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Good luck! Seriously though, you're hoping for some good luck along with doing several things to make your life easier. Below are a few ideas to make flying easier with kids. The younger they are, the more work they'll be. However, the younger you start, the easier it will be to travel with them in the future.
A 2 year old on a plane can make for a real challenge to get to your destination. They have a strong attitude and don't really have an understanding of those that are around you. Below are a few strategies for getting to your destination, hopefully in one piece.
Realize they're not going to be angels
If you've never taken your kids on a flight before, be prepared for a bit of a struggle. This will be a completely new experience for them, and depending on their age, they may be scared and not know how to express that fright. You'll be responsible for trying to comfort them the very best you can in order to make your life, and the lives of those around you, as comfortable as possible. A screaming child is no fun for you or others, but staying calm under pressure is going to make things a bit easier.
Beyond that, there's simply not a lot of room on the airplane. At home, your child can sit on the floor, move around as they'd like, and simply be pretty free to do what they want. On an airplane, you're in a very tight space, and you're forcing your child to do things they don't normally do. They're bound to throw a bit of a tantrum as it's not comfortable - you're not comfortable either when flying, but you've had many years of learning how to deal with your feelings and keeping them under control. Every child's different, and one may do better than the other, but be prepared to work with them to help keep them calm.
Bring plenty of wipes
How well do they really clean those planes? It's not like they have time to even wipe down most of the seats and locations. They are quite filthy, and you'll want to have plenty of wipes on hand to keep things as clean as you can. On top of that, if you have a child in diapers, you're definitely going to no want to run out of wipes - it would be an interesting predicament to be in.
We like to bring a full bag of wipes on the plane with us when we travel. While we don't go through the full pack, it's nice to not have to worry about whether or not you'll have enough. We generally bring a pack of Costco wipes with us, but do order from Amazon when in a pinch.
Bring some toys
We got the Mario figurines above at Amazon. Our youngest son loves them. He also loves cars. We pack a couple of the figurines and a couple of cars in our carry-on for him to play with. We pull them out when he starts to get bored. Don't hand your kids the toys first thing when you get on the plane unless they're already causing havoc - it'll be one less tool you have for later to use. Small toys will generally work best as you don't have a lot of room, but you know your child the best and what they like.
Another strategy that we use is that we put a few small toys, like the above, in our backpacks that go under the seat in front of us, and then we put a few more toys in our carry-on suitcases. You definitely want something that's quick to get to as it's a pain pulling down your suitcase from the overhead bin, but if you have a longer flight and you know your child will only play with a toy for a little bit, you'll want to have a few more toys as well.
Bring some books
If you child likes to look or listen to a book, make sure you have a few in your bag as well. My youngest son absolutely loves books and will get really into them during the day (as long as I keep reading, he'll keep choosing more). You don't have to read loudly to your child on the plane, but hopefully if your child gets restless, you can help them to calm down with their favorite book. As of late, we've really been enjoying The Gruffalo, which is a fun children's book. While my 2 year old will actively ask for that book, the older 6 year old also enjoys listening to it and will read it as well, if the younger one will let him.
Similar to toys, we like to have a few extra books in our suticase as well that we can switch out, especially on longer flights.
Bring their favorite snacks
We like to bring a big variety of snacks, generally in smaller quantities, on the plane with us. With airlines having cut back what they provide for snack service (and meal service), you're going to want to have something your child actually likes. On top of that, this can be a real life-saver when your child starts getting restless. While I don't normally bribe my children with food, it's one of the things in a tight and confined space that I will fall back to if needed.
We like to bring healthier snacks when we can: apples, oranges, grapes, other fruits, nuts, and so forth. Depending on your destination, you may not be able to bring fruit - we've had to throw it out before. We like to bring some protein bars as well. Make sure you've got a bit of a variety.
The other thing with children is that they'll let you bring on liquids of larger quantity than you'd normally be able to. We brought a bottle of milk for our youngest when we flew to Hawaii recently, and they put it through a bit of a test to make sure it wasn't anything nefarious. According to the TSA rules, they'll test the liquids, but for toddlers and infants you can bring milk and juice through security for them. Note, we did have to throw out orange juice on our way back from Hawaii due to some USDA regulations (the orange juice was opened). Depending on your destination, you may have trouble with juice outside of the TSA regulations.
This only gets pulled out in an emergency. I don't like giving my kids candy on planes (or in generally really, but that's a different topic), so this really only comes out if the situation warrants it. Dum-Dums are my favorite because they are not too big, but they only need one to calm down. Sucking on the sucker seems to help them calm themselves - or it may just be the sugary flavor. Whatever it is, it's my last resort to calm my child down on the plane.
Use a tablet with their favorite shows and movies
For our kids, we use Fire tablets. They're the cheapest and simplest option for them - I'm not worried about them breaking the screen or something because it's cheap. My wife has an iPad that the kids don't touch. The thing that I like about the Fire tablet is that they're really easy to download content for offline use. Amazon makes it really simple to do so. Your child isn't going to care about having the nicest of fastest tablet possible at a younger age (although the screens on the Fire are actually really nice if you get the HD versions). What's important here is that you have a few shows that your child can watch when they get restless. The shows on the in-flight entertainment usually are geared towards adults, or else expensive. You may get lucky and find something, but it's not really worth the risk.
Check a stroller at the gate
Depending on your child's age, you're going to want a stroller. While you want your child to move around and walk in the airport, you also don't want to have to lug them through the entire place either. What we don't bring is a huge stroller - we actually have a smaller stroller that we bought specifically for flying. That's because we didn't want to have to carry and move around a really big stroller. There are people that bring their big walking strollers, but I can't imagine it to be very fun, especially once you're at your destination, to have to move that thing all over. Since your gates are almost always a long walk, we like to check the stroller at the gate, just through our next stop (assuming we have a long layover) so that we can pick it up during the next stop and use it at the airport.
We specifically have this 3DLite stroller that we take with us everywhere. It's a bit stronger than a basic umbrella stroller, but much lighter than our large walking stroller that's both heavy and awkward to move around. We almost exclusively use this stroller now, even when going somewhere locally these days. It's just so much easier and takes up a lot less room.
Bring their comfort toy or blanket
My two kids are quite different in relation to what they like or what calms them down. One of them has a bunny that they love and always have to sleep with. The other doesn't really cling to anything in particular. If your child does have a comfort toy or blanket, makes sure you have it on hand (assuming it's of reasonable size - bringing a huge blanket on board a plane could be a bit of a problem). We like to pack them in the kids carry-on and pull them out when it's time to rest or sleep on the plane (for longer flights). It helps them to understand that it's time to calm down. Of course, they don't usually sleep, but they do tone it down.
Let them watch the planes
This is probably obvious, but kids generally love to watch out the windows at the airports. They like to see the planes and people out there working. Our 6 year old likes to see if he can see our luggage or what unique items are going on to the plane. Our 2 year old likes to point and say plane a lot. Regardless, try to find a place with some window space and without too many people that they can watch and play a little bit. This is one of the reasons that we like to bring the stroller with us and check it at the gate. We try to find a place far away from the crowds where they can hang out, watch some planes, and not bother other people.
Walk the terminals with them
Get the energy out of your kids in the terminals. Walking through them, stopping at the stores (be careful with this though if your child is always begging for things), and exploring is a good way to help wear your kids out a little bit. If you can find a place where there aren't a lot of people, you can let your kids run around a little more - depending on airport and time of day this will be easier or harder to accomplish. Do make sure that your children are behaving, and not being totally wild - you're still in a public airport.
If you're in an airport with terminals that you have to connect between by train, or otherwise, you can ride the train a few times as well. For example, when we traveled to Houston (IAH), my son loved riding the Subway, which is located landside (pre-security), and the Skyway, which is located airside (post-security). In fact, that's almost all he wanted to do. It was definitely a good way to keep him moving and distracted from the long waits.
Relax while you can
Take as much time as you can to relax, especially on the plane. If you've got your child calm and relaxed, grab your Kindle to read a little bit, or put your head back and just try to enjoy a few minutes of peace. It's a lot of work flying with kids, but these are the memories that you and your children will have for a lifetime. When I think back to my childhood, many of the things that I remember are the trips and vacations that we took. When I think back over the last 5 years, I remember all of the vacations that we took. While flying with kids is a lot of work, the place you're going will be the things that you remember. Try to enjoy as much of it as you can.
I'd love to hear your tips and tricks. Leave your comments below for what you like to do to make flying easier with kids.