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Seven tips to make travel on a plane with a child easier (for everyone)

Flying with kids can be a frightening thought. Trapped on a plane for hours with nowhere to roam, no way to lie down, and none of the comforts of home? Traveling around the world with our 2-year-old, we found ourselves on 39 different flights (photo: getting ready to fly from Dubai to Beijing on Emirates). Not all of the flights went smoothly. What did we learn? Here are tips we learned the hard way on our around the world journey:

  1. Book bulkhead seats. Bulkhead seats mean more leg room, and room for a small child to play on the floor. These spaces are also often used for travel cribs on some airlines’ flights.
  2. Use a harness. Don’t carry a bulky car seat for the plane. Instead, we recommend a FAA-approved harness that will keep your child safe and secure, and yet are lightweight and fit in a purse.
  3. Pack toys and snacks. Bring your child’s favorite toys, and introduce some new surprises to really hold his attention. Also be sure to carry lots of snacks. You never know if delays, turbulence or even sold-out snacks will mean a hungry child, so have provisions. We carried M&Ms as our 'emergency chocolate' to calm him when things got really bad.
  4. Load up your devices. Before you travel, download videos and game apps to your Smartphone, tablets and computers so you’ll have plenty of choices when out and about without WiFi. Check out our son’s favourite travel apps (parent-approved by us!).
  5. Take turns. Have a plan of attack before you get on the flight or who will take your child to the bathroom, help with eating, and handle tantrums so the other can rest and sleep. There is no point in both of you working overtime to make a flight go easier; taking turns kept us sane on multiple flights lasting long hours. We actually used stopwatches to give ourselves 20-minute increments so we could have time to tune out and then switch 'shifts.'
  6. Focus on you. Don’t worry about the other passengers on the flight, despite any dirty looks you may see. Your child is upset and stressed. Focus on calming your child and don’t allow other travelers to frustrate you, as it will only make the situation worse.
  7. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask others around your for help. Flight attendants have traveled with many children and can offer a helping hand, like warm water, snacks and distractions. If you need something, ask the flight attendant for it.

Remember: It’s never as bad as you think. All parents have been through the stress of flying with children, and as passengers, will be more understanding and helpful than you’d think. Before you know it, you’ll land and have incredible adventures ahead!

Guest blog by AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir for AirMilesExpert. They traveled around the world with their son Aarav. Visiting 31 countries and six continents as a family, they documented their year-long travel and trips on their family travel blog