Flying with children doesn’t have to be chaotic. (Photo: Getty Images)
Between toddler tantrums, disrupted sleep schedules, and crying babies, traveling with children can be a challenge. So we’ve asked flight attendants for their best tips on making the journey easier, even enjoyable.
Book the first flight of the day
While it may seem tempting to book an evening flight to coincide with your baby’s sleep schedule, St. Louis, MO. based flight attendant Sally Lou tells Yahoo Parenting that the first flight of the day is the least likely to be delayed, which means less time waiting at the airport with a little one. “Plus, the crew is in a better mood early in the morning,” she adds.
Don’t pre-board with toddlers
For parents lucky enough to travel with family members, consider having one person pre-board solo to stow the car seat and other luggage, while a caretaker stays behind with a toddler who can run around and expend energy. “Why keep them cooped up on a flight any longer than necessary?” says Lou. Just note that some airlines require passengers to secure pre-boarding privileges when booking tickets.
Treat the flight like a car ride
That means bring a car seat for long flights with toddlers. According to Sue Barnes, a former flight attendant in Springfield, MO., if the trip is longer than two hours and you’ve got a wiggly one, place him or her in the car seat for the duration of the flight. “Car seats are more secure and the experience resembles a car ride,” she says, adding that car or booster seats allow kids to sit eye-level to their parents and see out the window. In order to use a car seat, you do pay for a separate plane seat. Otherwise, some airlines allow parents to use an empty seat.
Create a movie theater
Lou has seen a dramatic difference in toddlers’ in-flight behavior due to the invention of the tablet. “Parents can prop the iPad on the tray table. When the lights go down, make kids cozy, and give them snacks — it’s like a home theater.” Just remember to use headphones.
Know your rights about carrying liquids — including breast milk
TSA allows formula, breast milk, and juice—in excess of 3.4 ounces in the carry-on bag —on the aircraft. These liquids must be declared first and are subject to additional screening. Moms should also know that despite the controversy surrounding public breastfeeding, women can nurse onboard. “In fact,” says Lou, “I’ll go out of my way to give a nursing mom a quick smile to make her feel comfortable.”
Sit in the back of the plane on regional flights
Parents with babies may want to book seats at the back of the plane for short trips. That’s where the only bathroom is located on smaller aircrafts.
Manage kids’ ear pain
Jill Metter, an Illinois-based flight attendant says ear pain — caused by unequal pressure between the outer and inner ear — is most uncomfortable when the plane is ascending and descending. That’s the perfect time to soothe your kid with a bottle, a sippy cup or a pacifier. “If they can get though the ascent and descent, they’re golden at the cruising altitude,” she tells Yahoo Parenting.