By Cathy Lanigan, Lonely Planet
Flights are never likely to be boring again once you start flying with children. In fact, you'll probably be savoring the quiet moments. It can be hard work flying with kids, particularly young ones, but some good preparation can help make it manageable.
Once children are school-age, it does get easier. The children can amuse themselves with drawing and simple games. They can play with a few well-chosen toys, listening to the children's channel and even the movie will occupy them for a little while. They can feed themselves from their tray and the novelty of being offered drinks will usually keep them in good humor.
Teenagers are much more self-sufficient and can usually be kept amused with in-flight entertainment and their own selection of books and music. Like adults they'll get bored as well but can cope with it much better.
This is important if you are going to have any choice at all in the seat allocation, although airlines often will try to give families more choice than other passengers.
Most children have a toy that must travel with them-a teddy, a doll or some such friend. To avoid having to carry this, tie elastic around its neck so that there is a loop. This loop goes around your child's wrist. It means that even if you have to carry teddy, the elastic loop can go around your wrist and leave your hands free. The tactic prevents the nightmarish possibility that you may inadvertently leave it behind somewhere.
Other methods for coping with small children at airports include attaching a small but loud whistle to your child's jacket. If they get lost or even momentarily separated from you, they can give a good piercing blast. It gives them a sense of security, although you will have to dissuade them from using it at inappropriate moments and hope they remember to use it at the appropriate one!
Comfort is the main consideration in deciding what to wear. Regardless of where you're going or the expected weather, cover all possibilities in case of an unexpected stopover. A layer system of clothing works well.
If you want the children to look relatively clean and tidy when you arrive, carry their good clothes separately, but don't put them on too soon-when you are taxing to the terminal is time enough, as children can often foil their parents' best-laid plans.
Parents need to be comfortable, too, and if you are traveling with small children, remember that it's possible to get spectacularly dirty by the time you arrive. Sticky fingers, spilled food, regurgitated sweets all have fewer places to go in a confined space and you may find yourself the main recipient.
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