Getting Seats Together on Your Flight

Flight Attendant Tips for Getting Seats Together on Your Flight

Seats together: you might assume that booking tickets together means your seats are together, but that’s not usually the case! It can be so frustrating if you are flying with your family but you and your child do not have seats together. There are many reasons why this happens, some avoidable, some not. But don’t panic! Today I’ll share with you my tips, as flight crew and as a mom, for getting seats together on your flight.

8 Steps to Follow in Order:

Seats together

1) When booking your tickets, select seats: the best ones possible.

Many people who don’t fly frequently don’t realize that you need to actually select seats in order to have specific pre-reserved seating. Although you bought a ticket, most of the time you don’t get a seat assignment unless you select one Usually then on the day of the flight, tickets without seat assignments are randomly assigned through the computer. Passengers are often shocked to learn that they don’t have a seat assignment at check in when they had booked their ticket eight months in advance. (Southwest is the exception, they don’t give pre-reserved seat assignments. See link at the end of this post for details on getting seats together on Southwest Airlines.) When you select your seats, the seat map will show what is available. It may be that there are not enough seats together (at least without an additional fee) for your whole family. Don’t worry yet. Book as many “good” seats as you can (window and aisle) so that you have something decent for the agents to work with on the day of your flight.

If you can’t get seats together (without paying extra fees), move on to step two:

2) Immediately after booking, call to speak directly to an agent.

Sometimes an airline agent has access to seats that might not always show on the seat map you see at booking. But not always.

If the agent can’t help you, move on to step three:

3) Keep checking weekly for seats together.

Seats may open up as people get upgrades or change flights. If seats open up then you may be able to get the seats together.

Bonus tip:  Even if you did get decent seats at booking, it is a smart idea to regularly check your reservation and seat assignments, especially if you booked tickets well in advance of your travel date. Sometimes, when the airline makes changes in equipment, seat assignments inadvertently get dropped. It has happened to us several times. The worst thing is not noticing it until the flight is full. You can complain to the airline that your reserved seat is gone, but they can’t in turn pull the seat from another passenger. That just creates the issue for two people, making the situation even worse! The wise thing to do is keep a close eye on the reservation. If seat assignments get dropped then call right away (or select seats online again) before the seating selection is too slim.

seats together

Has it happened to you?

Tamara Gruber, family travel blogger from We3Travel, said:

“I actually find this happens a lot when we book really far in advance (like trip to Europe booked 6 months in advance) and they switch equipment, shuffle us around and never tell us unless we check. I always select seats (unless I have to pay extra to do so) and I definitely have an assumption that I’m going to get the seat I selected, but we have often been shuffled and separated. I’ve even checked in the night before, seen my seats were as they should be, and then at the gate been pulled aside because they moved me and separated my daughter and I and made to wait until everyone else was boarded (there goes the overhead space) and then they found us seats together. At least that time they tried to help. Usually I’m just told to ask passengers to move.”

If you’re still not having any luck on getting seats together on your flight, move on to step four:

4) Check in for your flight 24 hours before departure.

If the airline you are flying has online check-in, be sure to use this option. Even if you are checking bags at the airport. (You can add your bags once you are at the airport. If using a machine to check bags, select an option like “check bags” or “reprint boarding passes”, depending on the airline/machine.) If the flight has seats available at that point, you will receive a seat assignment. If you don’t have seats together on your flight, this would be a good time to again visit step two: call an agent.

If you’re still waiting for seats together, move on to step 5:

5) Ask for seats together when you check in at the airport

seats together

Whether you check bags curbside, go to a kiosk check-in machine, or speak to a ticketing agent, you can inquire again about getting seats together on your flight. I know it will be very frustrating at this point if the agents are still unable to get you and your family seated together, but don’t take it out on them! On a full flight they cannot move passengers around without their consent (just think of how mad you would be if they did it to you), so just thank the agent for looking and move on to step six:

6) Ask the gate agent for seats together

Again, on a full flight the agent may not be able to do much. I’ve seen many agents bend over backwards, even calling up passengers, to try to get seats rearranged for a family. But remember, most of the time the gate agents have a very short window of time to get planes out in time. They may not have the time to rearrange seating. Have patience if they seem perturbed by your request. It’s not usually that they have a bad attitude or even that they are annoyed by the request, it may be just that they are overwhelmed with all they have going on with the flight. Most airline employees really do try to present their best side at all times, but during a stressful day there are bound to be moments where we’re not so good at hiding our frustrations.

If the agent can’t help, seems irritated, or says to work it out on the plane, take a deep breath, trust that it will all work out, and move on to step eight:

7) Ask the flight attendants for help/Appeal to passengers around you

When you board the plane, let the flight attendants know your seating situation. It’s a little tricky at this point, because there is a lot going on during boarding and the flight attendants have other responsibilities as well at this time. Usually if I’m at the boarding door and a family approaches me about getting seats together, I will tell them to go ahead and take the seats that would get as many of them together as possible and we will sort it out once the passengers are all on board.


If you have a family of four, and the best seats you could obtain are 17A (window) 24F (window), 25E (middle), and 10E (middle, extra legroom), I’m going to suggest that you sit down in row 24 EF and 25EF and then when passengers come to those seats, ask if the person in 25F  would swap to 17A, then ask 24E if they would be willing to swap to extra legroom at 10E. If the other passengers are willing to make these trades then you will end up with two pairs of two seats, one in front of the other.

seats together

Most of the time the seat swaps work out before I, as a flight attendant, am able to get to you to help. But if you are still not seated together, the flight attendants will do their best to rearrange you. Yes, every once in a while you will get someone who has a bad attitude and doesn’t understand how important it is for your family to sit together on your flight. I would recommend asking a second flight attendant for help if you are able. Often when met with an attitude it is about that person and whatever is going on with them, not about you. Another crew member may be able to intervene.

As a last resort move on to step 8:

8) Seat your youngest child alone.

**Before you try this final tip, ask yourself how important this really is. Do you have a ten year old that really will be fine sitting a few rows away (and might even enjoy the independence)? Do you have two sets of seats together, just not all seats together? If you can put up with the less-than-ideal-but-workable seating, then do so this one time.**

If you’ve come to this step then after trying all of the above steps, then there really isn’t much more that can be done. The only thing left is to appeal to the conscience of the passengers around you. If you put your youngest child alone, give them a pep talk about being fine without you, then surely other passengers will notice that this cannot happen and someone will offer to help. If you child starts to cry, all the better. Does anyone really want to be the one responsible for your child when he’s upset?

seats together

Hope for the Future?

The frustration of not getting seats together on your flight is a very valid one. It happens more often than it should. But know that taking the first steps, especially 1-4, will reduce the chances of you getting stuck with seats spread out all over the aircraft. There is actually legislation being considered which is attempting to require airlines to offer better availability for families to obtain seats together at booking. Family travel blogger Corrinne McDermott tells all about it in this article, Introducing the Families Flying Together Act #FFTA.  I personally feel that this act needs to be more clear in it’s wording, or else nothing will change. Under the current language it appears to me that all the airlines would be required to do is have a pop-up when you’re booking a group ticket that states that you may not be able to get seats together. I would like to see airlines make seats together available any time a child under 12 is in the group of tickets (as long as there are actually seats not booked, just blocked). At this point so many seats are blocked for premium passengers and for additional fees, the families who travel infrequently are the ones who suffer for it.

Do you have a nightmare story to share of a time when you were separated from your kids? Share in the comments below! Malaysian Meanders has a doozy of one that they tell about here: Major Fail Sitting Together on the Airplane.

Here are some additional tips and stories from other travel bloggers about getting seats together on your flight:

Walking On Travels: Get Seated Together on Your Next Flight

Trips With Tykes: It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Seat Me Next to My Two Year Old on a Plane

Malaysian Meanders:

Points With A Crew:  Family boarding on Southwest Airlines – tips and tricks on how to get to sit with each other

Tips for Family Trips: Five Risks of Buying Third Party Airline Tickets

seats together

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Fear of Flying? Flight Attendant Tips to Overcome Fear

Flight Attendant Tips to Overcome Fear of Flying

As a flight attendant, I meet a good number of passengers who are afraid of flying. This fear usually increases during turbulence. Most of the time the passenger is able to remain calm enough to not disturb others around them, but occasionally the fear overtakes them. I even had a passenger once scream, “We’re going to die!!!” What do I do in these situations? How do I help fearful passengers calm down? Here are the ways I try to help my passengers overcome their fear of flying:

Fear of Flying

First I want to tell you about my most fearful passenger I ever had, and how I helped him calm down. Before we even finished boarding, we knew this passenger was going to have a tough time. Right when he came onboard, he asked, “Is it too late to buy extra life insurance? I forgot to buy extra in the airport!” We were flying on the 767-200, 3-class service, and I was working in business class, left side. He was sitting in business class on the right side. The flight attendant working on that side offered me $20 to swap places with her, she knew the man would be more drama than she could handle. I swapped with her and the flight began without incident. About an hour into the flight we went through an area of turbulence. The seatbelt sign came on and I began to walk through the cabin to check that everyone had fastened their seatbelt (as required by the FAA). The turbulence got a little worse, to the point where I needed to hold onto the seats to keep my balance. My fearful passenger grabbed his armrests and started screaming, “We’re going to die!!!” I rushed over to him, grabbed his shoulders, and told him, “It’s going to be okay. You need to calm down!”

He took a deep breath and said, “Okay…maybe I should take another Zanax.” “I don’t know, sir, maybe you should. But you need to stop yelling and you need to calm down.”  He took another deep breath, said, “Okay, I guess as long as I see that you’re not scared then I don’t have to be.” I wanted him to understand that even if I did get scared, he could still trust that he was safe. I told him, “Actually, even if I am knocked to the ground by turbulence and break my leg, as long as you are sitting with your seatbelt on, you will be safe.” He did take another Xanax and was able to relax enough to enjoy the rest of the flight. He offered me a tip at the end of the flight, knowing that he was a little more work than the typical passenger.

The thing about fear of flying is that it is mostly irrational. People know this, they know the chance of a flight catastrophe is slim, but they fear it just the same. These are the things I tell my passengers when they confess to me they are afraid  of flying:


Fear of Flying

During turbulence some people begin to fear the plane will drop out of the sky. I tell them to imagine they are in a boat, riding the waves. The boat is built to ride the waves, just as the plane is built to ride the air “waves”. In fact, the plane is even safer in turbulence, even extreme turbulence, than a boat is in extreme weather. When you imagine the plane as a boat, it suddenly seems less scary as you realize that the rocking and rolling is a normal part of the ride.


Fear of Flying

In one of my flight attendant training classes we watched a video of the stress test that every airplane goes through before ever flying. The airplane is put in a huge wind tunnel room and winds stronger than a tornado are created. In other words, conditions that the airplane you are in would never be put through are tested. In the video you see the wings of the airplane flexing up and down, which at first can seem a little scary. But then you realize that the flexing is what keeps the wings from snapping right off. So it’s a good thing, like a palm tree flexing in a hurricane. It’s what keeps it from being knocked down. Knowing that the plane is built to withstand conditions far more extreme than what you would ever encounter might help. Trust that you are safe when you are in your seat with your seatbelt fastened.

Recall Facts

Most people know these facts, but when fear hits, it can be hard to recall them. Before you fly, give yourself a refresher on these statistics:

I asked my friends and fans what things helped them overcome their fear of flying. Cloud Surfing Kids fan and aviation buff, Mike Stratton, who has flown 525,000 miles (and never once been in an airplane accident), had this to contribute: (edited to fit blog style)

You could fly every day for something like 25,000 years without being in an accident, and when (if) you are [in an accident], chances are you would survive. The great myth is that aviation accidents are destined to be fatal, but the odds are anyone involved in an aviation accident is more likely to survive than perish.

Regulation, Oversight and Standards of aircraft care are very stringent: Every 6 years or so an airplane undergoes a “D” Check, where it is essentially stripped down to bare metal and inspected thoroughly over a 2 month period and then rebuilt, like new. Flight systems are engineered with multiple redundancies, with many layers of flight safety built into both planes themselves and air traffic control.  A plane can take off on one engine, can fly on one engine, and can generate its own power in the event of a loss of electrical power, a RAT (Ram Air Turbine) to thank for that. The aviation industry is much safer today compared to 1985, 1975, 1965, etc. Satellites and communication and sophisticated computers keep the highways in the sky flowing more efficiently and safely.

“Tell them not to worry, and enjoy the ride, because flying is one of the great joys and benefits of living in the 21st Century.” -CSK reader Mike Stratton

Your odds of dying from a fall down the stairs? One in 157,300, according to this post on air safety in The Economist. David Ropeik, a Risk Communication instructor at Harvard University, found in 2006 that the odds of dying in a jet airplane crash are one in 11 million. (source: International Business Times). Maybe we should focus on holding the handrails when walking down the stairs.

fear of flying

(The graphic here says that one in 8,015 die in a plane crash. It’s important to note that the statistic here includes ALL aircraft, not jet airplanes only. The chance of dying in a jet airplane crash is only one in 11 million. Still, the chance of being killed in a motor vehicle crash is one in 112. Big difference no matter which number you use, and most of us don’t get anxiety when driving cars.)

Additional Resources:

If none of these ideas helps you, here are some additional articles and resources to help you overcome your fear of flying:

8 Steps to Overcoming Your Fear of Flying

Confession: I’m Terrified of Flying Even frequent flyers have this fear. Travel blogger NomadicMatt shares his experience and tips:

Book: SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying (Amazon Affiliate link) I have heard from many passengers that they overcame their fear of flying after going through SOAR. Below is a review and information on the Pilot who developed the program. I haven’t read this myself, but the many positive reviews are testament that it works quite well.

“SOAR is more than a program of effective exercises to treat fear of flying. SOAR provides a relevant and understandable explanation of how the nervous system—as it works outside of awareness to protect us—overreacts and puts us into a state of anxiety when flying. SOAR provides the toolkit to educate the part of the brain that is below consciousness and involved in regulating anxiety to more accurately evaluate risk related to flying.”  —Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation

About the Author

Captain Tom Bunn L.C.S.W. worked on the first Fear of Flying program at Pan Am and founded SOAR in 1982. He is a licensed therapist, and lives with his wife Marie.

Do you ever get fearful when flying? What types of things help you get over your fears? Tell us your tips in the comments below.

fear of flying

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Seven Natural Ways to Prevent Motion Sickness

Seven Natural Ways to Prevent Motion Sickness

Do you get motion sickness? How about your child? There are worse things of course, but in the moment there is nothing worse than vomiting on an airplane. Almost everyone who flies a lot experiences motion sickness—at least the nausea part of it—at some point. I really hate to use medications unless absolutely necessary, especially for my children, so I like to try every natural remedy first before using something like Dramamine. Today I’ll share with you seven natural ways to prevent or treat motion sickness so you can be prepared and hopefully prevent it from happening to you or your children. At the end of this post I also share a few flight attendant tricks to help you feel better during motion sickness even if you didn’t pack any of the items on this list. I welcome your tips and tricks in the comments below.

(Disclosure: For your shopping convenience I have included Amazon Affiliate links in this post. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which will go toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!)

1. Ginger

There was a Myth Busters episode on motion sickness. They built a spinning machine, blindfolded the unlucky subject, and spun him until he vomited. Then they tested popular motion sickness remedies and spun him again. The only thing that worked for him (other than Dramamine, which made him completely loopy and drowsy) was ginger. You can get ginger in many forms, including child-friendly flavors. I personally do not care for ginger at all, so I move on to the other remedies for myself or take the Ginger Tablets you can swallow.  Here are a few options of ginger products that you might enjoy:

  • Ginger Rescue Chewable Tablets for Children—We tried these and they have a very strong ginger flavor, so they were too “spicy” for my kids. But with the highest ginger active compounds of any brand, they are some of the most likely to work well. They are worth trying at the current low price of $5.49 with Amazon Subscribe & Save (you can cancel your recurring orders or change frequency of shipping).
  • Gin-Gins Chewy Ginger Candy—My mother says these are the best ginger chews she’s ever tried. Both tasty and effective for nausea. These are individually wrapped so it is really easy to toss a few in your purse, backpack, and diaper bag to have on hand at any time.
  • Natural Ginger Tummy Drops—All natural and gluten-free these ginger drops have great online reviews. These are also individually wrapped, so great for travel. They make these in peppermint flavor too, so if, like me, you are not a fan of ginger, the peppermint ones should also help with motion sickness.
  • Queasy Naturals Chews—I have not tried these and they don’t have many reviews, but they caught my eye because one review said they are just like Starbursts Chewy Candy. My eight year old daughter, Ella loves Starbursts, so I know she would like these (although not the ginger ones for her). These come in Sour Lemon, Ginger, and Cherry Flavor.
  • Gravol Natural Source—There are several different formulas of Gravol, some containing medicines. Gravol Natural Source contains only Ginger Root. For ages six and up, Gravol Tablets are easy to swallow and contain 20 mg of certified organic ginger.
  • Ginger Simply Gum—This will not be as effective as regular ginger root, but it does contain ginger oil, which should help a little with the nausea.

2. Homeopathic Tablets

The first thing I use for myself and for my kids is Hyland’s Motion Sickness Tablets. The tablets have no taste, they quickly dissolve under your tongue, and they really seem to help. My daughter Ella gets motion sickness if we are in the car for more than 30  minutes and on winding roads. I give these tablets to her before we start the drive and she when she takes them she rarely feels nauseated. The nice thing about these is you can continue to take them as needed throughout the flight and there are virtually no side effects. These are good for ages six and up.

Prevent Motion Sickness

3. Lollipops

This is a good one to have on hand. Although these Queasy Pops Lollipops are marketed for pregnancy induced nausea, they will help with any nausea. Lollipops or sour candy provide a nice distraction from that icky feeling your child is  experiencing. The only problem with these lollipops is that only half of the flavors are kid-friendly. My kids will not eat the peppermint, ginger, or cinnamon ones, but they like the mango, sour raspberry, and green apple ones. I keep the others for myself.  I like to always have a few regular lollipops (like these Yum Earth Organic Pops) in my travel bag for a treat or distraction any time. Regular lollipops will help reduce nausea a little, but the Queasy Pops also have essential oils that help eliminate motion sickness. (Lollipop travel tip here.)

4. Eat Smart

  • Eliminate Dairy: Flight Attendant Mom Martha shared with me that when she flew with her toddler regularly, he was vomiting on every flight. She tried eliminating dairy on travel days, and it worked! He didn’t experience motion sickness any more after that.
  • Hydrate: The times that I have experienced motion sickness have also been when I was thirsty. Be sure to hydrate with water before and during activities where you might get motion sickness. If you’re already feeling nauseated be sure to just drink a little bit at a time.
  • Eat Carbohydrates: Just like when a pregnant mother’s nausea is reduced by consuming dry crackers, carbohydrates like crackers, cereal bars, pretzels, etc. might help reduce feeling of motion sickness. I have found eating a bit of protein and carbohydrates before travel really helps ward off motion sickness.

Prevent Air Motion Sickness

5. Sea-Bands

Sea-Bands are wrist bands that have a little button which you place on a certain point on your wrist. It is meant to put pressure on an acupressure point that helps reduce nausea. These come in both adult and kid sizes and are so lightweight they are easy to pack in your carry-on bag “just in case”.

6. Essential Oils

There are several essential oils that are said to help relieve nausea. I have not tried these myself. Lemon and peppermint are promoted as good oils for nausea. There are also several blends available, including this one with ginger, lavender, peppermint, and spearmint. I like this aromatherapy inhaler which contains oils of ginger, peppermint, and orange. Keep in mind that to some children, the smell of peppermint actually feels like burning. You might want to try it at home first. Lemon oil would be a good option for young children, or for those sensitive to peppermint. To use, just put a dab on a tissue and hold it up to your face to breathe in.

7. Coca-Cola

I asked my flight crew today if they had any tips to add here. Flight Attendant M. Rodriguez told me a trick her mother has used ever since she was a kid: take small sips of Coca-Cola. Apparently the cola syrup in small doses can act as an anti-nausea medication. Even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was advised to drink flat Coca-Cola to combat morning sickness. It is best to consume the Cola at room temperature, as flat as possible (pour about half a cup and let it sit for a while so the bubbles go down before sipping a little at a time).

If  you didn’t pack any of the above recommendations, some flight attendant tricks to help reduce nausea:

  • If there is an air vent above your seat, turn the air toward your face.
  • Put a cold wet paper towel on your forehead or neck.
  • Take light sips of Ginger Ale.
  • Chew or suck on ice cubes.
  • Suck on any hard candy or chew gum.
  • Avoid trying to read or watch video during turbulence.
  • Take a few small bites of any food. (Sometimes motion sickness is made worse with hunger.)

Do you have any natural motion sickness remedies to add? Have you tried any of these and found them to be useful (or not)? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Or you can comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page. I’m posting travel tips here at every Tuesday. If there is a topic you’d like me to address, or a question you have about flying, let me know!

Happy Cloud Surfing!!!

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Quick Tips for the First Time Flier

Quick Tips for the First Time Flier

Tips for First Time Flier

As a flight attendant mom I am often asked for tips for a first time flier. The whole purpose of this website, Cloud Surfing Kids, is to help parents feel prepared when flying with their kids, and I love sharing tips that work for me and that I see working for other families on the flights where I’m working. Here are a few ideas to get you started as you prepare for your first flight with kids:

Talk about the Flight before the Travel Day

CSK Airplane Sunset

Talking about what to expect when you fly can help reduce anxiety and fear of the unknown. You can even take a “practice flight” in your house. Walk through waiting in a couple of lines and the security checkpoint–where you’ll put all of your things (including favorite toys) through a small tunnel and meet them on the other side, walking to the plane, sitting in the seats and buckling seat belts. Talk about staying in your seat when the seat belt sign is on. A first time flier won’t be familiar with cabin pressure. Talk about the funny feeling you might get in your ears when the plane descends and how it can feel better when you yawn, chew food, or drink water. Mention that the funny feeling gets better as the plane gets closer to landing. (Don’t fear ear pain from air pressure. Although it is horrible, it really is not that common. As a flight attendant I only see about 5% of my passengers experiencing ear pain, if even that much. On most of my flights I don’t have anyone complaining of ear pain.)

If you have a sensitive child it might be helpful to let them know the airplane engines are loud. You can find a sample of the ambient airplane noise on many white noise machines, if you have one at home, or if not you can download a white noise app on your phone that usually includes an airplane engine sound. Some other ways to prepare for a flight with a sensitive child can be found here: Ways to Help Your Child be Calm on a Plane.

Pack Wisely

When I’m traveling with my young kids I find it much easier to check our large suitcase. Even if you have to pay extra, it really is worth the money to not have one more thing to carry on the plane with you. If your children are older (I would say more than ten years old), you might be comfortable bringing luggage on the plane. When packing, plan for as many scenarios as you can (medical needs, delays, food, etc.) but be as compact as you can. When I pack for myself and my kids, Ella, age 8, and John, age 3, I use one 26-inch rolling duffel bag for my checked bag. Then I pack a backpack for me to carry, a rolling backpack for Ella, and a  mini Backpack for John. Then I bring a small cooler for food (one that can fit under the airplane seat) and a small open tote bag where I shove anything extra that doesn’t fit into the bags mentioned (blanket, camera, sweater, etc.).  Always, always bring enough food, medicine, diapers, formula for at least twice the hours of your expected travel day. Read here for more explanation on why I say Always Pack Spare Clothes for EVERYONE traveling. If you have a child in a car seat, I highly recommend buying or borrowing my favorite tool, GoGoBabyz TravelMate Wheels, which snap onto your convertible car seat to create a stroller.

Be Prepared

As I said above, everyone’s biggest fear, ear pain, really doesn’t happen that frequently. That said, ear pain when flying is more common in children because they have shorter Eustachian tubes than adults so fluid is more likely to build up in their ears. If your child has a cold or stuffy nose from allergies, you want to do as many things as you can to prevent ear blockage. Here are my tips for flying with stuffy noses for children, and for adults, read my Flight Attendant Tips to Prevent Blocked Ears.

Combat Fear of Turbulence

Tips for First Time Flier

Some first time (and even experienced) fliers are very fearful during turbulence. There are two things that sometimes help my fearful passengers when we are experiencing turbulence:

  1. Imagine you are on a boat, rocking in the waves. Even when they are big waves, the boat (plane) is safe. You’re just rolling on the waves.
  2. If you are buckled in your seat, you are safe during even most extreme turbulence. Even if carts are thrown to the ceiling and slammed to the floor, in your seat buckled in you are safe. The plane is designed to withstand greater than hurricane force winds, which is a condition far beyond any you would be flying in.

Cloud Surfing Kids C.A.R.E.S. Harness

If you, as an adult, have a fear of turbulence, try not to show that to your kids. I was on a flight with Ella when she was just 3 years old. Shortly after takeoff, we encountered wake turbulence. Wake turbulence is turbulence that forms behind an airplane. It only affects your airplane if you are too close to the plane in front of you. Our plane dropped about 15 feet very suddenly. I reached over to grab Ella, who fortunately was buckled in her C.A.R.E.S. Harness. Even buckled up I watched her lift off the seat about an inch. Most of the cabin screamed, and I looked at Ella to gauge her reaction. She exclaimed, “Woo hoo! Let’s do that again!!!” For her it was a fun roller coaster ride. So even if you are fearful during turbulence, try to let your kids have fun with it (with seat belts safely buckled).

Take a Picture

Don’t forget to take at least one picture to preserve the memory of your first time flying! It’s great if you can stop by the cockpit during boarding to say hello and ask if you can get a quick picture in the cockpit, but if that isn’t possible, just be sure to take a few snapshots of your kids during the flight!

Cloud Surfing Kids Cockpit


Flying can be stressful, and flying with kids just adds to the potential for stressful situations. But it can be so much fun to! Try to give yourself as much time as you can to get through the airport and to the plane so that you’re able to relax and let your kids enjoy and explore the new environment. When things don’t go exactly as planned, imagine yourself a palm tree, flexible and swaying with the wind, never breaking. Both in the airport and on the plane things will go more smoothly the more you engage with your kids. Even for toddlers it helps if you describe the things you’re doing and give them an idea of what is coming next.

What questions do you have about preparing for your first time flier? You can ask me in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’d love to hear from you! If you’re already an expert at flying with kids, I’d love to hear a few of your top tips! If I get some contributions I’ll create a post including your tips!

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Busy Bag For Preschool and Elementary Age Kids to Share

Busy Bag For Preschool and Elementary Age Kids to Share

My kids are five years apart, ages 8 and 3, so of course they have different interests and abilities. But I have discovered that I can pack a travel busy bag that captures the interest of both my elementary age daughter, Ella and preschool age son, John. These ten busy bag items are lightweight, fit easily in a quart sized Ziploc bag, and cost under $50 (only $45.54 at Amazon when this post was published) to purchase all of it new. (You likely have several of these items around the house, so you might not need to buy the entire list.) I’m sharing this list with you as I realized today that I don’t need to pack completely different bags to entertain my preschool and elementary age kids. These items appeal to both of them, and will likely appeal to most kids aged 3-12.

Busy Bag Preschool Elementary

(For your convenience I have links to these items on Amazon. When you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission, which goes directly to the operating costs of this website. Thank you so much for your support!)

Disclaimer: Amazon prices change often, both up and down. Double check the price at checkout.

Lauri Toys Primer Pack $11.97
busy bag preschool elementary

This is one of my favorite recent finds. It’s definitely the most bang for your buck. This pack includes 6 foam items: Alphabet puzzle, 4 shape puzzles, shapes for stringing (from the puzzles), 4 Lacing Shapes with shoelaces, and 25 piece “locktagon” construction pieces. I bought this with my three-year old, John, in mind, and actually my eight year old, Ella plays with these items the most. The “locktagon” construction pieces are Ella’s favorite. They are still a little difficult for John to work with. He likes the shape puzzles the best. Both kids enjoy the lacing cards and stringing the shapes. I don’t travel with the alphabet puzzle since there are so many small pieces to keep in place. So this little pack gives me 4 activities with which to occupy the kids. Love it!

Busy Bag Loctagon Construction

Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Notes $7.90
busy bag preschool elementary

My kids, especially sensory-seeking Ella, love doing scratch art. I love the Scratch Art books, but they are hard cover books and the weight of them adds up fast in a travel bag. I found these 4×4 scratch art note cards and just bought some myself. You can just add 10 or so to your busy bag and they are great for drawing, notes, or even just scribbling! There are no rules for how you use scratch art. Ella actually enjoys scratching off the entire sheet to reveal the rainbow of colors beneath the black area. This activity provides a deep-pressure sensation, which really helps calm the nervous system. For more activities that provide this “heavy work” (aka “proprioceptive input) when traveling, see this post: Ways to Help Your Child Be Calm on a Plane.


Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers $3.92

busy bag preschoolers elementary kids










I don’t need to explain how to use markers of course. Haha!  But I love these Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers for their small size. These are the “fat” markers, which are easier for the preschool age kids to grip. This pack is a great deal at only $3.92.

Post-It Notes $4.95
busy bag preschool elementary

I like these particular Post-It Notes because the entire surface is sticky. These are great for many uses:

  • Draw on with markers.
  • Cover auto-flush sensor on toilets (as described here).
  • Tear into pieces to create mosaic art
  • Use to play tic-tac-toe
  • Cover the reading light that is inoperative and shining in your eyes on the plane. Smile
  • Make cue cards to let your child know what to expect throughout the day.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let me know in the comments the creative ways you have used Post-It Notes when traveling!

Wikki Stix $5.94

busy bag preschooler elementary kids










The opportunities are endless with Wikki Stix, which are thin, moldable sticks of wax. You can make all kinds of designs with them, practice forming letters and shapes, roll them in balls…all kinds of things! If you pack more than about 24 then they do get pretty heavy. I recommend this rainbow pack of 24 sticks. At only $5.94 it’s a great item to add to any busy bag.

Dry Erase Self-Adhesive Sheets $6.36

busy bag preschool elementary
I like dry erase boards since you can erase and redesign anything and you’re not wasting paper. Kids of all ages enjoy drawing on dry erase boards. Since the markers glide more easily than on paper, it just provides a different experience than coloring on paper. You could definitely opt for either markers and paper or dry erase markers and dry erase boards, but I find it’s useful to have both, just for variety. If your kids are extra proud of their artwork and want to save it, just take a picture!

If you’re like me, you already have a lot of dry erase boards that are small enough for travel. I like to make sure these are small enough to fit in the Quart-sized Ziploc bag I use for my busy bag. I often find small dry erase board at the Target Dollar Spot. If you don’t have any, you can get some of these dry erase self-adhesive sheets and cut them to the size you want. I would make them about 6”x 5” if you want them to fit in a Quart sized bag. You can attach them to a thin piece of cardboard to make them sturdy, or just leave the backing on them.

Low-Odor Dry Erase Mini Marker Set $4.50

busy bag preschool elementary

Four things I really like about this dry erase marker set:

  1. Low Odor: A must for the airplane and for kids’ use.
  2. Mini: I love that these are small, better for fitting in my small busy bag.
  3. Eraser in cap: Keeps hands clean. My kids will use their hands to erase if the eraser isn’t nearby.
  4. Magnetic: IF you have a magnetic board, this is quite useful. I didn’t list a magnetic dry erase board here as I was trying to suggest items at a lower cost. But we have several small magnetic dry-erase boards at home, and maybe you do too.

If you leave out the alphabet puzzle, all of these items will fit in a quart sized Ziploc bag. They also are all items that appeal to both preschoolers and elementary age children. The total cost if you purchase all of them is only $45.54, and you will find free shipping with Amazon Prime on most of the items I’ve listed. You’ll also have extras of everything, for re-supplying your busy bag after the trip.

What ages are your kids? Do you think they would enjoy these items when traveling? What other items would you add? Comment below to let us know!

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What to Pack in a Travel Emergency Kit

As a flight attendant, I stay in a lot of hotels. Every time I hear about an earthquake or another natural disaster, I think about what I would need in a travel emergency kit if I was away from home when disaster hit. The majority of my overnight trips are to California, where there is a 97 percent chance of a magnitude 7 or larger occurring over the next 30 years, according to USGS (United States Geology Survey).  I like to be prepared, so here is what I pack in my travel emergency kit. (I have not always packed all of these items, but plan from now on to bring everything listed except the MRE’s (meals ready to eat), which are very heavy. I will start adding a few more energy bars to my travel bag, however.)

I’m sure you are like me and most of the population in thinking a major disaster is unlikely to happen to you. But even though these incidents don’t happen regularly, it never hurts to be prepared. I posted  the idea of packing an earthquake kit on my Instagram page, and fellow travel blogger Leah from Kid Bucket List said, “Wow! I’ve never done this or even thought of doing it. Should I?” Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. My response: If you’re in a disaster you’ll wish you had packed it, and if not, the most you’ll regret is the weight of your bags.” Actually, with the exception of spare batteries, water, and food, all of these items can be extremely lightweight.

A friend of mine, Molly Randles (photographer at Molly Randles Photography), was in Haiti on a mission trip on January 12, 2010,  when the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 160,000 people. I asked her for her input on what she recommends packing in case of catastrophic event like this. I showed her this picture of my emergency kit and asked what she would recommend adding. She responded that I had covered all the items she would recommend and stated, “My headlamp saved my life!! That became most valuable item. I will pack at least two next time I go. I had two with me during the earthquake, and was able to give one to a doctor. My only regret was I didn’t have more!”

Travel Emergency Kit Headlamp

Photo Courtesy of Molly Randles- Molly Randles Photography

When I asked Molly what she would say to those who believed such a catastrophic event could never happen to them, she replied, “I had never been in a natural disaster in my life, and will never again believe it could never happen to me! I will always travel with an emergency kit from now on.”

So what should you pack? Here are the items I recommend:


Travel Emergency Kit Contents

For your convenience I have added links to the products mentioned. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. The earnings will go toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!

Aid and Protection

These items are all really lightweight and don’t take up much space at all in your luggage. I am now going to have them in my luggage every time I travel.


travel emergency kit

  • Spare Batteries
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Printed list of emergency and family contacts-not pictured
  • Whistle
  • Utility Knife-not pictured (This is something I don’t pack as a flight attendant, but if you are checking your bags you could bring one—knives are not allowed by TSA in carry on luggage. If you are staying for a week or so in any area, it may be worth buying one at your location.)

Comfort Items

  • Tissues
  • Baby Wipes
  • Chewing Gum
  • Bubbles -Even when I’m not traveling with my kids I always have a small tube of bubbles with me. Imagine how this could come in handy to cheer a frightened child in an emergency situation. Or even help an adult who might be hyperventilating or just need a distraction.
  • Backpack—My flight attendant uniform code doesn’t include a backpack, so when I’m traveling for work I pack a small backpack in my luggage for creating a grab-and-go emergency pack. I just switch the items into the backpack once I check into my hotel room. When traveling with the kids, I always use a backpack. So once in the hotel or lodging I just swap out the travel items for the emergency items so they are always ready. It is very useful to have a chest strap on the backpack to help evenly distribute the weight.

  • Starbucks VIA (Okay, this is obviously not a necessity and if you’re in a situation where water is scarce you really won’t be thinking about coffee. But I figured it weighs next to nothing and if there was some reason I had to rush from the hotel (like because of a fire) but still had access to water, etc., I would be really happy to some good coffee. So I added a few packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee to my earthquake kit. Better safe than sorry. 😉

Additional Items

  • Purse
  • Passport (at least if outside of your home country)
  • Room Key
  • Light Sweater
  • Lightweight Shirt and Pants
  • Spare Contacts/Contact Case and Solution
  • Glasses
  • Sunglasses

The above items I would pack in my emergency travel kit when staying by myself in a hotel.  If I was traveling with my kids, there would be additional things to pack:

For the Kids

I would actually pack a second backpack in order to be prepared for them. Hat, clothes, water, emergency blankets, ponchos, and food bars would be important to pack for each child. Also I would want to add a backup of any comfort item for your child. For my daughter Ella (at age 8) I would pack a small plush toy, and for my son John (at age 3) I would pack his monkey blanket lovey and a pacifier. I would be sure to add children’s pain reliever, noise canceling ear muffs for Ella, who can be sensitive to loud noises, and at least 8 diapers if my child was still in diapers. With my kids I would also throw in this emergency tube tent. I should probably add that for my own emergency kit as well.

I really like the idea of ID bracelets, like this RoadID (not an affiliate link).  When Ella was four years old we got her one. We got the plastic band type and printed her name plus each parent’s name and phone number. When riding his bicycle husband uses the interactive one.  You register your information and then emergency personnel can access the information in case you are incapacitated. I think it’s a great idea for kids so that emergency information is accessible if they are separated from you.

I’m writing this post in April, which is Autism Awareness Month, so it got me thinking about tips for emergency preparedness when traveling with a child who has autism. I asked Margalit Francus, from Austic Globetrotting, what she does to prepare for emergencies in the hotel when traveling with her autistic son. She gave some great tips which actually are good to follow each and every time you are in a hotel with your children, whether or not they have special needs:

“After putting my bags down I take my son and show him the nearest exit and then we count how many doors to the left or right the exit is so that in case of a fire with all the smoke we can figure out where the exit is. I always put a business card of the hotel in my son’s pocket so he can tell people where he is staying if he gets lost.” –Margalit Francus, Autistic Globetrotting


What to do in an Earthquake

Fifty percent of the United States’ population is said to be at moderate risk of a damaging earthquake, according to this article. It’s good to familiarize yourself with the hotel’s recommendations on what to do in case of an earthquake. I don’t know why, but until a few years ago, when I finally read the information on the back of a hotel room door, I thought that in an earthquake you should get out of the hotel. Not so! It is recommended that you stay in your room, under a door frame if possible, until the quake ends. Be prepared for aftershocks and don’t leave the room unless there is a hotel announcement telling you to do so. Of course avoid the elevators, which may lose power in an earthquake. Only take the stairs but again, don’t leave the room unless directed by hotel management.


So now that you’ve read my recommendations, and the reason I think it’s important to have a Travel Emergency Kit, what do you think? Do you pack a travel kit like this for emergencies? Would you add any additional items? Do you think I’ve gone overboard? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages. Maybe I’ll add your recommendation to this post!

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Anytime Fun with Marshmallows

fun with marshmallows

If you’re looking for a fun activity whether on the plane or at home trying to avoid the summer heat, grab a bag of mini-marshmallows! You can have so much fun with marshmallows.  If you lick one end then it sticks! Ella had fun sticking them on her nose. Of course this can get a little gooey, but I think if you stick to the tiny marshmallows it can still be easily cleaned up with diaper wipes. Another thing you can do with the older kids is build with marshmallows using toothpicks. Keep in mind the temperament of your child. Ella would get quite upset if her marshmallow building fell over during turbulence, so I probably wouldn’t do marshmallow building on the plane with her. Other kids might not mind as much and it can be a great way for your child to pass time on the plane while using creative and mathematical skills. Win-win!


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Bring a few small containers of assorted snacks, such as mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, mini pretzels,etc. Encourage your child to mix them, sort them, or create patterns. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? If you’re grossed out by the idea of them putting their food on the tray table, bring along some disposable table liners, such as these:

I love these Baby Einstein Stick on Placemats because they can be an activity in themselves. You can color on them with dry erase markers (or crayons). they provide a good surface for Play-Doh, and you can read them and talk about the colors and shapes.

What do you think of these ideas for fun with marshmallows? Are there any that you think would be great (or terrible) for your child? Leave a comment below to let us know!


This post was part of Photo Friday at in 2012 and updated with content added in 2016. Check out the Delicious Baby link for some great photos and travel tips/stories from other great travel bloggers.


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Welcome to Travel Tuesday Quick Tip, a weekly series where I share a quick tip for flying with kids. Most of these tips apply whether or not you have kids. This week my tip is to pack spare clothes. What do I mean? Of course when you’re flying you’re packing spare clothes! What I’m talking about is if you check your luggage. Be sure to pack in your carry on bag a spare change of clothes, down to the underwear, for everyone traveling with you. As parents, we usually do pack at least one spare outfit for a baby, but often as the child gets older this might seem less necessary. I also see many adults travel without a change of clothes in their carry on. You might think it’s not that important, especially on a shorter flight, but let me tell you, although you might not often need spare clothes, when you need them, you REALLY need them. There are four major reasons you might need a spare change of clothes in flight:


Diaper blowouts can affect more than just the baby’s outfit. Remember these blowouts very rarely happen at a convenient time. That means your chances for it occurring at the very beginning of your flight are high. It’s great that you brought a spare change of clothes for the baby, but if you didn’t pack any for yourself then you and your seatmates get to sit there, smelling the lovely odor for the entire flight. Not fun. Good thing these babies are so cute!

Pack Spare Clothes

(This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission. This will go toward the cost of operating this website. I appreciate your support!)

One product that we have tried is Melzy Baby’s Blowout Blocker. This is a fleece wrap that extends from the diaper up the baby’s back to catch blowouts and prevent clothes from being soiled. It works! It saved us on at least three occasions.



Those tiny little airsickness bags provided in the seat pocket aren’t very good at containing projectile vomiting. I’ve seen it happen more than once. Usually without any warning.

Pack Spare Clothes

On one flight I was working, a child got sick right after takeoff. He vomited all over his mom, completely drenching her, poor woman! She had checked all her spare clothes and it was only the first hour of a six hour flight. I felt so bad for her that I offered her my clothes. The only thing I had was a spare uniform shirt. She was more well endowed than I, so she could barely button the shirt, but at least it wasn’t vomit-soaked! The really bad thing is if it isn’t even your child who is vomiting. It could be the stranger sitting next to you! Thankfully this is a rare occurrence, but really, it’s so worth being prepared.


While it’s not the end of the world if a can of tomato or orange juice spills on you, it really can be uncomfortable. One time I was flying as a passenger to work the next flight. I was wearing my uniform and accepted a cup of orange juice for a pre-departure drink. I forgot it was there and knocked it over into my lap, soaking my pants (and underpants!) with orange juice. I still had nine hours on duty that day! Although I didn’t have another pair of uniform pants, I did have underwear and jeans. I went into the lavatory and changed, washed my uniform pants as best I could in the lavatory sink, and hung them up to dry as much as possible before I went on duty on the next flight. Even if you’re not doing anything important after the flight, do you really want to sit in orange juice soaked pants for the duration of the flight? I didn’t think so. Remember, it could be another passenger or flight attendant who accidentally spills on you. (Ask me about the time I spilled tomato juice on a passenger headed to a presentation.)


Again, it thankfully doesn’t happen often, but you never know when your two hour flight might become some kind of crazy twenty hour travel day (and night!). If you experience a diversion or a delay which requires you to wait overnight for your flight, you might sometimes be able to retrieve your checked luggage, but sometimes the circumstances do not allow for that. Always pack your carry on bag with this in mind and bring a change of clothes, toothbrushes, medicines, contacts and glasses, and any other things that are important to you for an overnight stay somewhere unexpected. If you want some ideas of what to pack, check out this post on what’s in my backpack when flying with an infant.

Bottom line: it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s important and useful to lightly pack, but just as important is to be prepared. A spare change of clothes can help redeem a bad travel day.

Do you have a story to share of a time when you were glad you packed spare clothes in your carry on bag? Or a time when you wished you had? I’d love to hear it! Tell me in the comments below. If I get several good stories I’ll feature them in another post. (Be sure to tell enter your website if you have a blog of your own and I’ll credit you if featuring your story.)

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In almost every airport restroom there is one thing which strikes fear in the souls of most small children: the auto-flush toilet. The noise of it is bad enough, but if you are a tiny child, already afraid of falling into the huge toilet, to have that toilet flush while you are sitting on it is absolutely terrifying. I’m going to share with you the simplest trick I learned along the way for surviving the auto-flush toilet.

It’s really very, very simple:

Use Sticky Notes or stickers

When you enter the restroom stall, simply place a Post-It Note (or large sticker) over the auto-flush sensor. Then you can prep the toilet with a toilet seat cover without fear of it getting sucked down before your child has a chance to sit. Once you have the seat cover on, your child can use the toilet and you won’t have to battle the shock that comes with the toilet flushing while your child is seated.

You can also use these sticky-notes for something for your child to draw on or for making a mosaic when bored on the plane. What other uses can you think of for using them when traveling? Tell us in the comments below. Maybe we’ll feature your tip in an upcoming post!

That’s it! I really thought everyone knew this trick, and I know a lot of you do, but I keep sharing this idea in various parenting forums I am in, and it is a new idea to many. So if you already use this, great! Share with your friends so that everyone else can know this easy trick for surviving the auto-flush toilet.


Thanks for checking in today for Travel Tuesday Quick Tips! If you find this useful, I’d love it if you would share with your friends!

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Quick Tip: Pack Battery Backup

For today’s Travel Tip, I’m sharing with you as usual my tips from the viewpoint of both a flight attendant and a mom. My goal in this blog is to help parents enjoy flying with their kids, as they feel confident and empowered when they are fully prepared. This tip about battery backup is for EVERYONE who flies, not just parents. It’s simple, but you never want to leave home without this:

Battery Backup

Most major airlines’ planes now have power ports (outlets) in many or most seats. Of course it is smart to look up the type of aircraft you are flying to see if there will be access to power on your flight. You’ll also want to check out what type of plug you will need in order to use these outlets (DC, AC, or USB). HOWEVER, I have both worked on and flown as a passenger on many flights where the power, for one reason or another, was not working. You may think, “Oh well, the flight is only two hours long, I won’t need to charge my phone/the kid’s iPad/the DVD player, etc.” Well, let me remind you that there can be all kinds of reasons why you might need battery backup. Mechanical and weather delays, diversions…you really never know for sure how long your travel day will be. I like to be prepared “just in case”.

So what battery backup is best? I’ve bought at least 8 different ones, and these two brands have been the best I’ve used, both for their price and their ability to charge:

(The links provided here are for your shopping convenience. If you make a purchase through these links I may receive a tiny commission which will go toward the operation of this blog. I appreciate your support!)

 Duracell Instant USB Charger

This small charger is great for items like the iPod touch and can bring it back up to about 60% battery from 5% or keep it going for an extra hour to two hours if my kids are watching videos on the iPod touch. It will keep my iPhone 5s going for another hour to three hours, even while I’m using it. It’s not enough power to charge a tablet, but it can extend it’s running time. It’s really small (5.1 x 1.5 x 5.9 inches and lightweight (4 ounces)—about the size of a pack of gum.  Also right now you can get it on Amazon for only $6.00 (originally $30)! *Amazon prices may change at any time, check the price at checkout to verify.*  I actually have 4 of these in the house, always carrying at least one of them in my travel bag.

Jackery Giant+ Dual USB Portable Battery Charger

I bought this for my husband a couple of years ago so he could have a back-up charger for his Kindle. It wasn’t long before I started using it myself when flying and I soon claimed it as my own. Although this battery back up is large (4.3 inches x 3.1 inches x 0.8 inches) and heavy (1 pound), it really is great for times when you can’t get power otherwise. I was able to fully recharge 6 iphones, while in use, on this battery and still had more than 25% battery power left. It has dual USB ports, so you can charge two devices at the same time, and also has a flashlight. I love this for it’s value in case of emergencies. If there is some reason you are in a hotel or even at home and without power for an extended time, this charger would be great to have. The price right now is just $23.99 (retail $129.95).

Jackery Bar External Battery Charger

Since I loved the Jackery Giant Battery Charger so much, I decided to purchase their smaller version for something more lightweight. This charger is perfect for tossing in your purse or backpack to have when you’re walking around town and just want to be sure you’ll have battery backup in case you need it. It will charge my iPhone 5s two to three times from 5% to 100%. It is about half the size of the Jackery Giant, at 0.9 inches x 3.8 inches x 1.8 inches and weighing 0.71 pounds. At this time it’s on sale for only $14.99 (retail $89.95).

There are lots of options for battery backup out there, and I’m sure most do the job. When choosing a battery charger, I would be sure to look for something that claims it can charge a tablet. Ideally you want a charger that can recharge your smart phone a few times, not just keep it going for an extra hour.

Do you usually travel with extra battery power?  Do you carry the charger with you on the plane, or just depend on the power outlets? Do you think about having a charger with you in case of power outages in hotels, etc.?  If you have a favorite, we’d love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages.

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