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Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

Going by Airplane: Part Two

Travel Tips

From "Trouble Free Travel with Children" by Vicki Lansky

Chapter Seven
Part Two: THE TRIP


* Look for specific areas designated as nurseries, now available in many large airports. These are unattended areas near ladies' rooms, with extra space, seating, and a variety of amenities. Some European airport nurseries are supervised, so you can leave your child while you check in.

* Double-diaper or use a night-time diaper on your baby before boarding; diaper changing space on a plane is basically nonexistent. If you must make a change on board, use your seat space only if your family is occupying three contiguous seats, or use the floor if you have the bulkhead seats. (Warn your neighboring passengers if you must change a diaper near them.) You can use the toilet lid in the bathroom--not easy, but possible. Bring a towel or small piece of folded, washable vinyl to put under the baby for diaper changing.

* Consider bringing your own brown-bag meal. Even though children over 2 are entitled to a meal, that doesn't mean they'll eat it, or that it will come when your child is hungry.

* Bring a lightweight baby blanket with you. It can be used to form a makeshift tent to help cut off visual stimulation if you are trying to get your baby to sleep.

"On airplane trips, an umbrella stroller is wonderful. In the bulkhead seat, we can set it up, put the child in it, and have some free hands." - Becky Gammons, Beaverton, OR

* Check your baby's car restraint with your luggage if you are not going to use it in flight. Be sure to tag it with your name and address. Packing it in a large, heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, while not required, will help protect it.

* Forewarn a child who's old enough to understand that running in the aisles is not allowed and that "playground voices" aren't, either.

* Consider feeding your child before you board when sitting in the departure lounge. A sandwich, a fruit or even an airport meal may keep your child satisfied until the airline meal can be served.

* Let your toddler carry his or her own little flight bag or wear a small backpack with special toys or snacks inside.

* If your flight's delayed, or you have an unusually long layover in Missoula, San Jose, Denver, Pittsburgh, Boston or La Guardia in New York, look for a Kidport. These are spaces that offer an excellent place for children to play though they must be supervised by their parents.

* Entertain a bored child waiting to board a plane with a ride on a baggage cart that has a special child's seat.


* Take advantage of the system that allows parents with small children to board before everyone else. This gives you time to get settled. With a restless toddler, however, you might wish to board last.

* Help yourself to pillows and a blanket from the overhead luggage rack before takeoff, as there probably will not be enough for each passenger if the flight is full.

* Carry an infant in a soft front pack to free your hands. Your baby might be content to be there the whole trip. Make sure the seat belt is over your pelvis and not the baby's during takeoff and landing.

* Remove the armrest between seats (except in the bulkhead, where it's not removable) by raising it to give a child room to stretch out. The flight attendant can help you.

* Put a big bib on your toddler and remove it just before you land if you want to arrive with a clean child. (Or carry "arrival clothes" that you dress the children in after the plane lands.)

* Don't forget to ask the airline attendant for in-flight mementos such as a wing pin, a deck of cards, or a postcard. Ask for these items shortly after takeoff. When the flight attendants get busy, they may not have time to bring them right away.

* Be sure there are airsick bags in your seat pockets. You can use the bags for soiled diapers, too, but be sure to give them to the flight attendant to dispose of properly. Do not leave them in seat pockets when you disembark!

* Be prepared for unusual behavior from your child. The child who always naps may fool you, and your gregarious baby may cry when a stranger acts friendly.

* Don't promise kids a visit to the cockpit during the flight. Do ask your flight attendant before you take off if a trip to the cockpit might be possible after everyone is on board or after you've landed.

* If your flight offers headsets and music, look for a children's music station.

* Use the free air-route map in the seat pocket to track your trip with an older child.

"My two-year-old and I were flying to see my parents. He had been playing quietly with his dozen or so Matchbox cars. The plane began its descent gently but not gently enough to keep those little cars on the tray. Over the top they went, to roll under twelve rows of seats ahead of us. I spent the time before we were ordered to buckle up for landing canvassing the aisle. 'Pardon me, sir, but if you look under your seat, I think you'll find...'" - Phyllis Anderson, Los Angeles, CA

* Cope with the dry air in planes by getting plenty to drink (not the cola variety), frequent use of Chapstick, or indulging in a face-spray can of mineral water (which kids particularly think is great fun).


Most ear problems in the air occur when a plane is changing altitudes, especially when it's ascending or descending. Smaller children are more susceptible to discomfort, as the eustachian tubes in their ears are narrower and more prone to collapse with altitude changes. The trick is to keep the jaw working and the saliva flowing to help equalize the pressure.

* Let your baby nurse or suck on a bottle or pacifier during takeoff and landing to reduce pressure on ears. A hungry child will suck more vigorously, so don't feed your baby just before you take off. Babies' sucking reflex can be activated by touching their lips, or having them suck on your finger. Do not allow your baby to sleep during the plane's descent.

* Give gum, chewable mints or lollipops to older children during takeoff and landing.

* Or keep a small cup of water from which to take small sips as cabin pressure changes.

* Try to get your child to yawn, which helps make ears "pop" and relieves pressure, as do other exaggerated facial movements. Make a game of making faces.

* Let a child simply "suck" on a straw without drinking any liquids.

* Or hold a child's nose closed while he or she swallows to "pop" ears open. Several swallows may be necessary.

If air pressure changes cause real ear pain for your child, ask the flight attendant for help. The attendant can provide two styrofoam cups stuffed with hot, moist paper towels to be held over each ear. The "steam" seems to help reduce the discomfort.

If your child has a cold and must fly, ask your doctor to recommend or prescribe an oral decongestant. And be sure the child sits upright during descent. Be aware that clogged or painful ears are temporary problems but can take as long as three days to return to normal. If your child has problems after that, see a doctor.


Remember the old Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" and don't travel without formula for a bottle-fed baby and snacks for older youngsters. There's always plenty of juice or water on board but their milk supply can run low.

* Ask the flight attendant for water or juice for yourself and your toddler before takeoff for later on. Dry air in the plane can cause a sore or scratchy throat and a dry nose, especially on very long flights. Bring the liquids you need for your baby. Don't expect that you will get service just when you need it.

* Ask also about the best time to get help with warming the baby's food or bottle, if warming is important to you. Babies usually don't care.

* The free cola drinks airlines offer contain caffeine, which can "speed up" kids and keep them from sleeping, as well as keep you running to the bathroom with them.

* Remember bagels are long-lasting, compact, sturdy and basically crumbless snacks.

* Take turns eating when two adults are traveling with a small child (ask the attendant to bring the other meal about 5 minutes later) so one adult has their hands and lap free for the child.

* Don't let toddlers eat the airline nut snacks unless you're sure there's no chance of their choking or aspirating them.


Don't drink any hot beverage when flying with a small child. A spilled drink can burn a child - or you!


Let an active toddler jog around the airport to tire himself or herself out before boarding the plane.

* Remember that airport gift shops sell a good selection of last-minute games and toys. Look for quiet games designed for travel, but be wary of small pieces that can be lost or swallowed.

* Gift wrap some small toys or favorite munchies and hand them out, one at a time, as a reward for a toddler's good behavior. Pass out these surprises every half hour or so (depending on the length of the flight), but only on the condition that the child continues to play quietly.

* Ask the flight attendant for feminine napkin pads to use inside a disposable or cloth diaper to stretch your diaper supply if you think you are running short.

* Help children space games and activities to prevent boredom.

* Don't expect a young child to be entertained for long by in-flight movies or music. Bring a cassette player of your own in case the airline's selection of entertainment doesn't interest your child. The headsets the airlines provide are not always comfortable on the ears. (Remember that RADIO headsets can't be used because they interfere with the plane's radio transmissions.) If your cassette player can record, all the better; its entertainment value will be expanded.


For some reason that is not well understood, it is easier for people to adjust to a flight going west rather than east. The more time zones you cross, the longer it will take your child to adjust. Changing time zones is a hard adjustment for children and it will take them more than one day to acclimate. Still, the faster you get onto your new time, the faster your body will adjust. A few extra naps may be in order.

* Changing time zones also affects eating schedules. Try demand-feeding your baby for a while until he or she adjusts. Eating schedules will adjust sooner than sleep routines.

* Allow for recovery time when you get to where you are going, but try to adjust to the clock on the wall from the start.

"Keeping our child entertained was our biggest problem. For long car or plane trips with a 1- to 2-year-old, fill an old wallet with expired credit cards, or heavy paper cut to the same size and some cards from an old deck of cards. Our daughter spent several minutes looking at each before throwing it down. Also fill containers with small objects such as shells, small toys, and so on. Picture books and National Geographic kept her attention for long stretches, too." - Barbara Deleebeeck, Stavanger, Norway

"With kids 2 and under, be prepared for everything you can think of and then realize that the one thing you haven't thought of will happen. Expect to be embarrassed and, if you hear people mentioning you to their friends in the baggage claim area ('There's the lady with the baby who screamed for forty-five minutes'), take some comfort from the fact that you're not the only one to whom this has happened and that you'll never see these people again!" - Sharon Amastae, El Paso, Texas


* Accept any help offered.

* Take the unused airsick bag for future cleanups.

* Don't feel you have to be first off the plane when you land. Use your judgment. Standing in a hot, crowded aisle with a child or two can ruin your arrival.

* Make a potty stop once you're off the plane and on your way to the baggage claim area. The stalls for the handicapped usually are roomy enough to allow you to bring your child (and even in a stroller) in with you.

* Mark your luggage with distinctive ribbons or stickers so your child can help you spot it quickly as it comes down the conveyor belt.


It is not uncommon to see children traveling by themselves on commercial airliners today. If you are preparing your child for such a trip, approach it as an adventure. Explain, in detail, how he or she will be met at the other end and coach your child on a possible unexpected happening such as ear pain which might occur on takeoff and landing. Provide them with gum or candy to chew and explain how that will relieve the pressure.

Unaccompanied children ages 5 to 8 are allowed ONLY on direct flights. Escorts are available for a child if there are connecting flights to make, but there is usually a fee for this service. Children 8 to 12 years of age are allowed on any flight but are still considered unaccompanied minors (UM) and must be checked in as such.

When you make your reservations, be sure to indicate if your child is flying as a UM. The airline is responsible for the child from check-in time until the child is met at his or her final destination. Also, if you wish to request a special meal for your child, do so at least 24 hours in advance. There's no extra charge.

If your child must fly alone, there are some things you can do to make it go smoothly.

* Consider making a visit to the airport in advance of your child's scheduled trip. Point out the departure gate; how to read the arrival/departure monitors; the location of public phones and how to place a call.

* Look around the boarding areas for possibly friendly faces who may befriend your child en route or just give a friendly wave when walking down the aisle.

* Watch the planes take off and land. Use this as an opportunity to identify and discuss any fears your child may have.

* Talk about details of the flight including what kind of food is served and whether or not a movie may be offered.


* Don't overload your child with heavy carry-on baggage.

* Check in early at the airport. There are forms to fill out with names, addresses and phone numbers for your child, including that of the person who is meeting him or her.

* Check the weather conditions at the destination. A snowed-in airport may not be acceptable for landing.

* Tell your child to call you upon arrival at the final destination. Make sure you are at home to receive the call. (Does your child know how to call collect or use your phone credit card?)

Call (800) 255-3379 to order "Trouble Free Travel with Children" (by Vicki Lansky) by credit card, or send a check to Practical Parenting, 18326 Minnetonka Boulevard, Deephaven, Minnesota 55391. Call for a free catalog of books by Vicki Lansky.

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