't need to take the points seriously in terms of actual scores, but they should be a useful tool in keeping your kids on track and less likely to misbehave.

Purchase snacks before boarding

With so many airlines cutting back on meals and snacks. you shouldn't assume there will be enough to keep everyone happy during the flight. Before you board, buy some snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, baked chips or rice cakes, yogurt or fruit cups and several bottles of water so no one gets hungry. Your kids may not want to eat the in-flight meal, you might not want to purchase four (or more) $10 sandwiches if meals aren't included and the more snacks you have to offer hungry or fussy kids, the better the flight will go.

Keep them comfy

In your own carry-on bag (or your kids' bags if there is room), make sure you have an extra layer in case they get chilly (hoodie, cardigan), inflatable neck pillows so it's easier for them to sleep and any toys that comfort them. The more comfortable your children are in flight, the smoother the trip will be. You can also ask the flight attendants for blankets early on so you have them if you need them. Also think about having gum or hard candy on hand, which can minimize discomfort caused by changes in pressure (as can happen during take-off and landing).

Go with the flow

It's inevitable that at some point, your child will get fussy, start crying, fight with a sibling or otherwise wreak havoc 30,000 feet in the air. At this point the best thing you can do is remain calm and avoid showing any outward signs of stress. The more calm, cool and collected you can be when your child (or children) are acting up, the less likely they are to continue misbehaving, and the easier it will be for you to keep it together. Giving into your frustration (and showing it) will just cause more of a scene and stress out everyone even more. Be calm but firm and ideally the mini-meltdown will pass.

Bon voyage!

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Tags: family travel tips

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