5 Things You Should Always Pack (Even if the Airline Provides Them)

always pack

For this week’s Tuesday Travel Tips, I’m going to share with you 5 things you should always pack, even if you expect them to be provided by the airline. As a flight attendant my job is to provide both service and safety. Most of the time I am able to provide the service that passengers expect, but there are times when things go wrong. Either I’m not given the provisions I’m supposed to have or there is a mechanical issue. When I’m flying as a passenger I make sure to always pack these 5 things for myself, even if the airline provides them. Be prepared with these essential comforts and you will give yourself a better chance of enjoying your flight. The Boy Scout motto, “Always Be Prepared” should be taken to heart.

(This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which goes toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!)

1) Power Source

Most major airlines now have power outlets at the passenger seats. Before your flight you can look at the airline website or SeatGuru.com to see if the aircraft you will be flying on has power outlets. But don’t depend solely on them to charge your phone, tablet, computer, etc. On one of my flights this week the plane did have power outlets in every row but there was no power supply to them! No one was able to charge their devices unless they brought their own power bank.

If you’re looking for a dependable power bank, the one I use it this one by Jockery. It not only keeps my iPhone going, but actually recharges it to 100%. I can get three full charges for my iPhone before having to recharge the power bank. It is also powerful enough to charge a tablet.

2) Food

If you are taking a flight that is supposed to include a meal, you don’t have to bring an entire meal to bring with you. But you should always bring at least a few snacks just in case. I have seen catering fail to bring enough meals to the plane, meals fall on the floor in turbulence, and frozen or burned meals cause passengers to not have their expected food to eat on a flight. A lot of the flights I work have food for sale in the main cabin. Often we run out of food to sell by the time we reach the rear of the aircraft. It’s always sad to have to tell someone hoping for a nice sandwich that we are out of everything but gummy bears. As a flight attendant I always carry a stash of tasty protein meal replacement bars. When I’m traveling as a passenger with my kids I always bring a small cooler with food and snacks. Some ideas for good food that travels well can be found here and here and here.

3) Blanket/Sweater
always pack

You never know what the temperature will be like on the aircraft. Even though the flight deck has temperature controls and on some aircraft the flight attendants have some control, the airplane doesn’t always cooperate. On some airplanes it may be hot in the front and cold in the back (or vice versa) and in spite of attempts to balance the temperature, nothing works. I was on a flight recently as a passenger where it was literally 60 degrees Fahrenheit and although the flight attendants called to request the heat be turned on many times, nothing ever worked. I did have a sweater with me, but even that wasn’t warm enough. I’m usually hot on flights so it was really saying something when, out of desperation, I pulled my long sleeved surf shirt out of my luggage and wore that over my regular clothes to help stay warm. Most U.S. domestic flights no longer provide blankets in main cabin, so it’s best to bring something with you. Even if you’re in a premium cabin where blankets are provided, you never know what could happen. Drinks could spill on your blanket; you might open the protective bag to discover the blanket wasn’t washed or was washed but is still damp; or cabin service may make a mistake and forget to place blankets on your plane. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

4) Entertainment

Most major airlines now provide some source of entertainment, whether it is video in each seat, video on overhead screens, or access (either paid or free) to the internet on your personal electronic device. But these systems sometimes fail. I often see passengers who travel with nothing to keep occupied, depending on the in-flight entertainment they have come to expect. Then if there is a mechanical issue and that entertainment isn’t available after all, they get angry. On one of my recent flights the video system was inoperative. One passenger said, “So what I am supposed to do, just sit here for five hours?” It is nice when the airline provides entertainment, but depending on it as your sole source of entertainment is a mistake. Toss a magazine, Puzzle Book, Tablet, Coloring Book, or something in your bag to occupy your time in case the provided entertainment falls through. This is especially important when you are flying with children, as most airlines have little, if anything, to keep children entertained. If you are traveling with young children and forget your toys and entertainment items, read my idea for a DIY travel toy in this post. You can also have a “scavenger hunt” using the inflight magazine.

Don’t get stuck twiddling your thumbs for the entire flight! Bring something to do prevent extreme boredom.

5) Ear Plugs and Eye Shades

Even if you’re not planning to sleep on your flight, you may find that due to a delay or other off-schedule event you need some peace and quiet. Although cute, it is not the job of parents flying with babies to pass out earplug “goody bags” to other passengers. (Read here to see what I’m talking about.) Be prepared and pack some ear plugs and eye shades in your travel carry-on bag. You might not use them often, but you will be glad you have them on those occasions where they are needed. My favorite eye shades are the kind that don’t push against your eyes. This pair by Madison Garden looks great and comes with earplugs and a travel bag.

What do you think? Do you usually pack these items when you fly? Was there ever a time you didn’t pack one of these items but wished you had? I love to get comments and do my best to reply to each one. Comment below or on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page.

always pack

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Travel Tips: Passing Time While Waiting to Board Your Flight

Waiting to Board

Every Tuesday I share travel tips here on the blog. This week I want to share with you a tip for passing time while waiting to board your flight. Last week as I was heading to my gate to work a flight as a flight attendant, I saw a mom who had a great idea for keeping her kids (two boys, around ages 6 and 8) occupied while they waited for their flight to board. We were in Seattle and there was a great floor mural with nature symbols in it. The mom was calling out shapes for the boys to find, and the boys would find the symbol and run over to step on it. After the boys found all the symbols, Mom started calling out a series of 2-4 symbols for them to find in order.  I was impressed! The boys had no clue that this was somewhat educational. They were having a great time trying to beat each other in finding the symbols. What a smart way to pass the time while saving toys and electronics for the flight!

waiting to board

Last time I flew with my 3-year-old son, John, he hunted for all the “EXIT” signs. We were at the DFW Airport, where all the “EXIT” signs are green. Since John’s favorite color is green and one of the few letters he knows well is ‘X’, he was excited to pick out all the green exit signs as we walked through the terminal. Like the boys with the floor mural, John had no idea he was practicing pre-reading skills while finding all of the “EXIT” signs. He had a blast! Here’s a picture of John finding familiar letters within an advertisement as we made our way through the terminal.

waiting to board

Here is another floor mural, this one at the DFW Airport. It was in a busy hallway, so I couldn’t play the “find a shape” game here, but John did enjoy observing the design and of course felt the need to walk the circle. We love airport art!

While you might not have the luck of having something as cool as a floor mural to work with next time you fly, you can play “I Spy” with colors, letters, shapes, and more using signs, luggage, and people around you. Next time you’re at the airport give this a try and come back to let us know how it went! Do you have good ideas for ways to pass the time while waiting to board your flight? Share them with us in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages!

waiting to board

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Useful Extras to Pack for Your Next Vacation


Make Hotel Stays More Pleasant With These 9 Items

We just ended a week long vacation in Newport, RI. I have discovered a few extras to pack that make our hotel stay more pleasant. None of the items are “must haves”, but they do make your vacation a little more comfortable.

1) Soft Tissues

Chances are we’ll go through a lot of tissues in a week. Whether due to allergies or colds, we always seem to use two boxes of tissues during a week long vacation. This past week my son John and I both acquired a cold. I was so glad I had the foresight to bring a large box of Puffs Plus with Lotion! The soft-as-sandpaper tissues the hotel provided would have rubbed our noses raw! Since we drove on this trip I just packed an entire family size box of Puffs Plus. When flying I remove the tissues from the box to save space.

*Disclosure: For your shopping convenience I have linked to items I use. These links are affiliate links and when you make a purchase using them I may receive a small commission which goes directly toward the operation of this website. Thank you for your support!

2) Bottle Brush & Dish Soap

If you bring reusable water bottles like we do, you will want to bring a bottle brush. On this trip I used the bottle brush and dish soap to wash our Camelbak water bottles and medicine dispensers.  On previous trips I also used reusable straw cups and washed them out (or bottles when the kids were younger).  You can get away with just rinsing these things in hot water, but I’ve found they tend to get slimy and I’m sure the bacteria is growing without proper washing.

3) Hand Soap Pump

I really hate washing my hands with bar soap. It gets slimy, slips into the sink, makes a mess…add in the fact that my daughter, Ella, is a sensory seeker and loves to dig into the bar soap with her fingernails…using bar soap for more then a two-day stay is no good for me. When we stay in a place for more than a few days I either bring or buy a hand soap pump. An added bonus is that the soap is usually less drying than the bar soap provided by hotels.

4) Woolite Sink Packets

You could stop by a Laundromat if needed, but I don’t like wasting vacation time doing laundry. I always bring a few packets of Woolite. There are other brands of laundry soap available in sink packets, but I prefer Woolite as it is easy to rinse out. You’ll see in this post how useful having these on hand proved on our Disney Vacation a few years ago.

5) Sink Stopper

About 30% of the time we’ve stayed in hotels as a family we have had trouble with the bathtub drain plug. Traveling with this small sink stopper is easy and it comes in handy for bathing the kids as well as for doing laundry in the sink. I love this one with both a flat side and a plug side, designed to fit any sink or tub.

6) Black Garbage Bags

Toss a few black garbage bags in your luggage and you can use them to black out the windows if needed. Pack a few strips of painters tape to secure these to the windows if needed.

7) Diaper Genie Refill Pack

If your child is still in diapers, you definitely don’t want to be sharing a hotel room with the dirty diapers. Bring a Diaper Genie refill pack. Tie off the bags individually and cut with scissors to dispose of one by one.

8) Scissors

You don’t realize how much you use scissors each day until you don’t have any. I like to pack a pair of safety scissors so I don’t have to worry about whether or not they are allowed through airport security. Of course if you’re driving or checking luggage you could bring any kind of scissors you

9) Paring Knife

Like the scissors, if you’re flying you will want to remember to pack this only in your checked luggage. This past week I found myself wanting a paring knife almost every day as I tried to slice tomatoes, green peppers, apples, and peaches with a butter knife. A small paring knife is very useful if you are trying to supplement restaurant food with fresh fruits and vegetables.

What do you think of this list of extras to pack? What do you pack that might not be essential but make your vacations more pleasant?


Categories: Packing | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fun Travel Food Ideas & Tools

travel food

Travel Food: Easy Ways to Make Food Fun

How is school lunch packing going for you? Are you still packing Pinterest-worthy lunches or have you already thrown in the towel? We just started school last week, so I’m feeling strong with my SunButter sandwiches and fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m lucky that my 8 year old, Ella, likes consistency and could eat the same lunch every day for a year (or three). Still, I do try to switch things up as much as I can, while still providing foods I know she will eat. Today I’ll share some of the basic lunch foods I send to school which also work for travel food when flying. When packing food for a flight, remember the restrictions on liquids and gels. Anything that is not solid food needs to be in container that is 3.3 oz. (100mL) or less and fit within the Quart sized Ziploc bag that you will show separately at the TSA Checkpoint.


My daughter, Ella ate a Sunbutter* and Jelly sandwich every school day for over three years. I don’t feel bad about that. We supplemented with a good variety of fruit and veggies, and we knew she would eat the food rather than throw it away. Your child might prefer more variety, so here are some ideas for sandwiches that travel well:

  • Sunbutter and Jelly
  • Cream Cheese and Jelly
  • Ham/Turkey/Roast Beef and Cheese
  • Plain Cheese
  • Peanut Butter and Banana
  • Pepperoni and sliced Mozzarella cheese
  • Cold Grilled Cheese
  • French Toast with Cream Cheese Sandwich
  • Fluffernutter (Marshmallow Fluff with Peanut Butter)
  • Packaged Sandwich Bars

*Sunbutter is a great alternative to peanut butter for those with nut allergies. It is made from Sunflower seeds and has a very similar texture to peanut butter. Be aware that although rare, there are still some people who are allergic to sunflower seeds.

Sandwich Tools

(This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which goes toward the operation of this website. Thank you for your support!)

Make things more fun with a sandwich cutter or sandwich press!

Sandwich Cutter
travel food
Sandwich Press
travel food


Vegetables don’t have to be boring! I am the first to admit I am lazy when it comes to preparing food. But if your child doesn’t like to eat a boring carrot stick you might find that a different presentation does the trick. Try cut or shredded veggies to try to peak their interest. Changing the cut of the veggies also changes the texture a little bit, so a child sensitive to textures might prefer them one way vs. another. I’m going to include dried veggies in this list, because they tend to be accepted by more kids and are great for travel. Just look at the ingredients to check for added junk. I prefer buying these packaged items from Trader Joes because I know that they don’t carry anything with preservatives, food coloring, or corn syrup.

Some of our favorites:

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Fresh Sugar Snap Peas
  • Snap Pea Crisps
  • Freeze-Dried Peas

Veggie Tools

Veggie Cutter Animal Shapes

Crinkle Cutter

Sprial Slicer
travel food


There are a lot of fruits that travel well. Some of our favorites:

  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Melon
  • Apples
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Bananas

Bananas bruise so easily but are otherwise a perfect travel food. I love the Banana Saver, a plastic case that protects the banana from bruising. I have even used this to pack bananas in my checked luggage and they have come out perfect, with no bruises.

Fruit Tools

Banana Saver

Plane Cupcake Picks with Spoons
travel food


Maybe your child doesn’t like sandwiches or is just getting tired of sandwiches every day. Here are a few other ideas for packable food:

  • Hard boiled egg
  • Pizza
  • Pizza Bagel
  • Hummus & Pretzel Chips
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Nuts (be aware of allergies)
  • Granola Bars
  • Cereal Bars
  • Yogurt Tubes (Freeze and then it will be slushy  when ready to eat. Remember if flying with these they must be frozen solid when passing through TSA Checkpoints.)

Alternatives Tools

Pizza Saver Bags

Egg Mold
travel food

Baby Food

  • Food pouches
  • Banana (use banana saver to transport without bruising)
  • Powdered food- I love these packets of powdered veggies and grains. Just add water and you have a meal! I mix this in a Boon Spoon to have the food ready to eat. Read my Nuture Me Review here.

travel food
If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, packing food might seem even more overwhelming since there may be less food available that is suitable for them. Food pouches with pureed food are a parent favorite. You can stay within the TSA liquid requirements if you use pouches that are 3.3 oz. (100mL) or less, and put them in your Quart-sized Ziploc bag to show separately at the security checkpoint. Remember you get to bring one Quart-sized Ziploc bag per passenger, so if you purchased a seat for your baby that adds an additional bag you are able to pack.

Tools for Baby Food

Resealable Food Pouch

Baby Food Scissors– Easily makes fresh food a safe finger food for toddlers

Food Dispensing Spoon– add cereal or puree to to container, then squeeze straight into the spoon.

Fresh Food Feeder or Mesh Feeder– Minimize the risk of choking; only small bits of food can get through

Airplane Spoon-
travel food
What are you favorite travel foods? Do you have any tools that make preparing food easier or more fun? Share with me in the comments below. If you have a blog post on the topic of travel foods, please share! I’ll pin it to my travel food Pinterest board.

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SULLY: A Review

How does a filmmaker create drama for a well known real-life event in which everyone survives with barely a laceration? That is the challenge that director Clint Eastwood and star Tom Hanks confidently tackle in Sully which opened September 9, 2016. Read on to find out CSK reader and aviation buff, Jason Redd’s thoughts on the movie. Have you seen it? Do you plan to?


*Editor’s note: I (Beth Henry) haven’t seen the movie yet, so one of our readers, Jason Redd, offered his review. I thought this review was so good, including recommendations for whether or not the film is appropriate for children, that I asked if we could publish the review here. He agreed, so here it is! Read more about contributor Jason Redd at the end of this post. If you have seen the movie we would love to hear your thoughts about it. Comment below or on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page!


Centered around the successful water ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, 2009, the film explores the mental and emotional toll of the accident and subsequent investigation. While the water landing, successful evacuation, and rescue of all passengers and crew is the crowning set piece of the film, the mental toll on Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles forms the heart of the film. Even as the city and world celebrate Captain Sullenberger as a hero, his mental state and relationship to his wife are frayed by unrelenting media pressure, self-doubt, and an aggressive NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation. The flight crew and flight attendants are depicted positively throughout the film, including the pre-flight safety announcements and highlighting their dedication to the safety of the passengers throughout the flight.

[Minor spoilers below]
A word of caution is due for New York City based flight crews and residents in particular. While the ultimate outcome of the accident is known, the film explores Captain Sullenberger’s repeated nightmares of unsuccessful outcomes of the flight, including graphic depictions of the airliner crashing into midtown Manhattan buildings. Given the setting, comparisons to 9/11 are inevitable. First Office Skiles and local residents reference both 9/11 and American Airlines flight 587, which crashed in New York City two months after 9/11, in conversations after the water landing.

I would not recommend this movie for children younger than in their late teens for two reasons: 1) the vivid crash scenes depicted may result in anxiety and 2) this film is simply unlikely to hold a younger child’s interest. Note that this film includes multiple graphic crash sequences, loud alarms, near drowning, alcohol consumption, and repeated profanity.

For aviation geeks, the filmmakers worked closely with American Airlines* to ensure authenticity in the details, down to the union pins worn by members of the cabin crew and pilots. Cockpit and cabin scenes were filmed in retired US Airways aircraft and the actual Airbus A320 involved in the accident, which is now displayed at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. Scenes at LaGuardia were filmed on location; during the Runway 4 takeoff scene the well-known American Airlines hangers are clearly seen to the right, as well as the familiar orange and white jet blast deflectors around the south end of the runway. The depictions of the NTSB interviews and hearing are much more confrontational than reported and observed in contemporary accounts, presumably to give the film an “adversary” in what is essentially a positive story.

Be sure to remain in the theater for post-credits scenes filmed with the actual crew and passengers of Flight 1549 reuniting next to the accident airplane in Charlotte.


In conclusion, Sully is a thoughtful film that celebrates everyday people overcoming extraordinary circumstances while never losing sight of the hidden trauma that affects even unflappable heroes.

Read the Book:

The movie Sully was based on Captain Sullenberger’s 2009 book, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. You can get your copy of the book here (affiliate link: any earning from affiliates go directly toward the operation of this website. Thank you for your support!).

Have you seen the movie Sully? We’d love to hear what you thought of it! Comment below!

Jason Redd


About Contributor Jason Redd: Jason Redd is a frequent flying engineering supervisor for a Fortune 500 energy company. Jason, his wife Heather, their cloud surfing daughter and son, and their Yorkshire Terrier make their home in Helena, Alabama. When not on the road or in the sky, he enjoys spending time with his family, travel, reading, church, sports, and photography. He has never met a dog he didn’t want to pet.

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9/11 Musings of a Flight Attendant


9/11 Memories:

Flight Attendant Musings and Responses


It’s that time of year again: the time when my stomach hurts and I just want to sleep all day. On this day 15 years ago my airline’s plane, a 767 that I flew on regularly, was overtaken by terrorists and flown straight into the World Trade Center. The leader of the horrific events of 9/11, Mohammad Atta, was someone I recognized from my flights. He flew as a passenger on our planes in order to learn the system and develop his plan of attack. A flight attendant never wants to think the worst of any passenger. How could we have known he was so evil?

When I checked in for my flight on 9/10/2001 I had a weird feeling. My stomach hurt and I felt like something bad was going to happen. I remember even trying to explain to someone how I felt, “I feel like something bad is going to happen, but not to me.” I wasn’t fearful. I felt safe. But I just had a gut feeling that something was not right. I wish I could have done something useful with that tiny warning.

“I wasn’t fearful. I felt safe. But I just had a gut feeling that something was not right. I wish I could have done something useful with that tiny warning.”

*If you are reading this I would love it if you comment below. Tell me about where you were on that day. What is your emotional response now? Are you able to watch footage from that day? Are you able to visit Memorials?

We Are Family

In the airline world, crew members are interchangeable. Any flight attendant who is trained on a particular aircraft can be assigned to work on that aircraft. If one calls in sick, there is another who is called to replace them. We all wear the same uniform and we all follow the same procedures. At work we are not individuals, we are the airline we are representing. That’s why passengers blame us when their travel day goes wrong and they’re looking for someone to take the blame. Because of this dynamic, when we lost crew members to the terrorist acts on 9/11, those crew members were the same as those of us who escaped the tragedy. True, we lived on through that day, so it wasn’t the same as if it was one of us, but it was close…so close…too close. Because of the dynamic of our interchangeable job, these crew members who were the first responders were our family. The loss of them made them even closer even if we had never met them. It’s hard to explain.

As a flight attendant I'm always smiling...even if through tears.

As a flight attendant I’m always smiling…even if through tears.

Where I Was That Day

I was on a layover in San Diego on the morning of 9/11. I was scheduled to fly back to New York on a 12:45 pm flight, so I was still sleeping when the first plane hit the Towers. I woke up to a phone call from my dad. Not one to create panic, he calmly said, “Do you know what just happened in your city?” He didn’t even know if I was in New York, or if I was flying that morning. I imagine he probably let out a sigh of relief when he heard my voice answer the phone. I think he told me to turn on the TV. I think I might have watched the second plane hit the Towers live, but I can’t say for sure. The rest of that day and week were a blur. I spent five days stranded in San Diego then worked a flight back to New York.

I didn’t mind staying in San Diego during that time. In New York I lived in a basement apartment in Queens. I was in no rush to get back to that gloomy place so close to Ground Zero, with ash and smoke still hanging in the skies. For about a month flying was really hard. I didn’t feel like flying was less safe, but the reminders of the tragedy had me (and all of the crew members) bursting into tears at inopportune times. Sometimes right in the middle of the meal service, or when making the announcement, “Welcome to New York” [racking sob]. Not very professional. Ever so difficult. But we got through it, because it was our job to put on a brave face and just continue to provide service and protect our passengers.

Where I Am Today

Yesterday I laid down on my daughter’s bed and fell asleep so I could escape. When I woke up I looked out the window and watched the trees blowing in the wind. I imagined the wind being the breath of our beloved crew members who died on 9/11. When the breeze picked up it seemed angry.

There are so many wonderful memorials and events recognizing the First Responders to the terrorist attacks on 9/11: Firefighters, Policemen, EMTs…but very few acknowledge the First Responders who were the very first responders. Flight Attendant Betty Ong used the in-flight phone to report what was happening. She maintained her professionalism to the end, using those last minutes to report such useful information rather than calling family and loved ones, as most of us would. Flight Attendants and Pilots aren’t even recognized as first responders at the 9/11 Memorial. 9/11 Family Members and Rescue Workers get free admission, FDNY/NYPD/PAPD get discounted tickets, but flight crews have to pay full price. There is more than a little bitterness about this in the airline world.


Prices for the 9/11 Memorial…Flight Crew left out as first responders.

..I just took a moment and started reading the transcript of Betty Ong’s phone call…I can’t. It happened 15 years ago but it might as well have been yesterday. I can’t read it….

Recently another flight attendant told me that she was flying with a new hire who was just 20 years old. He was five when the tragedy occurred. He doesn’t really know about it. He told her, “Wasn’t it really just a set up? I don’t think it really happened.” Oh. My. Gosh. I don’t know how I would react if someone I was flying with told me that. I seriously don’t know. I really might punch them. *Note to young crew members: if you believe the conspiracy theory junk about 9/11 keep it to yourself. 



A few months ago I visited the NYC Fire Museum. They had two rooms filled with 9/11 memorabilia, photos, and artifacts. I couldn’t look at the photos at all. When I entered to room with photos and artifacts at first I had to run out. After composing myself I tried again. I was able to view the artifacts but not the photos. Seeing a piece of “my” airplane led me to sobbing. I figure I’m not the only one, as there were Kleenex boxes placed in the room. I want to do go to a memorial or gathering to honor those lost, but I’m not sure if I can. I’m afraid I’ll have to run away sobbing. I definitely don’t feel ready to view the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. I don’t know if I ever can do it.

You would think that with each passing year this anniversary would be easier, but it’s not. Every year we flight crew members are caught by surprise by our reaction and emotions because each year they change and different things trigger a reaction. Right now I’m feeling dizzy as I try to find a way to summarize and close this post. I’m sure it’s not a healthy response, yet I just have to run away from the feelings once again. As memories and statements about 9/11 are spread across social media today I will go back and forth between scrolling past as fast as I can and reading with heartfelt response. I’ll want to talk about it one moment and then want nothing to do with it the next.  I never know until that moment if I can handle the memories or not. The one thing that I do always know is that I cannot watch any of the footage from that day. The TV must be avoided altogether. And the movie? That’s something I know I can never watch.

                        “I’ll want to talk about it one moment and then want nothing to do with it the next.

                                I never know until that moment if I can handle the memories or not.”

Building Community

Does any of this make sense to you? Can a response to great tragedy ever make sense? If you’re a crew member, are you able to face the memories brought up by visiting the 9/11 Memorial, or do you still have to avoid it like I do? Where were you on 9/11? Share your story in the comments below. What you have to say may be helpful to others.


Categories: Flight Attendant Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Stay Healthy When Flying: 5 Simple Ways

Flight Attendant Secrets: 5 Ways to Stay Healthy When Flying

stay healthyIt can be tough to stay healthy when flying. With the dry air in the airplane, exposure to billions of germs from other travelers, inconsistent sleep schedules, and preservative-filled food, our bodies are in full defense mode when we travel. Flight attendants, pilots, and frequent fliers have to really make an effort to stay healthy when flying. How do they do it? I’ve been a flight attendant 16 years and I’ve had my share of illnesses due to flying, but I’ve found a few things that seem to help ward of illness. Here are 5 things I do to stay healthy when flying:

1. Stay Hydrated

I know you hear this one from everyone, but the importance of staying hydrated cannot be emphasized enough! I’ve noticed that when I’m dehydrated I start to crave sugary drinks, does this happen to you? If I’m well hydrated I tend to eat healthier and make smarter choices about what I eat and drink. When I’m traveling for work I try to avoid eating junk food, but when I’m traveling with my family if there’s a decadent dessert calling my name, I’m going to enjoy it! Staying hydrated helps to counteract the other junk I might be consuming.

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which goes towards the operation of this site. I appreciate your support!)

2. Take Vitamin Supplements

Probiotics are a supplement proven to help keep us healthy. The chewable option works best for me so I use is Culturelle Chewable Probiotics. I’m not very good about taking vitamin supplements regularly, but what I do take is Airborne Effervescent Tablets. These tablets contain many vitamins and minerals that support the immune system. They dissolve in water and create a tasty, bubbly drink. My husband often gets migraines when he flies, but he has discovered that the headaches are less intense when he takes Airborne at the start of the flight. Airborne is labeled for ages 12 and up, but you can ask your pediatrician if your child younger than 12 could take half a tablet on days surrounding travel to help boost their immune system. Airborne also has a children’s formula.

(Always look at the supplements you are taking for proper dosage. If you’re taking prescriptions, check with your doctor or pharmacist for compatibility between supplements and medications.)

3. Use a Travel-Sized Oil Diffuser

I’m not a huge “oily” person, but I have found positive benefits from diffusing oils. This travel-sized diffuser has some great features at a fair price.  One of my favorites to use both at home and in the hotel room is Thieves, by Essential Oils. The only problem is I really hate the name “Thieves”. Yes, I know the origin, but I think it’s stupid. That’s just me. I don’t know if it actually bothers anyone else. Once I had a sore throat and my friend brought me some Thieves spray. But, knowing how much I hate the name, she taped a label over it, marked, “Get Well”. So thoughtful! Only a true friend would do that. If you’re like me and hate the name “Thieves”, I found this similar oil blend, Health Sheild, available on Amazon.

4. Get Sleep

I know, it’s easier said than done. When I’m prepping for family travel I often am up half the night, not only packing but also trying to get the house in decent order before we leave. If you struggle with sleeping when away from the comforts of your home, read my 5 Hotel Sleep Solutions.  The oil diffuser mentioned above can help with sleep too. Just bring some oils that are relaxing to you. Here is an oil blend designed to help you relax if you want an idea of a oil blend to try.

5. Relax

One of the biggest attacks on our immune systems is stress. Traveling is stressful, but everything you can do to counter that stress is helpful. Even five minutes of stretching before bed can help. When I’m traveling with my kids, the best way for me to remember to relax is to follow the pace of my 8 year old daughter, Ella. She is an observer. She notices every detail of everything and finds beauty in it all. I have learned that trying to rush her backfires and then extra time is wasted. Instead of rushing, I learn to observe what she sees and find the beauty in it for myself too. If you can start to look at things through the eyes of a child, finding beauty in the ordinary, then you can find a  moment of relaxation. Stress takes a back seat when you find the beauty that Ella sees in the world:

stay healthy

Do you have tips for ways to stay healthy when flying? I’d love to know what works best for you! Comment below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page! Be sure to visit this website every Tuesday, where I post a new travel tip every week.

Happy Cloud Surfing!

stay healthy

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Expedited Passport in NYC-

ExpeditedPassport NYC

What to Expect and What to Do While You Wait

If you need to get an expedited passport in NYC, I’ll share with you what to expect as well as ideas for what to do while you wait.  As a flight attendant I am required to have a passport for flying, so I didn’t have time between to renew by mail. I headed to the passport office in NYC to get my passport in a day. Do you need a passport in a rush? Reasons to get an expedited passport at a passport agency include: life or death emergency, traveling within two weeks or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks, and flight crew members. If you need your passport within six weeks you don’t have to visit a passport agency, you can expedite at an acceptance facility or by mail. If you need your passport within a day, you must go to a passport agency.

*TIP: There are passport expeditors and courier companies that charge an additional fee to have your passport expedited. It is not necessary to use these services as they charge an additional fee on top of the expedited fee and you are still required to appear in person is using a DS-11 form. Learn more here.

Scroll to the end of this post to hear my video recap of my day as I obtained my expedited passport in NYC.

4 Steps Before You Go:

Step 1: Find a Facility

The first step is to locate your nearest passport facility. You can search your location at this link: Find a Passport Facility.

(This post contains information specific to an expedited passport in NYC. Each agency may be different. I am not familiar with any other agency, so be sure to ask any questions you have when you call for an appointment.)

Step 2: Make an Appointment

At most passport facilities you are eligible to schedule an appointment with proof of international travel if you are traveling internationally in less than 2 weeks or need to obtain a foreign visa within 4 weeks. Typically passports are processed within 1-8 days, depending on need. Will call (pickup) service is available for life or death emergencies and immediate international travel. Some passport agencies permit walk-ins, but it is best to call this number to verify that it is permitted at your nearest passport agency before just showing up. The agent you speak with will help verify that you meet the requirements for an expedited passport.

I actually did not have an appointment when I went to get my passport expedited. I had tried to make an appointment, but there weren’t any available on the day I had free. I got to the NYC Passport Agency at about 10:30 am and this was the line for walk-ins, wrapping around the corner of the building with another 20 or so people.

Expedited Passport NYC


The line moved fairly well, but it took just under an hour before I entered the building. Those with appointments were walking straight into the building. Making an appointment will definitely save you time.

Step 3: Get Passport Photos

Expedited Passport NYC

You can get passport photos at most drug stores and some post offices in your area. If needed, there is a drug store across the street from the Passport Agency where you can obtain a photo. Be sure your photo meets all of the requirements. You can find examples of acceptable passport photos here.

Step 4: Fill Out Forms

Only Form DS-11 is accepted at a passport agency. The first pages of this form list what you will need to bring with you, including: Proof of U.S. Citizenship, Proof of Identity, Recent Color Photograph, Passport Fees, and Proof of Immediate Travel (or reason for expedited processing).

*TIP: I made some mistakes on my form and used Wite-Out to correct them. I learned that Wite-Out is not allowed and I had to fill out a new form there. If you make a mistake, you may cross out the mistake with just one line and correct it.

Appointment Day: What to Expect

When you get to the passport agency, you may see two lines: one for walk-ins and one for those with appointments. Every day is different, but when I was there without an appointment I waited about an hour before entering the building. Once you enter the building, you go through a security line exactly like the TSA checkpoints at the airport. Food and drink are not permitted. Once you clear security you stand in another line to turn in your paperwork. Again there are two lines: one for appointments and one for walk-ins. I waited about 40 minutes in the walk-in line before my paperwork was checked. Here the agent verifies you have all the correct information with you then gives you a number and sends you upstairs.

*TIP: There are public restrooms in the first lobby you enter. You’ll want to use these before heading upstairs so you don’t waste time going up and down the elevators and potentially miss your number being called. The restrooms have changing tables both in mens and ladies rooms. The toilet paper is about half a ply. You might want to bring your own tissues, especially if you have kids with you who might get very frustrated at the toilet paper falling apart. We use one-ply at home, and this t.p. is makes one-ply feel luxurious.

Expedited Passport NYC

Once upstairs, you take a seat and wait for your number to be called. When I was there two waiting rooms were available. The front room, where the agent windows were located, had signs stating no cell phone use. Electronics were permitted, just no talking on the phone. The back room didn’t have those signs and it was a little bit hard to hear the announcements of which number was up next, as some children were playing on iPads without using headphones. My number was called within about ten minutes and I went to a window to submit my forms and payment to an agent. Once processed, the agent gave me a receipt and number and told me a window of time when I could return to pick up my passport. This time varies per person, based on how immediate the need for the passport is. Most people I saw were told to return the next day for their passports. Those (like me) who needed their passport the same day were given a three-hour window in the afternoon in which to return for their passport. I was told to check back between 1-4.

I returned at 3 and still waited until 4 for the passport. When you return to pick up your passport, you can stand in a line to check on the status of the passport. I did, and was told my passport wasn’t ready yet. I sat down and waited, coloring and reading a book, until my name was called. They called about twenty names at once, so I again stood in a line to wait to collect my new passport. They reminded me to check my new passport for accuracy before leaving the building. Then I was free to go, new passport in hand, and ready once again for international travel!

Expedited Passport NYC

Appointment Day: What to Do While You Wait


After submitting my forms and payment, I decided to head out of the building and spend my waiting time with something enjoyable. First I looked for a good place to eat. I am so glad I asked someone on the sidewalk for recommendations! Someone local to the neighborhood told me I should eat at Westville, which was just diagonally across the street from the NYC Passport Agency, and I was not disappointed! The food was wonderful. I had this Sweet Chili Rice Bowl and Sweet Potato Tots, and it was fantastic!  I happened to arrive just before the lunch crowd, which was perfect as once the lunch crowd hit there was about a thirty minute wait for a table. The menu was diverse and had several kid-friendly options.

Expedited Passport NYC

Children’s Museum of the Arts

Expedited Passport NYC

After lunch I walked around the corner to check out the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Since I didn’t have the kids with me I only checked it out from the lobby. This museum looks so fun! It has different rooms with different media types and is hands-on. Children can sign up for workshops in each different art form and there is a teacher in each room to guide the child. I definitely will visit here with the kids sometime soon! If you stop here with the kids, I would expect to spend at least two hours exploring.

NYC Fire Museum

My next stop was the NYC Fire Museum. What a great place! The building is an old firehouse and it has 5 display rooms, filled with vintage fire trucks and artifacts. There is a section where you can don a firefighter uniform and snap a picture.

Expedited Passport NYC

There is a two-room display with artifacts and memorabilia from 9/11. As a flight attendant it was difficult for me to enter these rooms. I loved looking at the things like a stained glass picture which was a gift from a group of students to the NYC Fire Department. But when it came to looking at pictures from that day I found it completely impossible. I ran from the room a few times before I was able to return to look at the artifacts in the cases. Seeing a piece of “my” airplane was really tough to handle. By ignoring the photos on the walls I was able to tolerate being in the room for about five minutes before I ran out, sat on the floor, and sobbed for a few minutes. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this reaction, as there were several boxes of tissues placed around the room. If you are visiting the NYC Fire House Museum with children, I think the 9/11 rooms are not too much for the children. But I cannot say for sure, since I’m not sure how much was shown in the photographs. I recommend asking when you enter if you have a sensitive child. It is easy to go through the museum but skip that room if need be.

There was so much to see in the Fire House Museum. I spent over an hour there and could have spent even more time. I will try to write a complete review and share more photos soon.

Expedited Passport NYC

So, your long wait for your passport doesn’t have to be spent sitting bored in a chair! Get out and explore! There is lots to do in the area!

Video Recap of My Day:

Question for you:

Have you ever had to secure a passport in a rush like this? Was your experience similar? I’d love to hear about it, especially if there were differences in the process for you. Comment below or send me a personal message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

If you read this post and found it useful I’d love to hear that too! When you comment on this post it helps make the post more visible to others searching for this information. It also helps me know what tips are useful or not so I can provide better information for others reading.

Happy Cloud Surfing





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10 Unique Travel Toys for Ages 3-6

Planning a flight with a child between ages 3-6?

Here are 10 unique travel toys for your busy bag for your next flight.

A friend of mine just sent a message asking if I had any ideas for birthday presents for her friend’s 4 and 5 year old boys. They will be flying soon from New York to the West Coast and then on to Australia, so she was trying to come up with gifts that would be great for the upcoming flights. In my list below I try to suggest unique travel toys unlike the standard suggestions for travel activity bags. Some of these are educational, some help develop fine motor skills, and some incorporate proprioceptive input, which helps calm your nervous system. Some include all of the above and some are just plain fun. (Click here for ideas for other ways to incorporate proprioceptive input aka “heavy work” in order to help your child be calm when flying.) I tried to also keep the suggestions lightweight so that the carry on bags are not too heavy.

Unique Travel Toys










With two kids close in age, I recommend packing just one busy bag with activities that will interest both children. The unique travel toys below would work for that purpose. I’ve got to say, even though these are all appropriate for ages 3-6, my 8 year old would like them all too. And even I would enjoy at least half of them. What’s your favorite? Comment below; I love to hear what readers think of my suggestions.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which goes toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!

(Amazon pricing changes often. Listed prices reflect prices at time of publishing. Check the links for current pricing.)

1. Peg Board Set-Kids Corner Lacing Colors & Shapes ($22.95)

unique travel toys
For travel I love toys that have multiple uses. This peg board set is great for sorting, stacking, lacing; matching, following patterns; adding & subtracting. I love that it has a foam board, which is very light and durable. The kit includes a small carrying bag and weighs only 12 ounces.

2. Balancing Bird Toy ($6.71 for 12)

unique travel toys
This fun toy sneaks in a lesson about the center of gravity. Watch your kids be mesmerized as they balance this bird on their fingertip, nose, forehead, elbow(?). This toy is really fun and like some others here, it’s great for kids of all ages.

3. TOOB Toy Figurines ($11.99)

unique travel toys
My 3 year old son loves playing with his Marvel Superheroes, and can entertain himself for hours with them, but on the plane I had to stop him from being too loud playing with them because they were fighting. Instead of Superheroes, try animal figures. These baby animal figures are great for creative play and small enough to travel with yet big enough to keep track of. You might have to separate the predators and prey, though. LOL!

4. Wikki Stix Travel Fun ($5.25 plus free shipping on orders over $25)

unique travel toys
I used to always recommend a small Play-Doh Activity set (like this Disney Frozen Olaf play set) for flights, but having to keep the Play-Doh in a separate bag with your liquids and gels (for TSA Security Checkpoints) can be a hassle. Wikki Stix are wax sticks that can be twisted and molded into shapes. Great for all ages, this kit comes with an 8-page booklet of travel related activities. You can color on this booklet with dry erase markers) as well.

5. Poly-Gonzo Geo Twister Fidget Toy ($6.12)

unique travel toys
This is one of my favorite things for a busy bag. It is really light (only 0.8 ounces) so it doesn’t weigh down your bag. The kids love twisting and turning it to create new shapes and it provides a soothing effect.

6. Mini Buddha Board ($13.90)

unique travel toys
On this board you draw only with water! When the water dries, the drawing disappears and you have a clean slate for more art. Tip #1: I like to use a contact case for a water dish. It’s much less likely to spill than a plastic cup and since it doesn’t hole much water it’s not such a big deal if it does spill. Tip #2: if your child gets frustrated at the disappearing image, offer to take a picture of their masterpiece before it dries so their artwork can live on forever.

7. Peaceable Kingdom Wipe and Write Games to Go ($9.99)
unique travel toys

I always travel with a few dry-erase markers, which can be used to draw on car or airplane windows or compact mirrors in a pinch. I love this activity book by Peaceable Kingdom that includes a dry-erase marker. This one is geared for ages 3-6.

8. Oobi Finger Puppets ($6.09 for 12)

unique travel toys
When I pack a busy bag, I like to pack a lot of variety in a small space. These Oobi finger puppets are fun for everyone, allowing kids to use their imaginations. As a flight attendant, I give these out to my child passengers sometimes. I like how easy they are to carry around, you can even through a few into your purse for “emergency” entertainment for the kids. These would make good party favors too!

9. B. Beauty Pops Jr. ($11.99)

unique travel toys









I saw these at Target recently and snapped a picture to remember them because I think they make a really great travel toy. These pop beads have lots of different shapes to capture your child’s attention and they help build your child’s fine motor skills. Self contained in a small tube, these are easy to pack and clean up.

10. Travel Spirograph ($7.99, on sale from $9.99)

unique travel toys
Here’s a unique travel toy! This travel Spirograph includes 6 precision wheels, 2 pens, and 24 pieces of paper. There is a drawer that contains all the pieces for easy transport. 3×3 Post-It Notes will work for a paper refill too!

Bonus Tip: Places to look for good travel gifts:

Anytime I’m shopping, I keep a look out for good travel toys. I usually find my favorites at Michael’s and Target. At Michael’s I find the best travel items in their summer camp activities and their Christmas stocking stuffer activities. I always am sure to check toward the end of the season for good sales (50% to 80% off) on this seasonal merchandise. At Target there is almost always something to be found in the Target Dollar Spot that is good for travel. One of my all time favorites I found there was a small booklet of Dr. Seuss Dry-Erase coloring sheets. The booklet fell apart which was actually nice, because now I just carry two or three of the sheets and a couple of dry erase markers with me and it’s light and easy.

Do you travel with unique busy bag items? Maybe something you don’t often hear suggested? I love hearing reader’s ideas! Tell me about it in the comments below!

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unique travel toys



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More Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant

more mistakes to avoid

10 More Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant

Last week I shared 13 Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant. If you missed it, you can read it here.  There are more mistakes to avoid! But don’t let this lists of “dont’s” make you worry more, just see them as travel tips and use them to help you enjoy your flight. If your first flights with your baby turn out to be horrible, realize that each flight in the next several years is going to be different and your baby’s behavior in flight will be changing at each age and stage. Just like when you are at home or visiting the playground or store, do what you can to prepare but don’t stress about the twists and turns along the way. Every day with your infant is something new. Enjoy it!

If you are preparing for your first flight with your baby, welcome to the exciting world of cloud surfing! Flying with babies can be stressful, but enjoy the journey. Take the time to notice the little things that excite your baby, accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Even though your baby won’t remember these travels, you are still creating in him/her a love for exploring.

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your shopping convenience. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which will go toward the operation of this website. Thank you for your support!)

more mistakes to avoid

1. Putting Soiled Diaper in Seat Pocket

Putting a soiled diaper in the seat pocket, even if it’s in a bag, is highly unsanitary. The proper thing is to place it in a bag and then in the lavatory trash can. If you are unable to do that, please take it with you in your bags to dispose of after the flight. Cabin cleaners might not see the diaper you placed in the seat pocket and it will be quite a disgusting surprise for the passenger on the next flight. Yuck!

*Travel Tip: You can make your own travel-size diaper bags by simply cutting sections from a diaper pail refill.

2.  Handing Soiled Diaper to Flight Attendant

As parents we get so used to used diapers that they are no big deal. But if you think about it, it’s pretty gross to hand a soiled diaper to someone and expect them to touch it. When the flight attendants come through the aisle to collect garbage, they are not looking for waste products. Don’t be offended if your flight attendant makes a face when you offer her a wet or soiled diaper. Imagine what your reaction would be if someone handed you their used Depends or bedpan!

3. Changing Baby’s Diaper at Your Seat

I understand that sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. I have changed my baby’s diaper on my own lap before. But changing your baby in the seats where other people will be sitting is not considerate. Even if you are using a changing pad, accidents can happen. If it is a dirty diaper you should also be considering the smells you are releasing into the aircraft cabin. Many airplane lavatories have changing tables. There are a few planes that do not, however. It is a challenge, but the best way to change a baby if there is no changing table is either by placing your changing pad on top of the toilet lid, or just holding your child in the lavatory and doing a stand-up diaper change. The first time I accomplished the stand-up diaper change I felt like Wonder Woman. If I can do that, then I can do anything!

4. Not Bringing a Change of Clothes for Everyone

You just never know when that first diaper blow out or projectile vomiting will occur. On one of my flights a child (who had shown no signs of illness before the flight) vomited all over his mother right after takeoff. It was a six hour flight and she had no change of clothes with her! I actually loaned her the only spare shirt I had, which was several sizes too small for her, but at least she could escape sitting in vomit for 6+ hours!

5. Forgetting Diapers/Bottles/Wipes

I flew so much with my daughter, Ella, when she was a baby, she earned elite status at 10 months old. As experienced as I was, I still once made the mistake of leaving her bottles at home. Luckily we lived very close to the airport and a neighbor brought them to us before the flight.  Another time we were flying two trips back to back with just two days home in between and I forgot to replenish the diaper supply. I got on the plane realizing I had no diapers at all. The airlines do not typically carry diapers, wipes, or formula, so you really need to triple check that you have packed these. Always pack at least twice as much as you think you’ll need for your travel day in case of delays or diversions. Airport sundries shops do usually sell a small pack of diapers and wipes, but all I have seen is a pack of two size 3 diapers and about 10 wipes.   I have never seen formula sold in U.S. airports.

6. Improperly Installing Car Seat

There are so many different styles of car seats, so installation can be different for each one, but some basic things you need to know about installing your car seat on a plane:

  • All car seats must be in a window seat or not between a passenger and the aisle. This is a FAA mandatory rule.
  • Infant carrier car seats should be rear facing.
  • Convertible car seats can be either rear or forward facing but you need to follow the car seat guidelines on height and weight when considering the safest method. Infants should always be rear facing.
  • Infant carrier bases are just for convenience in snapping the seat in and out of the car. They are not important for safety and you don’t need them on the plane. If you don’t expect to be driving very much on your vacation, I advise leaving the base at home. It’s one less thing to worry about. Just be sure to read your owner’s manual for instruction on proper car seat installation without the base so you know you are doing it the right way.

7. Worrying About Breastfeeding in Public

There are so many stories out there about people shunning mothers who breastfeed in public. But you should know that most of the time, I would even go so far as to say 95% of the time, no one takes issue to you breastfeeding your child. Do whatever you need to do to keep your baby happy. Some tips for discreetly breastfeeding while not hiding your baby can be found here: Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane.

8. Expecting the Airline to Provide Blankets

Be sure to bring a small blanket for your infant. The muslin cloth blankets are great because they are light and thin and can be used in many ways. Most U.S. Domestic Airlines no longer provide blankets in the economy cabin except on the longer transcontinental flights.

9. Bouncing Baby During Turbulence

On more than one occasion I have seen parents bouncing their baby up in the air during turbulence. My best guess is they are trying to make the turbulence fun, but you need to realize this is a very dangerous thing to do. If there is even a medium “bump”, the baby could easily crash right into the ceiling. The safest place for a baby during turbulence is buckled in the car seat.

10. Pushing Your Baby Onto Others Who Haven’t Shown Interest

This one is hard for me to add, because I really love babies. When my first born was only a week old I was in the parking lot at Babies R Us. Even though I had my own precious baby, I had to look at every other baby I saw in the parking lot. But the truth is, not everyone adores babies. I figure it’s probably the way I look at cats. I see a cute cat picture and start to say, “awww!” and then it turns into an “ewww, cat!” before I can stop myself (no offense to cat lovers).   Even if your baby is the cutest baby on earth, some people are just not “baby people”.  So share your baby with people who show interest, but don’t be offended if there are some people who just look the other way.

Are you guilty of any of these mistakes when flying with infants? Can you think of any others to add? We’d love to hear your stories! Share with us in the comments below. Maybe a new parent will learn something from your experience!

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