First and foremost, follow airport security rules. Remember "3-1-1" to avoid what one mother and her two kids dealt with this summer before a flight out of Hartford, Conn. A jar of Vaseline, a tube of toothpaste, sunscreen, hand lotion and water bottles were about to be tossed in the trash.
The family's personal items packed in mom's carry-on bag did not match the rules of the Transportation Security Administration: Carry-on liquids have to be 3.4 ounces or less by volume and placed in one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. The "3-1-1" is three items, one bag for one air traveler.
Larger liquids, including medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3 ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint, the TSA rules say.
Once you're on board, says a Roanoke, Va., mother who has flown with her husband and toddler this summer: "Do not ever let your child out of the seat. If she doesn't know that running around up and down the aisles is an option, she will not want to do it - hopefully."
Also, introduce the child to the travelers on the plane around you. They may be nicer if they "know" her, says the mother.
Other ideas for a smoother flight:
n Bring along a scarf for playing peek-a-boo, and lots of stickers.
n Wrap new, inexpensive toys like a present in unsealed tissue paper or cloth.
n Try to schedule flights around nap times.
Once you're at your destination, keep these tips in mind:
n When a child gets way off schedule in a new environment, late-night activity fueled by adrenaline makes him appear as if he's not tired. When he gets overtired, it's harder for him to relax and fall asleep. And he wakes up more often during the night. Stick to at least a semblance of your home routine to avoid sleep-deprivation for parent and child. Pack a white noise machine for a quieter room.
n If your child is susceptible to seasonal allergies that trigger asthma, check with your health-care provider before a trip. Some parents say their kids benefit from taking an antihistamine for a week before staying in a new environment where, for example, unfamiliar molds can trigger cold-like symptoms.
n Don't be fooled by cloudy skies. "You can get the worst sunburn on a cloudy day," says Doris Day, M.D., speaking for The Skin Cancer Foundation. "Anytime you're out in daylight hours, you're at risk," Day says. If your shadow is shorter than you are, she says, ultraviolet exposure is high; if your shadow is longer, the UV exposure is lower.
n Pay attention to each day's color-coded ozone forecast, and limit outdoor activities to prevent such problems as shortness of breath, coughing, and eye, nose and throat irritation. Orange days represent unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups including children and adults with asthma. Red zone conditions are considered unhealthy for everyone. But even more moderate yellow zone days irritate some children.
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and teaches preschool. If you have tips or questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-236-9510.