Did you know those airport security officers must screen everyone, regardless of age -- including babies? If you want to see a mega-meltdown, do not tell your children anything about what to expect. Which of course is precisely what you shouldn't do. Before you head to the airport, explain in simple terms what might happen at security and be matter-of-fact about it. Tell them they'll have to remove their shoes and place them on the moving belt along with their other belongings.
Children may even be selected to go through the body imaging scanner or be subject to an embarrassing pat-down as I was, but please note that the TSA's website says, "We will not ask you to do anything that will separate you from your child." Let the kids know this too.
Despite your best efforts, a child may throw a fit anyway; sometimes it's simply because they're tired, or because a parent impatiently pries their stuffed bear out of their arms and they think he's gone for good. Let them know Teddy will re-immerge in just a few seconds, ready to continue the journey.
4: Neglect Entertainment Options
You know what they say: a bored child can get into trouble. In fact, you don't even have to be a child; actor Josh Duhamel, 38, was escorted off a plane last week refusing to stop texting (he later said he was "sorry"). So keep your kids occupied. Some tips:
Bring books (skinny children's books don't take up much room and paperbacks are light).
Bring art supplies (just paper and crayons, and you're in business).
Bring travel-size chess sets or checkerboards (make sure they're magnetized).
Bring a device to watch video or TV (not every plane has a seatback monitor).
Hint: If you'll be bringing an "electronic babysitter" be sure you've got the right batteries and that the device itself is charged up, or you may find yourself in big trouble as the video quits just before the exciting Quidditch scene.
5: Give In to All Packing Demands
Don't let the kids insist on taking everything they own, or you'll be looking at an extra $50 roundtrip checked-bag fee -- per kid.
And you might want to suggest that pets are happier at home. A ten-year-old girl was left sobbing last summer when she discovered her turtle, Neytiri, was not allowed in the AirTran cabin and the little guy wound up in the trash (but don't worry, the reptile was eventually rescued by an AirTran employee and a happy reunion followed).
Even if you follow all these tips, there's no guarantee any family trip will be scene-free; just do the best you can. And for the rest of us, this may be why noise-canceling headphones were invented. Try them.
Or is it time to revive the idea of family sections on planes?