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Eating On Board

If you're flying domestically, meals may be a rarity soon. Already, many airlines have eliminated them or substituted snack boxes which they'll kindly sell you for $12. Domestically, you're probably better off just bringing your own food.

On international flights, they'll still give you real food. In tourist/economy class the food usually arrives with foil and/or plastic wrap. It can be real hard for a kid to get this stuff off and out of the way. The tray table is pretty narrow, and does not get any wider when the person in front decides mid-meal to recline his seat. Also, pulling the foil off a dish can release some pretty hot steam, or require holding on to a hot dish. Help out even if your kids eat pretty much on their own at home.

Special Meals

Remember, one advantage of ordering special meals is that they are usually served first, before the rest of the cabin gets their food. A related tip works in the other direction: ask the flight attendant to please serve your kids first and then, after the rest of the cabin gets their vittles, ask for your own meal.

Using this tip, you are free to assist your children in eating without the added burden of manipulating your own tray of goodies. The theory is that once the kids are fed, you may have an easier time eating your own dinner. If your kids tend to fall asleep right after eating, you get a double-bonus and can eat in (relative) peace.

The only down side of this plan is that your food and drinks will probably come separately. Usually, they'll drop off the special meal and then you'll have to wait until everyone else is served to get your drink. If you plan ahead, this doesn't have to be a problem, but keep it in mind.

Special meals are designed for people with certain dietary restrictions. The array of meals can be staggering from Lacto-ovo vegetarian meals to Muslim meals which don't include pork, sausages or eel (whehh, that was close). You can usually order a special meal when you book or flight. If you forget, just call the airline more than 72 hours before your flight and ask to update your reservation.

Snacks

You do not have any say in when you eat aboard the plane so you might bring along some snacks for the kids. You already know what works best, but we always had good luck with ours with Cheerios in a bag or saltine crackers. Make sure the snack doesn't need to be refrigerated, will still be good to eat after eleven hours in your carry on, does not make hands sticky and can take a long time to finish.

Scoop Bibs

This tip is a bit specialized, but if you find yourself in the UK, pop into the nearest Boots. Boots is a “chemist”, or what some of us would call a drug store. They sell a wonderful plastic scoop-style bib.

The thing fastens around the child's neck like a regular bib, but instead of draping off at the bottom, it has a plastic scoop thing that catches most of what almost gets into the child's mouth. More secure feeling parents can then recycle the dropped stuff out of the scoop and take a second shot at getting it into the kid's mouth.

Since we're talking, I will also add that once our child threw up into the scoop, which held all of the throw-up making clean up literally only a matter of dumping the bib goo into the toilet and wiping her mouth clean.

This happened onboard a plane, and represented the only time a) we got to cut to the front of the line for the restroom and b) when I saw a flight attendant obviously amazed. They might sell these bibs somewhere else by now, but we've only seen them in Boots.

Drinks

Drinking can be very hard for kids while on a plane. The aircraft can be moving, the seat in front of them (and thus the one holding their tray table) can shift and sometimes the cabin attendants forget that kids need a lot less juice in a cup than grownups, so filling the cup to the rim is not helpful. We always brought along our own empty sippy cup and asked the flight attendant to put the child's beverage in that cup instead of the plastic cups on the tray the adults used.

Sleep

If you want to get some sleep while your child is asleep, write a little note and stick it on your blanket asking the flight attendant to wake you/not wake you for the meal service. Asking for the same thing orally (the wake up, not the food naughty you) can not work out if the attendant ends up serving dinner on the other aisle.

Also, if you do want to sleep, buckle your seat belt OVER the blanket, not under it. This way if the captain turns on the seat belts sign while you are asleep, the flight attendant won't have to wake you, seeing your belt is already snug, just like you…

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