Given the potential stress of trying to keep kids entertained on a plane, it's no wonder parents tend to be terrified of the so-called friendly skies. But air travel is often unavoidable during the busy holiday season, and instead of fearing your upcoming flight(s), it's far more productive to prepare yourself (and your kids) with some simple tips that can make a big difference.
1. Pack plenty of quiet toys. Now is not the time to pack the duck that quacks incessantly, even if it entertains your 6-month-old. Other passengers will hate you — with good reason.
2. Pack new toys and games. Card games, Mad Libs, puppets, and stickers are all great sources of in-flight entertainment, especially when they're brand new.
3. Bring plenty of books. A plane trip can be a great time to read aloud, no matter how old your children.
4. Embrace technology. Sometimes, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Apps, movies, and individual gaming systems can be your best friend during a long flight.
5. Establish expectations clearly. Let your children know exactly what type of behavior you expect on the plane, and why it's important to respect other passengers. Even toddlers and preschoolers understand more than you think.
6. Practice active parenting. Instead of ignoring your kids until they're in full-blown meltdown mode, stay actively engaged with them through the entire flight. Ensure that they're always calm and happy, and your fellow passengers will thank you.
7. Pass out goodie bags. To me, this seems like a lot of work (not to mention quite the expense), but there are parents who like this proactive approach to appeasing fellow passengers with items like ear plugs and Starbucks gift cards.
8. Dress everyone in layers. The temperature on a plane can vary greatly, and kids who are hot get cranky quickly. As do parents.
9. Carry chewing gum. Changes in cabin pressure can cause ear pain, so keep gum handy to alleviate the symptoms.
10. Bring snacks. Airlines don't offer much in the way of sustenance these days, so check out these 10 Great Snacks for the Plane.
11. Make everyone use the restroom before boarding.
12. Always check the latest guidelines from the TSA. Getting stuck in security is never fun, but it's especially trying when traveling with children.
13. Make kids carry their own bags. Even a 4 year-old can do this if it isn't too heavy.
14. Use a backpack in place of a diaper or shoulder bag. It will be far more comfortable to carry through airports.
15. Board as early possible if you don't have assigned seats. It's the best way to ensure that your whole family can sit together.
16. Board as late as possible if you do have assigned seats. This way kids won't have to spend as long sitting on the plane.
17. Consider CARES. The Child Aviation Restraint System is certified for safety by the FAA, so it's a great substitute if you don't want the hassle of bringing a carseat on the plane.
Are you flying with kids this holiday season? How do you prepare?