7. Charge Up Your Gadgets Before The Flight: You might be able to survive if your cellphone or tablet is on low battery life during a flight because you can always read a magazine or watch what's on TV. But for a toddler, you better have that iPad or smartphone or even old-school portable DVD player charged to its full capacity before the flight.
6. Prepare for The Worst of TSA: My friend, Sarika Chawla, editorial director at PeterGreenberg.com, just wrote about the craziest things that TSA has made parents do at the security checkpoints and sadly, inconsistent TSA searches are a reality for families especially when baby food and bottles of milk are involved. I've never been asked to drink my own breast milk or throw away any precious baby food but I've had different airports do different things each time I've flown. Recently, at LAX, TSA stripped all the labels off my to-go bottles of baby formula saying that the machine couldn't test the bottle through the labels. No other airport has ever said that before. While you can't prepare for every wacky reason TSA will give you for searching your stuff, you can mentally prepare for a senseless security search. So be sure to factor an extra 20-30 minutes at security into your travel times.
5. Get Your Gate-Check Tickets First: After you make it through security, go right to the gate and get your gate-check tickets for your stroller or car seats or both. Then let the kiddos burn off all their excess energy. As for what to check and what to gate-check, I still haven't found the magic combination. But usually, I gate-check at least one stroller and then regular check the car seats. (Some parents fly with car seats but I haven't done that as I dread having to lug the car seat through security.)
Bonus! Some airplanes have bassinets like this one in the bulkhead seats.
4. You Don't Have to Board at Family Boarding: After first class and priority boarding, airlines typically give families the chance to board before the rest of the plane. This is great because it gives you access to the overheard compartments and gives you a chance to get all settled in without feeling hurried. However, if you've got a squirmy baby or an overactive toddler, boarding before the rest of the plane just means you have to sit in a tight space with a baby for a little bit longer. Depending on your child, you may want to wait until the last possible moment to board.
3. Feed the Baby on Takeoff and Landing: This is a tried and true tip for flying with babies. Make sure to breastfeed the baby or give them a bottle of milk or a sippy cup of water at takeoff and landing to help their small ears adjust to the plane pressure. And anytime you notice the pressure getting rough on your own ears, be sure to give the baby something as well--whether it be the bottle, boob, sippy cup or pacifier.
2. Bring Both Toys and Treats: I usually buy the girls small little toys before our trip and break them out on the plane. For my toddler, on our most recent flight, it was a My Little Pony horse and one of those invisible marker books. For the baby, it was a new electronic baby book. But a plane ride is also a great time to break out some special treats like lollipops. Regardless of how you feel about sweets during your everyday life, a lollipop is perfect for toddlers on an airplane. We've saved ourselves and the rest of the plane from epic meltdowns by giving the toddler a lollipop. In fact, the first time she ever had a lollipop was on descent into Los Angeles last fall. She went from screaming and crying, "No seatbelt, no seatbelt!" to telling everyone around us "I have a lollipop! I have a pink lollipop!" in just a matter of seconds. In fact, nowadays, the only time she ever has lollipops is on the airplane. And for when she goes #2 on the potty. But that's another story entirely.
1. Know That The Flight Will End At Some Point: When I fly cross-country now, I try not to look at my watch until I am really desperate. There's nothing worse than looking at the time during a flight and realizing only an hour has gone by and you've still got four more to go. While I, and everyone else who's ever flown with kids, can give you tons of advice on what to bring and what to do, there's not much you can do when the cabin door closes and the plane pushes away from the gate. So just make the most of what you brought on board with you and pray that your little one(s) don't have any major blowouts, spills or meltdowns. And that your seat mates are parents, too.