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SALT LAKE CITY — Many people find themselves braving the airport with kids in tow. Use these tips to make your next flight no sweat.
Don’t bring a carry-on
This seems to be counter intuitive, and many parents boarding a flight act like they’re going to be on board for weeks. Everything you bring should fit into one backpack per adult. No big carry-ons, no extra bags. When your kid starts throwing up because of turbulence and your bag is stuck in the overhead compartment, it does you no good.
Bringing too much also slows you down in the security line. Most of the frustration of any flight, especially a short domestic flight, happens in the airport itself. Dragging 4 carry-ons around the airport, taking turns guarding bags while you get food or go to the bathroom and forgetting important items at security are all things you avoid by only bringing backpacks.
It's easy people tend to overpack bags with extra clothes and “just in case” items or if you're taking gifts with you. Ship any gifts you can ahead of time, or order direct to your destination. You can always wrap it when you get there. (Most airport security will ask you to unwrap any present you have in your carry-on bags anyway.)
If you are staying with friends, see what you can borrow. Many families will have extra winter gear that they’re happy to loan, saving you valuable suitcase space. Plan on wearing clothes multiple times, and bring things you can mix and match. Nobody should get more than half a suitcase, and kids should get significantly less.
Bring The Essentials
With all the stuff you shouldn’t bring, there are a few things you really do need on the plane. Large Ziploc bags are fantastic for containing wet or dirty clothes, dirty diapers and all manner of grossness. Your neighbors will thank you. Bring more diapers than you think you need. Babies invariably have a blowout on the plane.
And don’t forget the (non-sticky) snacks, preferably packaged in small amounts in Ziploc bags. This makes it easy to keep a steady flow of food heading toward your toddler every fifteen minutes.
Change your clothes
Or at least be ready to. Chances are your child is going to spill or leak something on your shirt. Bring a backup. And remember, patterns are your friend and will hide a lot of mess.
Bring a full change — including underwear for kids who are not reliably toilet trained — and a clean shirt for older kids. You never know when you’re going to be stuck in the airport for a while, and having a change of clothes can be a psychological lifesaver. There’s nothing worse than spending a seven-hour flight wearing the shirt your kid just threw up on.
Be the last ones on the plane
Many airlines offer pre-boarding for families with young children. Don't take it. Being the first ones on the plane just means you're on the plane for an extra thirty minutes, and your kids are already whining before you even take off. The only reason to be first on the plane is if you have carry-ons that need stowing, and and shouldn't.
So wait till almost everyone else is through before you board. This way you avoid the pointless lines and gain an extra thirty minutes of running around time to wear out your kids.
If you're traveling with two adults, you can send one person on early to set up car seats, electronics and snacks, so when your kids arrive just before takeoff, your area is welcoming and ready to go.
Above all, remember the flight is short and will soon be behind you. Just follow these tips and you'll soon be enjoying your destination with the minimum of drama. Olivia is a mother, a writer and a compulsive traveler. She blogs about traveling with kids at www.aroundtheworldin80diapers.com.