Ah, vacation. Headed somewhere fun and relaxing? You’ll have to get there first. And that part is not usually very relaxing.

Flying with children can be stressful, but there are ways to make it slightly less taxing on your single last nerve. The following tips are ones I’ve used myself, many times, on many trips. They have all worked wonders for me and I’m betting they’ll do the trick for you, too.

#1 Set Expectations

If this is your child’s first introduction to air travel, pretend play the experience at home ahead of time. Talk about appropriate behavior in the airport, set up “seats” on the plane, role-play boarding and stowing away bags, being considerate of other travelers and most importantly, snack time! If it feels like a game, it’ll be less stressful for everyone when you embark on the actual adventure.

#2 A Bag for Each Kid

Even little ones are capable of rolling a small suitcase or backpack behind them so designate a bag for each child. Here’s the catch—they decide what goes in it (stuffies, games, favorite blankie, legos, Matchbox cars, cups (see #5) or whatever). Now on the plane, they will have everything within arm’s reach, literally. You still have to pack and carry all their clothes, though. Sorry.

#3 Surprise!

Before the trip, purchase a small stash of distractions to use in case of an emergency—by emergency, I mean tantrums, travel meltdowns, sibling disputes and the like. Whether it be Ring Pops, sticker books, candy necklaces or small toys (think dollar store ball mazes or handheld hoop games), whip those out before you hit the panic button. For further motivation, tell the kids you’ll dole out one every hour if they can keep up the good behavior. Mom and dad get treats, too. Find the flight attendant with the beverage cart.

#4 Move those Legs!

Long layovers are unusual these days, but if you have one, take advantage of it. Walk the kids all over the place, along the moving pathways, through all the gates, past the stores and back again. The more energy they expend in the airport, the less energy they’ll have reserved to act out on the plane. They might even sleep. But I wouldn’t count on it.

#5 Bring Your Own Cups

I don’t care if your child is 10 months or 10 years old, bring your own sippie cups or kid-sized water bottles because they *will* kick that tray and spill the drink all over themselves. I’ve even done it myself and I know how to maneuver around that tray like a ninja. Have the flight attendant deliver the liquids to you and quickly transfer into a spill-proof container. Disaster averted.

Bonus Tip—Consider Riding the Bus

Did you know that the C&J has a “Kids Ride Free” Program to Logan Airport where children 18 years and younger ride free when accompanied by a ticketed adult? That a serious savings if you’re planning on heading out for the week (even off-site airport parking is upwards of $20 per day). With bus stations in Dover, Portsmouth and Newburyport and trips running to Logan every hour, you can’t beat the convenience.

Wherever you travel this vacation season, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

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