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Flying Solo with Kids
 
 
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By Rhonda Crone

I'm not the mom who always thinks ahead: the one who shows up at the restaurant with a bag of markers, color books and stickers to keep my young kids occupied. I am the mom who ends up over-tipping to compensate for the mess my kids have made with crackers, Sweet 'n Low packets and creamers because I forgot to pack a single toy. So when I took on the ominous task of flying solo with my two children - a toddler and pre-schooler - I decided that it was time to do things a little differently. I prepared.

Booking the flight with the hour in mind is a must, of course. A flight before, but not right before, a toddler's daytime nap is often best. If he doesn't sleep on the plane, he'll be more than ready when you get off, giving you a break when you need it most. Evening flights don't work for every child, in the excitement it is easy for them to get overtired. And there is nothing worse than a delirious child in a confined space. Be considerate, and save your sanity at the same time.

In the Airport, take a cheap umbrella stroller for your toddler to be checked at the gate. Or, take a good one if you plan on using it at your destination. Harnesses sometimes invite funny looks, but if you are one person with two kids to chase, Mommy Dearest is better than an Amber Alert. The animal backpack-like harnesses look less like a leash. If one or more of your children are beyond the dart first, think later stage, give them a task. Let them carrying their own backpack or push a younger child in a stroller. They'll feel grown-up and important.

Snacks are key to air travel. SUCKERS are at the top of my list when flying solo. They can keep a child's mouth closed for at least ten precious minutes. Mind you, I only take them out when desperate. Healthy snacks for milder moments include mini-boxes of Gold Fish or animal crackers, Veggie Booty, fruit and grain bars, fruit snacks and small, un-opened juice boxes. Check with your airline for their ounce-allowance and be sure to pack your child's snack in your carry-on.

Entertainment for the flight can be small and easy; just bring several different kinds and if you're traveling with a pre-schooler buy one or two new things. You don't need to spend a fortune to buy an hour of fun. Dollar bins have lots of neat stuff. Small notepads and small, colored, sparkly pens can keep 4 and 5 year olds busy for longer than you might think. Sticker books and small color book complete with an eight-pack of big crayons are also big hits. A CD player with earphones is ideal for pre-schoolers-going-on-13. Board books and magnetic doodle pads are great fun for toddlers. Hand puppets, also entertaining, take up little room. Yet snacks are likely to be your toddler's best toy. Mini-boxes are about more than what's inside. For longer flights, portable DVD players (they now have ones that look like mini-laptops) with a case of favorite DVDs are a must for all kids of all ages.

Bathroom Breaks, in-flight, are one of the most frustrating aspects of solo travel with young kids. Unless you are traveling with a friend or family, you have no choice but to make a trip to the toilet a family event.

My solo trip, which thankfully wasn't long, taught me the things I've shared with you. And it also taught me that my husband really is quite handy to have around.

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