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Adventures in Parenting: Surviving air travel with little ones

I consider air travel with young children to be one of life�s prerequisites. Like waitressing or any job working with the general public. It�s the only way to really learn humility and extreme patience.

If you�re lucky enough to be flying the friendly skies this school vacation season, you could probably benefit from a few tips from a veteran mom like myself. And above all else, stay strong, stay confident and don�t ever let them see you sweat.

1. Role-Play: If this is your child�s first introduction to air travel, pretend play the experience at home ahead of time. Talk about appropriate behavior in the airport, set up �seats� on the plane, role-play boarding and stowing away bags, being considerate of other travelers and most importantly, snack time! If it feels like a game, it�ll be less stressful for everyone when you embark on the actual adventure.

2. Everyone Carries Something: Even little ones are capable of rolling a small suitcase or backpack behind them so designate a bag for each child. Here�s the catch�they decide what goes in it (stuffies, games, favorite blankie, legos, Matchbox cars, cups (see No. 5) or whatever). Now on the plane, they will have everything within arm�s reach, literally. You still have to pack and carry all their clothes, though. Sorry.

3. Secret Surprises: Before the trip, purchase a small stash of distractions to use in case of an emergency (i.e. tantrums, travel meltdowns, sibling disputes and the like.) Whether it be Ring Pops, sticker books, candy necklaces or small toys (think dollar store ball mazes or handheld hoop games), whip those out before you hit the panic button. For further motivation, tell the kids you�ll dole out one every hour if they can keep up the good behavior. Mom and dad get treats, too. Find the flight attendant with the beverage cart.

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4. Tire Them Out: Long layovers are unusual these days, but if you have one, take advantage of it. Walk the kids all over the place, along the moving pathways, through all the gates, past the stores and back again. The more energy they expend in the airport, the less energy they�ll have reserved to act out on the plane. They might even sleep. But I wouldn�t count on it.

5. Electronics and Headphones: Now is not the time to enforce your tech time rules. You like your sanity, right? Bring a tablet, phone or anything else with a screen and let them go to town. Please don�t forget portable chargers because kids really know how to drain a battery. And for the love of all things holy, please bring kiddie headphones. No one needs to listen to Caillou talk any more than necessary (is Caillou even still around?).

6. Bring Your Own Cups: I don�t care if your child is 10 months or 10 years old, bring your own sippie cups or kid-sized water bottles because they *will* kick that tray and spill the drink all over themselves. I�ve even done it myself and I know how to maneuver around that tray like a ninja. Have the flight attendant deliver the liquids to you and quickly transfer into a spill-proof container. Disaster averted.

Bonus Tip

Consider Riding the Bus: Did you know that the C&J has a “Kids Ride Free” Program to Logan Airport where children 18 years and younger ride free when accompanied by a ticketed adult? That’s a serious savings if you�re planning on heading out for the week (even off-site airport parking is upward of $20 per day). With bus stations in Dover, Portsmouth and Newburyport and trips running to Logan every hour, you can�t beat the convenience.

Wherever you travel this vacation season, don�t forget to enjoy the ride.
Suzanna Vicinus, founder of www.seacoastkidscalendar.com and author of the Adventures in Parenting blog, is a mom of two kids who always wins at Scattergories but never at short-distance sprints. Follow her to find out about the best family activities, events, edibles and tangibles that the Seacoast area has to offer. Find more of her Adventures in Parenting columns online.