How to Handle Your Child’s Travel Complaints

Blog Kid Airplane Crying Web

Vacations provide some of your family’s best memories: Sitting around the tree with Grandma and Grandpa, meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time. But actually getting to that dream destination can be more like a nightmare if your kids get sick or are stuck in a cramped airplane seat. Here are the top complaints children have when traveling by car or airplane, and some simple solutions:

“My ears hurt!”

Feeling your ears pop during takeoff and landing is always a little uncomfortable, but for infants and children, who have much narrower Eustachian tubes in their ear, it can be especially painful, especially if the tube is clogged by inflammation or mucus.

Solution: If your child is suffering from an ear or sinus infection, ask your doctor for advice on how to treat it before traveling, or consider waiting until the infection is healed. Once on the plane, the goal is to keep the Eustachian tube open as much as possible, which your child can do by yawning or swallowing (bring a bottle or pacifier for baby and juice or water for older children). Older children can also chew gum or suck on a hard candy to keep the tube open. Also, though it may seem like sleeping would keep ears from aching, it actually makes it harder for the ear to adjust to the new pressure, so keep kids awake during takeoff and landing.

“I’m carsick!”

That queasy, nauseous feeling your child gets in the back of the car is the result of the brain receiving conflicting signals about motion from the inner ears, the eyes, and nerves in the extremities.

Solution: Since hunger can make motion sickness worse, give your child a light, non-greasy snack like crackers or cookies before you get in the car, and schedule frequent stops to get out and breathe some fresh air. Since visual stimulus effects carsickness, discourage your child from reading or playing a video game; instead, ask her to focus on objects that are far away, like mountains or a distant skyline, rather than up-close sites such as street signs or other cars, which zip by faster. If she feels very sick, stop the car, and have her lie down with a cold washcloth on her forehead until the nausea passes.

“I hate airplane food!”

Airlines are trying harder and harder these days to offer fresh, healthy options, but it’s still unlikely they’ll have the chicken nuggets or pizza that your kid craves.

Solution: Check with your airline to see if you can order a child’s meal ahead of time, especially if your kids are picky eaters. Also, due to unpredictable delays, assume that you will spend twice as long in the airport or airplane as scheduled, and pack double the amount of non-perishable snacks, sandwiches, and baby food/formula as you think you’ll need.

“I don’t want to sit still!”

There’s nothing worse than sitting next to a cranky, antsy child on an airplane—even if it’s your own kid!

Solution: Have each child pack his own backpack or small rolling bag with favorite books and toys to bring on the plane. Meanwhile, visit a dollar store and buy a few new coloring books, stickers, and card games; keep them in your own carry-on to surprise him with when he gets bored with his own stash. Plus, since it’s in everyone’s best interest to get up once an hour to walk to stave off cramps and potential blood clots, take frequent trips to the bathroom or to visit the flight attendants to ask for a snack.

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