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4 Stress-Free Ways To Travel With Kids On Planes

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Kids on planes can be such babies sometimes. Am I right?

Kicking chairs, screaming out, throwing up...

It's almost like they're immature, inexperienced human beings who have no concern for a passenger's right to have complete silence on a flight.

Are you sensing my sarcasm?

Listen, I get that traveling with kids can be tough. I've done it with babies, toddlers, schoolboys and teens. I've been on a plane planning for a 5-hour trip to dreamland only to be startled awake by a baby's piercing wail. I've been the unhappy recipient of a child whose happiness is manifested through swinging feet that make constant contact with the back of my chair. I get it.

I've also been the exhausted parent of said wailing, seat-kicking child who wants nothing more than a peaceful flight but instead has to juggle a baby that has chosen this flight to test their lungs or see how far they can projectile vomit. And believe me in every instance, I've wanted the same thing as the rest of the plane -- for the kid to stop doing that.

Sadly, we can't always get what we want.

There are things we can do, both as the parent (or grandparent) traveling with their child and as a fellow traveler, to make the best of a tough situation.

These tips for parents are a place to start.

"The more your kids experience travel, the more they'll get a chance to practice the behaviours you're trying to reinforce."

1. Just Say No to the Goody Bag handout

It's an idea that will come to you one sleep deprived night as you anxiously count down to Departure day. "I know!" your mottled brain will tell you. "I'll give the other passenger a gift and buy their love for my family with lollipops and chocolate!"

A recent article in the New York Times in favour of giving goody bags to appease fellow travellers will seem like support for the idea, but don't do it. Instead ask yourself what message you're sending when you apologize way before there is anything to apologize for? Will you also give out goody bags at the coffee shop? In restaurants? At the grocery store? In the air, like on land, your kid is just being a kid. Your focus should be on them, not on whether your fellow passengers seem perturbed.

2. Be Prepared to Entertain Your Kids on the Flight

Bored kids might become hard to handle kids. Keep boredom in check by packing quiet activities for your kids: A few small and favourite toys, books, colouring and activity books and electronics. Many airlines also offer in-flight entertainment, including television and movies, but be sure to research what is available in the air so you don't get caught unprepared. (Westjet, for example, is transitioning to an app that provides entertainment. You will need to download this before you go.)

Here's a pro tip: pack a little unexpected present in your carry-on and surprise your kids with an extra toy, book or activity mid-flight. And leave the noisy toy car in your checked luggage...or, better yet, at home.

3. Apologize When You Have Something to Apologize For

If your child does kick a seat, pull someone's hair, or spill juice on the person behind you, be sure to apologize. And more importantly let your child know that their behaviour was not okay or they need to be more careful. This shows other passengers that no one meant to be disrespectful, but more importantly it teaches your child how to behave on the plane and the importance of personal space. Being four doesn't give them permission to jump on the seats or spread out their toys in the galley.

4. Practice Makes Perfect - Take Your Kids Often

The more your kids experience travel, the more they'll get a chance to practice the behaviours you're trying to reinforce. We've all experienced impatient kids, but the good news is as they understand what is expected of them, and get used to travel (they might be nervous too), they will get it! Soon you'll have some tiny, travel pros on your hands and you'll realize that kids can be great travellers, no goody bags required.

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