1. Know Your Child’s Limits – Meltdowns rarely a bolt from the blue. If you push your child past his known limits, there will be tears and lamentations.
Don’t book a late flight for a child who is a poor sleeper. If your toddler can’t sit still for long stretches, break up the flight with a stopover. Your baby is not going to suddenly become a new person when he gets on a plane.
2. Know Your Child’s Age – A 3-month-old will need little more than her parents, warm milk, and a nice quiet place to sleep. An 18-month-old will want snacks, an iPad, toys, and her favorite books.
Pack so the important things are easily at hand and use your early boarding time to have the important stuff at your side or in the seatback.
3. Have Your Child Suckle On Take Off and Landings – Nursing, Bottles, Pacifiers, and Sippy cups will make the child suckle which will help him deal with the rapid change in pressure and lower the chance of him screaming bloody murder.
If you have a bottle that needs hot water, consider carrying a thermos (which you can get through TSA with further inspection or grab from the coffee shop after security).
4. Add Your Lap Infant The Same Time You Book – If you forget to add him on a domestic flight, it will mean wasting precious time at the full-service check-in counter. If you forget on an International flight you’re looking at wasting precious time AND paying a percentage of a same-day international fare, which, is OUCH.
5. Get Child Carrying Equipment You Can Carry On – You can gate check a stroller and car seat for free; however, having a travel stroller or child carrying backpack that you can put in the overhead compartment will save you from waiting on the (usually very hot or very cold) jet bridge for 5-15 minutes each leg while still allowing you to schlep your child around with minimal effort.
6. Get a Direct Flight Whenever You Can – The fewer boardings, taxis, takeoffs, and landings you undergo, the happier your child will be. The only exception is if your child can’t sit still for extended periods, you may want to break up long flights.
7. Get a Row To Yourself Whenever You Can – If you have to move to the premium seats (Note: Exit Rows are Verbotten w/ under 12’s) or outright bribe a flight attendant, do it. The ability to nurse in private or have your child stretch his legs without kicking his neighbor can make or break a flight.
8. Make Use of the Airport Family Bathrooms – They’re made for you, so use them. Having the whole family in one room speeds up the process by a factor of 10. Unfortunately, you often have to wait for a lady changing out of her pajamas or a businessman who wants to sit and read the entire Wall Street Journal in private, but it’s still faster.
9. Find Ways To Get in the Lounge On Long Layovers – Clean bathrooms to change diapers and outfits. A quiet space to nap or nurse. A variety of unlimited snacks for your child to turn her nose up at.
Getting a credit card with lounge access or that reimburses you for the entrance fee can pay for itself quickly (under 2’s no charge).
10. Relax and Accept Help – Most people on planes have been around children. All people on planes want your baby to have a good flight for reasons both noble and selfish. Don’t be self-conscious about your baby or accepting help from a stranger.