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By Dr. Jeremy Slone, Pediatric Oncologist


Here are some in-flight tips to help you not only survive but maybe actually enjoy the flight with your little one(s).

Take changes of clothes. For the kids and the parents. Messes will happen!

Ask for an extra seat.  At check in, at the gate and/or with the flight attendants at boarding, ask if there are rows with open seats. This is especially helpful if traveling with a lap infant that does not have their own seat. Sometimes you can get lucky and get an empty row of seats for you and your child.  If you can afford it, you may consider buying a seat for your child < 2 years to guarantee your comfort.

Ear popping. Often the most difficult time of the flight is take-off and landing when the changes in air pressure can cause ear discomfort. Adults often chew gum or yawn to get their ears to “pop.” If you can get your child to drink or chew, it will help. For our daughter, we always had a bottle/sippy cup with undiluted juice. We give it to her as we were taking off and in the last 15 minutes of the descent.  This sweet nectar guaranteed that she would drink whether she was thirsty or not!  As she got older, small bags of about 10 mini-gummy bears did the trick.

Must. Have.Tablet. Our most crucial flight tool is the iPad for games, movies, music, the camera feature, and many other apps.  It has provided priceless entertainment. Get a cute pair of kid headphones or just use it on silent. Make sure it is fully charged! Some airlines have USB or electrical outlets at each seat. We travel with a portable battery charger (ours is by Pebble).

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Breast Milk. Ask the flight attendants to store frozen breast milk in the galley freezer. When needing to thaw, they can put some steaming hot water in a coffee pot for you.  Same goes for formula – just ask for some hot water to heat the bottle.  Keep a few extra Ziploc gallon size baggies in your diaper bag to store dirty bottle parts.  We specifically like the Playtex drop-ins system for travel because all you need is 10-12 spare nipples, 1-2 of the bottles with cap, and about 30-50 drop-in liners.

Retreat to the galley. The galley at the back of large planes can be pretty spacious (relatively speaking). Let the child stretch their legs and get some snacks.

Walk the aisles. We strapped our daughter into a baby carrier and walked the aisles with her during infancy. This often put her to sleep. Now that she is older, when there is no food or drink service going on, we walk the aisles a few times to explore the plane.

Christmas at 35,000 feet. We pack small unwrapped presents (think compact: Polly Pockets, Hot Wheels, Crayons, stickers, finger puppets, etc.). When we feel a meltdown is brewing, we pull out a new present and celebrate. Instant mood changer!

Be prepared for sickness. Kids tend to get sick at the worst time. This is especially common when traveling as they are around more people and are not eating/sleeping great. Talk to your pediatrician about medications to have on hand for fever, vomiting or diarrhea. (Remember the liquids issue I raised in the last post).

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Snacks. The airline snacks sometimes do not appeal to kids. Have a supply of their favorite snacks.

Make a tent. We have used the blanket snapped into the tray table then draped over the head rest of our daughter’s seat to make a tent. This can provide a fun adventure for the kid or block out the light so they can sleep.

Strength in numbers!  Travel with a companion if possible. We sometimes take turns being on “kid duty” while the other naps, eats or watches a movie.

Our approach has been to do what it takes for a peaceful flight for us, our daughter and our fellow passengers. This often means doing things like giving undiluted juice and gummy bears which is definitely not part of our typical daily routine. I am not an expert in traveling with kids but I hope sharing our experience will help others.

Safe and happy travels!

Source: Texas Children’s Hospital Pediatric Health Blog

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