Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Plane Travel with Little Ones Part 3: We all need a little Rx

When we hear doctors talk about the main risk factors for heart attacks we always hear about: diet, lack of exercise and genetics.

When traveling with kids, there are three main risk factors for meltdowns: hunger, fatigue and boredom. In my experience, these three predictors are applicable to all age groups (including adults!!!) Here are some of my personal travel tips to beat these three things that I have learned our own plane trips with Brooke and most recently Brooke and Will. I encourage everyone to post their favorite plane travel tips as well. It never hurts to have an arsenal of ideas before heading for the airport.


Signs and symptoms of hunger include crying, tantrums and fatigue brought on by low blood sugar. This is the easiest risk factor to remedy. Here are my personal tips, all of which I have learned via trial and error:

- Always ARRIVE at the airport with a well-fed infant or child. Even if it means feeding baby quickly in the car before you enter the airport. It's never fun to hear "I'm huuuungrrrryyy" or deal with a crying, ravenous infant while you're barefoot in the security line.

- Pack food (duh!). For older kids and toddlers, this means preferably, food that is high in protein and low in sugar. And God forbid, no chocolate!! My favorite things to pack are 1) Frozen edamame (keeps everything cold and they thaw out in a couple of hours; packed with protein) 2) Low fat salami and cheese sandwiches on whole wheat rolls--protein!! Of course you could do turkey or ham as well. 3) Low sugar granola or snack bars. Brooke likes Odwalla bars. 4) Celery and peanut butter 5) Trail mix or dried fruit 6) Apple slices coated with lemon 6) Cheese cubes and crackers

- One of the best things we did on our last trip is eat as soon as we got off the plane. If you are flying in or out of an international airport, there are usually some pretty decent places to eat. We got some food and then walked to baggage claim where our luggage was waiting for us, instead of the other way around. The kids had their tummies full and we weren't scrambling to get them fed while battling 350 people at the luggage carousel. Plus, it was just a lot more relaxing to sit and regroup after the flight and Scott and I could eat some "real" food.


Signs and symptoms of of boredom include whining, being less obedient than usual, pissing off other people and doing generally annoying things like coloring on the airplane windows.

If you are traveling with little ones in the Red Zone (age 7 months to about 2 1/2), this can be a tough one. Some boredom busters I've discovered are:

1) DVDs: Until about age 2 1/2, you won't get much use out of the DVD themselves but I still brought a portable DVD player and favorite DVDs. It at least bought us 15 minutes or so of "quiet time" when Brooke was under 2. She liked playing with the buttons!

2) Play "I Spy": With kids 2 1/2 and up you can do this anywhere. On the plane, in the car, in the ticket line. Just say I Spy something....red, blue, green etc. and have you child look for it. Then it's their turn to ask the question. You can also do it with any book or even the Sky Mall magazine:" I spy something you can cook with" or " spy something you wear on your head. " This kept Brooke entertained for at least a half an hour on our most recent flight and for a half hour when we were waiting to board.

3) Food: If your child is eating finger foods, bring along his favorite finger foods. Eating is a great way to pass the time! :-)

4 ) See and Say: We all know this toy. I got Brooke one when she was about 8 months and it was a smaller one that wasn't loud enough to annoy anyone sitting around us. It kept her entertained for quite awhile, given she was so young. It's really tough to entertain the 2 and under crowd, but give them some animal sounds and they're usually happy.

5) New toys: Bring along at least 3 new things your child has never seen before. If she's old enough to appreciate it, wrap them up so it's like a mini-Christmas! The Target dollar bin or the local dollar store items have worked well for us.

6) My least favorite-- walking up and down the aisles. But it's important to keep those little ones active! Even going to the nasty bathroom for a diaper change is at least 5-10 minutes of time passed! :-)


Signs and symptoms of fatigue include crying, screaming, yelling, rolling on the floor, whining and just generally being a pain in the ass, giving you the feeling that you may want to shoot yourself. In my opinion, fatigue is the most common reason for airplane meltdowns but it's the hardest to cure. You and I both know how tough it is to sleep on an airplane and your child feels the same way. When your child is overtired and cranky on the airplane, the best thing you can do is try to get them comfy so they can sleep. There are also a few things you can do to try and prevent fatigue:

- The day before you fly, try to make it a very low-key day for your child. Don't drag them all over creation so you can buy last minute travel items. Stay home, make sure they get a good nap in and to bed as early as possible.

- We've traveled at ALL different times of day and I've noticed that around 11am to 12pm seems to be a good flight departure time. You're not getting the kids up at the crack of dawn (unless you live a really long way from the airport) and it's close to an afternoon naptime, so if the stars are aligned, you have a good chance at getting them to take their afternoon nap on the plane. One important thing to note, I have tried many times to try get Brooke to run around the airport or get her up super early in order to tire her out so she'll sleep on the flight. Most every time, those ideas have backfired on me. Getting a kid riled up before the flight will most likely lead to her becoming OVER tired and not being able to sleep. By making things as calm, relaxing and normal as possible, you'll have a better shot at promoting her to take her regular nap.

- If you live more than a hour from the airport and have an early morning flight (9am or before) consider staying at a hotel right by the airport. Yes, it costs money but since when is having kids cheap?! We did this for our 9am flight back for California from Chicago and it worked out wonderfully. I highly recommend the Chicago O'Hare Hilton! A 5 minute stroll and you are in the Terminal! Plus, the kids got to wake up on their own time without me waking them at some God-awful hour.

There are tons more travel tips but these are the ones that have worked for us. Please post all of your best tips, too--I'm always looking for ways to make traveling easier. Especially since I have an up and coming Red-Zoner! :-)

1 comment:

  1. Well, once again I am packing for another trip. This time just to Park City, Utah so it will only be a 2.5 hour flight. Looks like we might get upgraded too! I used to get so mad when I would see kids in first class...now I just smile. Thanks for all the tips Casey...especially since I'm flying with a child in "the Red Zone!" :)