By Laura Dannen Redman, CNTraveler.com
Travel writer Joanna Goddard (of A Cup of Jo fame) has spent more than her fair share of time finding clever ways to entertain her toddler and baby on a flight. You think you have it bad sitting in front of a screaming child? What about the parent trying desperately to ease the tension? We asked Goddard to offer some rules to play by when a fussy child starts to frazzle flyers.
Parents, be cool. "You definitely get that look when you're walking down the aisle -- glares and stuff, sideways glances. We get on the plane at the last second to minimize our time in the seats. But going down the aisle with a toddler and baby and a bunch of crap -- I know everyone is usually terrified when we sit down. We try to be sympathetic to the person sitting next to us. Say something like, I'm afraid we're sitting next to you."
Passengers, don't offer helpful advice. "You get a lot of well-meaning older men saying, I think the baby's hungry. I would say don't say anything, or ... no, you know, just don't say anything unless you're trying to be sympathetic."
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Dress to impress. "I actually read something a few years ago that said: Dress your kids really cute on the days you travel, because it's way more useful to have a cute kid be annoying than slovenly kids. I put them in overalls or something. I usually have them introduce themselves -- I say, 'Tell them your name.' You try to humanize the kids even more."
Activate "cute baby." "One thing I do if my baby's crying when we're taking off is hold him up, so he can see the passengers behind him. It's really entertaining for him, and then people will smile. If you hear a crying baby, it's an annoying sound. If you see a baby's face, it's cute."
Make friends. "We're really, really nice to flight attendants. We go out of our way to be friendly. You have to. You have no choice. What if I need a plastic cup to use as a toy?"
Make some more friends. "Our 4-year-old is at a good age (he can get into books and the iPad) and babies sit in your lap. But our 1-year-old, he's at the worst age. We're flying to England this summer and dreading it. When he wants to get up, I usually just walk around with him. I'll look for grandmotherly types -- usually you can tell who wants to talk. They'll catch your eye. If someone doesn't look up, I won't bother them. Anyone else with kids, we'll try to make friends. You can trade books and toys -- that's helpful."
Go on an adventure! "We usually build up the walks: When my older son was two or three, I'd say, 'Do you want to go on an adventure?' I'd draw it out for the longest possible time. We'd get back from the walk and be like, 'Wasn't that a fun walk? Who did we talk to?'"
Endure. "I actually advise people not to look at the time. There's nothing more defeating than doing everything you think is possible, and then looking at the time, and you have four hours left. Otherwise, you'll drive yourself crazy."
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