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6 Tips for (practically) hassle-free trips with kids

Jill is a sometime runner and expert wine taster from sunny San Antonio. She has a degree in social psychology, one husband and three children. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Babble and she's regular...

Hacks to make air travel with kids a little easier

It's that time of year. School’s out and families are hitting the road. Or the skies. Do your summer plans involve air travel with kids? Are you dreading it? Here are some tips to help get you through a flight with kids… besides those little miniatures, that is.

1. New stuff

Only amateurs board the plane without something new to keep their darlings distracted. Whether it be a new app or a toy from the dollar store, having a stash of previously unseen entertainment options makes your life easier during any trip.

When your child gets bored, just rotate his toys. Think outside the box: blue painter's tape and pipe cleaners provide endless (and quiet) options. And moms, Play-Doh isn’t your enemy. It’s not the neatest substance on the planet, but if it keeps your little angel happily buckled in his seat, why not? It won’t kill him if he eats it and it’s cheap… if it ends up a forgotten, dried clump under the seat, no biggie.

2. Answer questions ahead of time

Talk to your kids about what to expect. Give them input on what they can pack and talk them through airport security and plane changes. My daughter was 8 the first time we went on a long haul flight, and she was stressed out about where she would use the restroom. I knew there were lavatories on board and I assumed she would understand that, too. Never assume… give kids a chance to ask questions.

3. Make friends with the flight attendant

No, the flight attendant isn’t a backup babysitter, but the nicer you are to her, the nicer she'll be to you. Trips with kids are stressful but don't take out your travel frazzle on the person who’s going to be taking care of you for the next several hours. Good manners might get you served faster or land you some extra perks.

4. Dress for success

No matter how old your kids are or how short your trip is, stash a change of clothes in your carry on. Don’t forget a change of clothes for yourself — if your kids are wearing spaghetti sauce, chances are you are too… and no one likes that.

5. Snacks

Don't rely on the airline to feed your kids. Children's meals are becoming less common on flights and when your goal is to keep your little darling calm and quiet, you don't want to worry about where the next meal is coming from. Pack twice as many snacks as you think you'll need. While I make an effort to pick stuff that won’t make a huge mess, I'm completely OK with plying my children with junk if it keeps them happy and occupied during a flight.

Moms, you know what foods will send your kids into a sugar spazz-out… plan your snack menu accordingly and vow to get back on your regular eating schedule once you get where you’re going.

6. To medicate or not to medicate

I'm not an advocate of giving kids medicine solely for the purpose of making them sleepy. But, I'm also a parent who has traveled with an unruly child on a 13-hour flight and I know that slipping a child a small dose of Benadryl isn't unheard of.

Talk to your doctor if you're considering using medications as a way to calm or quiet your child on a long flight. At the very least, make sure you know how your child reacts to a medication before experimenting at 37,000 feet. Antihistamines make most children sleepy, but they have the opposite effect on a few. If you have a child who reacts to Benadryl like an angry baby Tyrannosaurus rex on speed, you'll want to know that before you’re airborne.

Happy travels!

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