- Bring lots of snacks. Everything is better with Goldfish and M&M's. I also brought snacks that we don't usually have at home. That added to the excitement and was a good distraction when they started to get a bit nervous. I kept the sugary snacks to a minimum for obvious reasons.
- I brought their sippy cups from home (empty until with got through security). They added another layer of familiarity and helped when their ears were popping
- The Peanuts packed their own backpacks - they picked their favorite toys of the moment, but I checked them before we left and made some suggestions.
- DVD player - with a mix of movies that they haven't seen and some of their favorites. Headset splitter - This allowed for plugging in two headsets - ONLY two. Oh, I can't listen to Nemo again? That's ok, you guys enjoy it. I will sit here for few minutes in blissful quiet.
- Allow for plenty of time - this one was an adjustment for me. I hate just sitting around waiting at the airport for any longer than necessary - but this was all new and exciting for them. Leave plenty of time for "Mom, what's that?" and "Wow! Look at that!". "Getting there" can be an exciting part of the trip for them. Don't create extra stress by trying to rush them through it or having to miss that part.
- Explain things before they happen - what to expect at security (there is a video available on the TSA website), the boarding process, what takeoff will be like, that the engines will be loud, what their ears will feel like, etc.
- Play - Let them get out as many wiggles as possible out before they are going to be asked to sit in a seat for hours. We were lucky enough to have a play place in our home airport. They played there for about 45 minutes before we headed back to the gate. When we were coming home, that wasn't available. So, we went to an empty gate and they played there for a while without being in anyone's way.
- Ignore the Looks of Death from other passengers when they see that they are going to be sitting near children for the flight. That doesn't help anyone's stress level.
When we were flying to our vacation, we were all excited and everything went well. We had lots of fun and it was a perfect trip.
When we were coming home we were all tired and sad to be leaving. Then there was a mechanical delay that had us at the airport for an extra hour. There were a few meltdowns and lots of tears. We found an empty gate, had some snuggles and re-grouped. It improved everything and the rest of the trip home went very well. It didn't matter how many snacks or toys I brought, our attitudes were the most important factor.