Parenting Tips: How To Travel By Air With Small Children

Written by Beth Marlin Lichter
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A trip cross-country, economy class on any airline with a child past the crawling stage and up until the age of three, can be exasperating. The thing is, you don’t really know whether the journey will be easy and pleasant, or five hours of torture for exhausted mom. Preparation can help the trip swing towards the pleasurable, assuming your child is not smack dab in the middle of a sinus infection or wicked cough. The following is a list of ten things to consider:

1. A day before your trip, give your child a little more exercise/play time. Spend some extra time at the park, going up and down the slide, or arrange for an extended play date. Tire the little one out a bit, so the day of travel is one of needed rest for your child.
2. Make a list a week in advance of everything you need to bring on board, separated into a diaper bag for your child, and a shoulder bag for yourself. Try to organize that, including making any necessary purchases, asap. Don’t spend the day before or the day of travel, running around, doing errands. You will tire yourself out and have less patience for the trip.
3. Plan to clothe your baby for easy and quick access to diapers. Bring extra clothing and dress him/her in layers. Airplane air can go from frozen tundra to desert haze in about ten minutes.
4. Arrive at the airport extra early, allowing plenty of time to get through security, for bathroom stops, diaper changes and food consumption, which relaxes kids and makes them more likely to sleep on the plane. Most importantly, get there early so your child can enjoy the airport itself. Children are very stimulated by the goings-on inside the airport; the security process, people scurrying about with strollers and rolling bags, other kids their age. It’s all very fascinating and a good energy-burner.
5. If your child has delicate sinuses, is prone to sinus infections, or has just had a cold, keep in mind that children do not know how to clear their ear passages during changes in cabin pressure, and this can be very painful. You might want to consult with your pediatrician to see whether a dose of antihistamine or decongestant is appropriate for the trip.
6. Airplane air is dry. It is very important to keep your child well-hydrated. Offer something to drink at regular intervals.
7. Adults traveling with small children must keep track of everything, and nothing is more frustrating than fumbling around in one pocket after another, for the one thing you need at that very moment. A small bag worn across the chest or over the shoulder can hold a few things that must be easily accessible. For example, a bag large enough to hold boarding passes, an i.d., a credit card, some cash, a bit of lotion for lips and skin and few wipes, is perfect. It’s the go-to bag.
8. Pack two goodie-bags for your child. One contains food treats, favorite cookies or crackers, fruit, anything special. The second bag contains new things to occupy the mind. Maybe some new books to read together, brand new crayons and something to draw on, a new doll, truck or game which is compact and provide happy engaged playtime on the plane.
9. Look for opportunities in-flight, for example when most people are sleeping (not during food service time!), to stand in the rear of plane to stretch out a bit, or to walk up and down the aisle a couple of times. It feels good to get up and move.
10. Build a comfortable sleep environment in your lap including blankets and a favorite stuffed animal, to encourage a nap. And, good luck!

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