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Stress-Free Plane Trips: 12 Tips For Parent Sanity

Assuming airlines don’t start allowing passengers to tuck children into the above-seat bins anytime soon, you’re going to be stuck with the kids during your flight. OK, perhaps “stuck” is too strong of a word. More like, THEY WILL GLOM ONTO YOU LIKE KRAZY GLUE. And you will wonder whatever possessed you to go visit Grandma in the first place, even if you did get the tickets through reward points.

Unless, that is, you come up with some foolproof strategies to keep the kiddies well fed, happy and amused. As the saying goes, a little plane prep is worth its weight in packets of pretzels (or something like that).

Me, I’m a master of in-flight entertainment. This is because my son is a kicker. Yes, he is that child who’s sat behind you and kick-kick-kicked his way through the flight. Max has special needs, and kicking feels good to him—much less so to the person in front.

I’ve had to learn how to keep my son otherwise occupied on plane flights, along with his little sis. And I’m sharing.

1. Pack a magic bag of tricks for each kid. I usually fill a paper bag with dollar-store finds like stickers, cards, little books, rayons, plus mini cans of Play-doh and packets of Wikki Stix, to be handed out and explored only once the plane is in the air.

2. Pack a magic bag of snacks, too. I try to bring healthy stuff like baby carrots, nuts, cereal and dried fruit, but I am not above stashing snack packs of cookies. These also go into brown paper bags for each kid.

3. And don’t forget your Mommy treat! I stash one of those mineral water spray bottles in my purse, the plane-travel size; it feels great, it’s calming and it prevents the plane air from sucking all the moisture out of my skin. If you end up sitting next to someone obnoxious, you can spritz them and tell them it’s Rudeness Repellent.

4. Make the trip app-tastic. Before flights, I let the kids each download a couple of new apps to our iPhone/iPad. It gives them something to look forward to, and distracts them for a good 3.19 minutes, at least! New DVDs are also charmers.

5. Bring airplane bingo cards. You can find some cute printables here complete with pictures of a drink, a seatbelt and a crying baby (hopefully not yours).

6. Ask for extra pillows at the start of the flight if your kid’s a wiggler or kicker. These come in very handy for insulating their limbs. A puffy winter jacket placed between a kid’s knees and the seat in front of works well, too.

7. Befriend the flight attendant. She is your new BFF, and could come to your defense should your child disturb the plane peace. If you catch her eye, give her your best “Take pity on me please!” wry smile. See if she has any cool airline logo stuff to distract the kids—some planes still offer them; on a recent flight, my daughter got a pair of wings.

8. Decorate your seat. Before we head out on vacation, I print photos of where we’re going to, pack some of that poster putty stuff and tack the pictures onto the closed trays. For our trip to Disney World, I printed out Mickey and the gang. Bring a bunch and redecorate throughout the flight; feel free to feng shui your row of seats, while you’re at it.

9. Play coffee stirrer pick-up sticks. (This is where befriending the flight attendant comes in handy.)

10. Write a trip journal together. Ask your child to make up a story about what’s going to happen during your trip. She can also tear out words and pictures from the in-flight magazine or SkyMall catalog and make a vacation collage, assuming you’ve remembered to pack a glue stick and some paper.

11. Organize a plane playdate. I am serious. Once, I noticed a kid about my daughter’s age seated nearby; I asked the mom if she wanted to hang out with my daughter, the mom and I traded seats, and the girls had a fun time doing Mad Libs while the mom and I chatted about our vacations.

12. In case of boredom emergency… Grab your child, head to the bathroom, pull a pair of tweezers out of your purse and start plucking your eyebrows. So fascinating to watch! And that lighting is great!

A big thanks to Citi Price Rewind and Shop with Points for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Image source: Flickr/The Wedding Traveler

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