Visiting relatives can add joy to holiday celebrations, though hours spent in airports and on long flights can tax the patience of even the most travel-savvy parents.
Dennis Kutwal, 42, of Long Island, N.Y., learned how challenging flying with children can be when he traveled to the Dominican Republic with one of his young daughters.
“She was perfectly happy until the plane took off,” says Kutwal, a travel agent. “Then she became hysterical.”
He later learned that his daughter was experiencing pain in her ears much like adults feel when cabin air pressure changes during an airplane’s takeoff and landing. The pain often is severe for young children, whose smaller Eustachian tubes take more time to regulate pressure changes.
The American Society of Travel Agents offers the following tips for keeping kids entertained and happy during air travel.
Drink. Encourage young children to drink water or fruit juice before the flight and while the plane is taking off. A sippy cup is especially helpful to encourage frequent swallowing.
Snack. Pack chewy snacks such as gummy fruit or lollipops, which encourage chewing and swallowing and help keep the Eustachian tubes open.
Yawn. Many people yawn when they see others yawning. Yawning helps equalize the pressure and reduce pain.
Move. When the “fasten seat belt” sign is turned off, get up, stretch and walk around the cabin. Sitting still for hours is difficult for adults and often impossible for young children.
Distract. Your toddler may re-read the same book contentedly at home, but don’t expect her to do the same thing on an airplane. Bring a variety of small toys and activities to keep children busy.