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  • Kids on the Plane

    How to Make Your Flying Experience Fun for Everyone
  • Emily Johnson, a Medford mom, was fearful of taking her baby boy on his first flight. "My biggest fear was that my baby was going to scream and cry the entire trip. I didn't want people to give us dirty looks." Many other young parents feel similarly; they worry that their children will misbehave on the plane. But although a ...
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    • Kids Flying Solo
      Most airlines have services for children who fly without adult supervision; they are often called "unaccompanied minor services," and are governed by specific rules and regulations.
      When a chil...
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      Kids Flying Solo
      Most airlines have services for children who fly without adult supervision; they are often called "unaccompanied minor services," and are governed by specific rules and regulations.

      When a child is registered for a flight, a parent must tell the airline that the child is flying unaccompanied. The airline will then ask the parent specific questions about who is dropping off the child and who is picking him or her up. Both responsible adults are required to bring valid IDs, as the airline will not release a child to an unauthorized person. An airline employee escorts the child from the moment the child gets on the plane until he or she is picked up from the destination airport. Unaccompanied minors are never left alone.

      Parents should wait at the departure gate until their child boards and the plane pulls away from the gate. In addition, most airlines request that unaccompanied minors are provided with money, food, drink, and a cell phone or calling card in case a delay or flight cancellation occurs. Buy liquids at the airport after the security screening. Outside liquids are no longer allowed in airports.

      Different airlines have different age requirements, restrictions and fees. Younger unaccompanied children are generally required to use the unaccompanied minor service. Also, most airlines restrict younger unaccompanied children to nonstop flights. Fees range from $25 to $100. Visit your airline's website for more detailed information on their regulations.
  • Emily Johnson, a Medford mom, was fearful of taking her baby boy on his first flight. "My biggest fear was that my baby was going to scream and cry the entire trip. I didn't want people to give us dirty looks." Many other young parents feel similarly; they worry that their children will misbehave on the plane. But although a plane trip may be a daunting and potentially unpleasant experience, with a few good pointers, parents can make a flying experience fun for everyone.
    One of the most common mistakes parents make is that they board the plane unprepared. Jeanette Friend, an in-flight crew member for JetBlue Airways, suggests that children have their own carry-on luggage packed with anything they usually need in their day-to-day lives, including food, blankets, pillows, diapers and entertainment.
    Most airlines provide small snacks during flights, but these snacks may not satisfy finicky tummies or moody toddlers. Be sure to bring your child's favorite snacks on board with you, including any liquids like water, milk or juice. Remember, liquids will have to be bought at the airport before boarding; liquids from home cannot be carried through security. "We always run out of milk and juice," says Michelle Oslie, another in-flight crew member for JetBlue Airways. "Parents get mad at us for not having milk, but we only have limited quantities. Parents should buy milk at the airport before they board the plane if they think their child will need it."
    Also, bring something comfortable from home. A comfort toy, blanket or pillow will allow a child to feel more secure in strange surroundings. Also, a favorite blanket may encourage nap time for younger children. Traveling during nap time is always a plus; children get rest, parents are able to relax, and other passengers are able to better enjoy their flights.
    Don't count on the airlines to provide blankets and pillows for you. "There are not enough blankets to go around. All airlines are phasing out blankets. Plus, if we carried a blanket for everyone on board, there would be no room in the overhead compartments for carry-on luggage," says Oslie.
    Diapers and wipes are also necessary for those yet-to-be potty-trained passengers. Airlines do not have extra diapers on board. A child with a messy diaper will not only be smelly, but also probably grumpy and fussy. Bring diapers even for short flights, as delays can quickly turn a short 45-minute flight into a four-hour disaster.
    As far as entertainment is concerned, Matthew Janas, an in-flight crew member for JetBlue Airways, recommends bringing toys, games, learning books, portable game boys or a portable DVD player. Just be sure to turn down the sound on the games so they don't disturb the other passengers. Janas also says that most airlines provide in-flight television programs for children. Says Janas, "Most kids get really involved in the TV programs. JetBlue has really good shows that the kids seem to love." Janas recommends visiting your airline's website for in-flight TV schedules before you board.
    In addition to these initial preparations, parents should pay attention to their child's particular needs. For example, little ones susceptible to earaches should be free of nasal infections, sinus infections or allergic reactions before flying. Earaches are caused from the inflammation of the Eustachian tubes, which may be heightened by changes in pressure during take-off or landing. To help with pressure changes, Oslie recommends that children bottle feed, drink juice or chew gum.
    Another thing for parents to consider is whether they should board their children onto the plane first or last. Airlines often provide pre-boarding services for parents with young children, but pre-boarding may not be the best option for your child. "If you have a car seat and you struggle, you should board first so that people aren't waiting behind you to board. But if your child has Attention Deficit Disorder or has difficulty traveling, boarding the plane last might be a better option," says Friend.
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