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Mendo Lake Family Life

How to Fly with Kids and Stay Sane

By Cheryl Maguire

I love to travel. Before becoming a proud parent of three darling cherubs everyone said to me, “Enjoy traveling now because once you have kids you won’t be able to do it anymore.” Well, I proved all the naysayers wrong by hopping on planes with three kids in tow. I didn’t let their ages stop me either; they all flew before they turned two.

It wasn’t always easy, though. In fact, it was thoroughly disgusting at times but definitely worth it. Here are the tricks that served me best.

Bring a car seat. The first time our twins flew internationally they were 18 months old. Most airlines do not require you to purchase a ticket for a child who is under the age of two so, of course, I saved the money and didn’t purchase tickets for them. I wish I had video recorded that trip because I know I would’ve won first place in America’s Funniest Home Videos.

The entire ride both ways was a wrestling match between us (me and my husband) and our boy/girl twins. They definitely won, in case you were wondering. There was no way they wanted to sit quietly on our laps for five hours—they wanted to roam freely through the exciting new airplane. As you can imagine, I still have nightmares about it.

When we traveled with their younger sister, I purchased a ticket for her, which meant I could strap her into her car seat. Do you think there was a wrestling match then? Nope, she slept the entire flight both ways. It was worth every penny.

Pack a change of clothes for the plane. Sometimes you learn the hard way, and other times you learn in a downright repulsive way. Don’t worry; you are going to hear all the gory details.

When my son flew for the first time, we didn’t know he is prone to motion sickness—until when, at 36,000 feet, he vomited his egg and cheese sandwich all over me. Of course, I had nothing to change into for the rest of the five-hour flight.

Your child doesn’t have to get motion sickness; there could be a variety of other issues (I’m sure you can envision them if you try) that could require a change of clothes. So prepare accordingly.

Pack a change of clothes for your destination. Along with carrying on a change of clothes for the plane, you should also take clothes for your destination. Your luggage could get lost or it could take time getting to your room. You don’t want to be the family hanging out by the pool dressed in hoodies and pants because your swimsuits and shorts are in limbo. Besides being soaked with sweat, you will have three whining kids repeatedly asking, “When can I go swimming?” Trust me, it is no way to start your vacation.

Bring lots of food. I can’t stress this enough. I pack an entire carry-on suitcase with just snacks. Food=kid happiness. You have to save the snack-dispersion moments for when your child is about to lose it. Even a suitcase worth of food will run out if overused. And, even if you do bring extra clothes, you don’t want your child to vomit on you because he or she was overfed.

Play old-school games. Let’s face it, things can go wrong with electronics (batteries die, the Wi-Fi doesn’t work), and kids can get bored with them. If you are relying on those cool seat monitors to keep your kids entertained, don’t. On at least three of our flights, none of the monitors worked.

There are lots of old-school games, such as Tic-Tac-Toe, I-Spy, or games executed with a deck of cards, that are easy to play and portable. Kids of all ages usually love these games. You could even learn a card trick or two and wow your little ones with your sleight of hand.

Put names on the outside of passports. If you are, as I am, in charge of several passports, putting each person’s name on his or her passport means you don’t have to open each one to figure out to whom it belongs. A fellow traveler told me this tip, and I’ve received numerous compliments from security and airline personnel whenever I implement it. In fact, I’ve probably heard more compliments about my passport covers than any other parenting technique I’ve tried. So, if for no other reason, you could use this tip just to hear, “what a great idea.”

Now that I shared my mishaps and admirations with you, hopefully you can have fun flying with your wee ones. (That’s right, I used fun and flying in the same sentence.) Your flight will turn into a distant memory—unless you forgot your change of clothes. 

This article was originally published in Sasee Magazine.

Find Cheryl Maguire on Twitter @CherylMaguire05.