10 tips for staying sane while traveling with children

First time making a long-distance trip with kids in tow? Here are 10 tips for ensuring your journey is as stress-free as possible.

1. Passports — check!

Children’s passports only last five years and usually take at least four weeks to get renewed, depending on issuing country. Don’t forget to double check all passport expiration dates — yours too! — to avoid paying pricey, last-minute renewal fees. U.S. passport holders should note that as of January 2016, extra pages can no longer be added, but an entire new passport must be purchased instead.

2. Book ahead, always.

Check-in online to ensure your family sits together. After a long flight, you’ll need a reliable and convenient airport transfer service. Reserve in advance with a company such as Blacklane, so your driver will be there when you arrive, ready to drive your family to your destination.

3. Arrive early.

Don’t forget that when traveling with children, you’ll need plenty of time to get to your gate. Sprinting last-minute to your boarding gate with kids in tow is never recommended. Aim to be there at least 40 minutes before departure.

4. Baby features.

Airlines don’t require parents to buy tickets for children under 2 years of age, but it’s still worth purchasing one — don’t forget to ask for a ticket discount. The best way for your baby to travel is in a car seat secured to the airline seat. You can also pre-book a baby bassinet — a tiny bed that connects to the wall of the plane. When you book your Blacklane airport transfer, don’t forget to request child seats and include the age and number of children.

5. In case of delay, don’t panic.

If you have time to spare at the gate, bring along some books and activities to keep your children busy. Check where family facilities are in the airport, including play areas and change rooms. Click here for a list of airports that offer activities for families.

6. Let them know what to expect.

If it’s your child’s first flight, take a few minutes to brief them about what’s to come. Explain check-in, security and the boarding process, and prepare them for the inevitable waiting lines. Ask them to listen to the briefing on the flight.

7. Pack surprise bags!

Bring along some surprise treasure bags filled with pocket-sized toys, puzzles and snacks. When your kids start getting impatient and bored, it’s time to pull out the surprise bag.

8. Ask for help.

Don’t be shy about asking flight attendants for help. And don’t worry about the reactions from fellow passengers, as more often than not you will find them sympathetic to your stressful situation.

9. Extra clothes and essentials.

Make sure to pack an extra pair of clothes and any medication your child may need in your hand luggage. Other essentials: diapers, baby wipes, snacks, drinks, and your child’s favorite toy. Note: formula and breast milk are exempt from airport security restrictions.

10. Deal with ear pain.

Your little ones can suffer from ear pain during takeoff and landing. Earplugs, gum or chewy candy can help ease the discomfort. Feed your baby, or have them suck on a soother to help balance ear pressure.