A flying experience for any family with young children involves enough mishaps and hiccups to make a drama-filled, knee-slapping scene worthy to be featured in the next Look Who's Talking (it could only be funny in hindsight, of course).
While almost nothing goes right when you mix two of the world's most unpredictable elements ; air travel and a child - flying the skies can still be friendly or at least made friendlier when armed with some clever contraptions and travel gear.
We've come a long way since Macaulay Culkin was first left home alone and the frantic family of a gazillion clumsily ran through airport terminals with luggage flying everywhere. Here are our top 8 picks for child travel gear.
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1. Britax Seat Travel Cart.
The Federal Aviation Administration strongly urges parents to secure children weighing 40 pounds or less in an FAA-approved car seat. Bulky and heavy car seats can be transported to the plane with finesse using a car seat trolley. The best part? Strap your child into the car seat atop the cart and you can pull him along for the ride.
2. CARES Airplane Safety Harness for Children.
Air travelers weighing between 20 and 44 pounds now have a smaller and lighter alternative to bulky car seats. The FAA has approved CARES airplane safety harness, which uses an additional belt and shoulder harness that goes around the seat back and attaches to the passenger lap belt to provide restraint for the upper part of the body. CARES is light, portable and installs quickly and easily. It is not approved for motor vehicles.
3. JL Childress Standard and Dual Stroller Travel Bag.
Whether you check your stroller at the gate or on the plane, an unprotected stroller is susceptible to dings and scuffs. Protect your stroller by encasing it in a sturdy stroller travel bag.
4. Car seat covers.
Why stress about the inevitable spit up or spills that are bound to get your car seat dirty en route? A car seat cover that easily removes and washes will eliminate unnecessary stress and extend the life of the car seat.
5. Hip Hugger by Baby Nari.
There are many great baby carriers. But the Hip Hugger is especially conducive for travel because you don't have to wrap or strap in your baby. The fanny pack-looking baby carrier acts as a portable baby seat that straps around your waist. It allows caretakers to carry and put down their baby at the drop of a dime. It's better for posture and easier on the arms (babies feel 80 percent lighter). Plus, babies love sitting on the hip hugger forward facing unrestrained.
If you want to be completely hands free (you must hold baby with one hand), the hip hugger does come with the option of purchasing a detachable strap. It also has a pouch in the front that's great for storing compact items like phones, boarding passes, passports and even small wallets.
6. Kidz Gear Wired Headphones.
The lightweight, child-sized headphones are designed to fit children 2 years and older. Works with iPads, iPods, and iPhones and many other audio devices.
7. Kids Earplane Ear Plugs for Airplane Travel.
Ascending and descending down a runway is arguably one of the most unpleasant parts of flying for children - and adult passengers. Kids Earplane Ear Plugs were designed to equalize the pressure on the ears of children 1 through 10 years of age.
8. Munchkin Snack Catchers.
Avoid unnecessary spills and mess with these spill-proof containers. You can fit most bite-sized solid foods in them. They're also a lifesaver for everyday purposes.
Deborah Song is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of cremedelachef.com. While studying for her MA in journalism at NYU, Deborah worked at Marie Claire, Manhattan and Los Angeles magazine, amongst other publications. Since then she has become a mother of two girls. Her favorite place to parent is in the kitchen where mistakes are plentiful and welcome.