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Travel with toddlers: Six tips for avoiding airplane meltdowns

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Chris Carlson/AP

(Read caption) In this June 9 photo, travelers tour the new Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

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There has been quite the kerfuffle this month about airline seating policies “discriminating” against families – or at least making tickets a good bit more expensive for flying parents who want (or need) to sit with their children.

At issue is the growing trend of many airlines to charge more for advanced seating, as well as for desirable window and aisle seats. At least one politician – Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York – has called on the US Department of Transportation to intervene and protect the rights of flying families.

All of which is interesting. But perhaps also a bit tangential to the real hassles of family flights. At least when there are toddlers involved.

Because, if you’re booking a flight from – just to throw out something totally random here, of course – Manchester, N.H., to Chicago, and you happen to be traveling with your 16-month-old daughter, you’re going to make sure you sit together. And once you’re on that plane, in your extra expensive row, the fun has only started.

Now you have to amuse this little creature, who has the attention span of a flea, for a good two hours. Or more.

So, as a public service, I figured I’d share some of the tips Husband and I have learned after more than a dozen flights with 16-month-old Baby M, which have ranged in sky time from one hour (manageable) to 19 hours plus layover (insane).

(And I’ll admit that we have not had to suffer the extra window fees yet. Our daughter is still in that double-edged-sword category of the “lap child,” which means you don’t have to pay for her ticket, but she also doesn’t get her own seat. Which was fine at 6 months. Really it was. But now that she is a squirmy, crawling, toddling lap eel? Horrific. But cheap.)

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