Airline travel with kids is a challenge. Getting them through an airport without losing your mind is even harder. These are the four best tricks that I've seen parents use effectively in the airport and on the plane.
1. Give the kids a task in the airport. Make it age appropriate. Obviously, this one falls flat if you're traveling with an infant, but for toddlers and young children it's great. Put them in charge of remembering the gate number or of getting a piece of luggage to the gate safely.
You'll still have to keep a close eye on them but they'll be focused on their task and less likely to run off and see what a flashing light is or walk backward down the moving sidewalk.
2. Check everything you don't need. For adults, I usually recommend against checking bags if it can be avoided. But if you're flying with children, it just simplifies everything. It means there's less to deal with at security and there's less to keep track of in the airport.
Take only what you and your kids will need during the flight, which can be a lot. So take a big purse or backpack for you're carry-on. The TSA allows you to have two carry-on bags but on most regional jets, rolling suitcases will have to be gate checked. If you want to bring 2 carry-on bags on a regional jet they'll both have to be soft sided. Backpacks, duffel bags and a purses work well because they can fit in the smaller overhead bins and under the seat in front of you. As a reminder, a diaper bag counts as one of your carry-on.
3. Take the right car seat. Airplanes don't have the most comfortable seats. It's even worse for kids because the seats are only designed for adults. Car seats are helpful but the FAA has a few restrictions.
You can only use an FAA approved car seat on an airplane. It will say on the safety sticker or packaging if the car seat is approved for airlines. Most car seats are approved for air travel but if your seat looks questionable, the gate agent and the flight attendants are probably going to look for the approval sticker.
In most cases, the car seats have to be placed in the window seat so it doesn't restrict any passengers from quickly exiting the row in case of an emergency.
Always double check that your car seat is approved for airplanes before heading to the airport. It's frustrating to haul a bulky seat through the airport only to learn you can't use it on board.
4. Ignore people who give you dirty looks. There are travelers who will give you dirty looks if your kids are with you in the airport. Many people have horror stories about getting stuck next to crying babies. But you should never feel guilty for bringing your family along.
Just smile. It's their problem, not yours. Realize that it's their attitude and negative expectations that's the problem, not your child. It's important for you to keep a positive attitude when flying because your children learn from you. If they see you getting upset and frustrated at other people's reactions, they're more likely to meet those negative people's expectations.
Henry Bingaman is a writer and working flight attendant for one of the world's largest airlines. For more tips on airline travel without the hassle, check out his eBook, The Insider's Guide to Stress Free Flying http://www.guide-to-stress-free-flying.com/e-book