There's nothing worse than setting off on a much-anticipated adventure with children only to have them begin complaining before the pilot has had a chance to welcome you on board. Choose the contents of your carry-on bags carefully. Doing so will go a long way toward avoiding the type of meltdown that might have you wondering when the flight attendants will begin serving "adult beverages."
Advises Sarah Sims, who frequently travels to England with her two young sons, "Have a backpack for each child. Include small, wrapped activities such as crayons and stickers that they can open at certain milestones along the way. Stash snacks in each bag in the event of an unforeseen delay. Finally, put all sippy cups and liquids in their own Ziploc bag with a paper towel. Then, if something spills or leaks due to pressure changes, changes of clothing and other items aren't ruined." (Note that depending on current travel regulations, you may not be able to bring any beverages through the security check but can instead buy them in the airport once you've passed through security.)
Many parents wonder whether or not they should take their child's car seat on the plane. This point is hotly debated. Advantages to bringing your own car seat on the plane include ensuring your under-two-year-old is safe (and strapped in!). The disadvantage is, of course, the pain of lugging the seat onboard. A new FAA-approved flight harness is now available for children over one year and weighing more than 22 pounds. Called the CARES System, the five-point harness attaches to your child's plane seat, straps her tightly and safely in, and negates the need for dragging on that car seat.
Also, keep in mind that from two years of age, a child is required to have his own plane seat, and is big enough not to require a car seat.
If you do plan to bring a car seat or a flight harness for a child under two, check first with the airline for their requirements.
Cindy recommends wearing layers on the plane so that if your child spits up (or empties the entire contents of his stomach onto your shirt seven minutes after takeoff), you can simply remove the dirty clothing and reveal a clean shirt underneath. You may want to put a plastic bag in your carry-on to separate a wet shirt from the rest of your things.
Even if traveling with older children, who aren't likely to throw a tantrum in the terminal professing their need to go home for the stuffed animal they haven't had interest in for three years, do not overlook the importance of keeping them occupied for several hours—not to mention through potential delays. Ensuring that each child has a backpack filled with a variety of activities can mean the difference between a patient traveler and never-ending barrage of "Are we there yet?"