Pick wisely — not lightly — when taking young children on an airplane flight. Here are some tips and tools to keep control.

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Putting young children on an airplane — an enclosed space, for an extended period of time, surrounded by strangers — sounds like the scene from a parental horror story.

And it’s true; flying with children can be a nightmare. We’ve all heard the screaming infants and gritted our teeth as toddlers behind us kick our seat. It can be even worse to be the parent of that child.

While it’s impossible to perfectly predict what a kid is going to do, you can do your best prep work to set up successful travel.

Here are our top tips for flying with children:

Prepare, and prepare some more

Don’t try to wing it. Use your carry-on as an entertainment center, and pack it with your child’s favorite toys, as well as new ones they’ve never seen before. Pick toys that are quiet, without little pieces that can get lost or that you’ll constantly be picking up off the floor.

Pick: Janod Magnetibooks ($12–$16 at amazon.com) include colorful magnetic pieces that can be arranged on a study magnetic board.

Stave off the hangry child

Make sure your child is fed before you fly, and pack lots of his favorite foods for the flight since airplane food may not satisfy your picky eater (if you even get any). Combine snacks with entertainment buy packing a “snackle box.” Buy a small, plastic tackle box or bento box, and fill each square with a different snack. Create games around the snacks. Count the Cheerios. Make up a story for the Goldfish. This is one time when it’s beneficial to play with your food.

Pick: Bentgo Kinds Lunch Box ($28 at betgo.com). Five compartments provide lots of places for fun snacks to be stored. It’s BPA-free and available in three fun colors.

Plan for pressure

Quin Candy Lollipops, $6.50 a bag
Quin Candy Lollipops, $6.50 a bag

Most kids can’t understand what’s going on when their ears pop or need to. Explain to your child before getting on the plane what’s going to happen, and when it happens to you, talk about it calmly, so your child understands it is normal and happening to everyone. Pack fruit gummies and/or suckers to encourage your kid to swallow — they’d be happy to if candy is part of the process. Plus, a shiny, new sucker can keep your kid distracted as the plane takes off and the engine roars, and can be used to encourage good behavior in a pinch.

Pick: Quin Candy Lollipops ($6.50 a bag at quincandy.com). This Portland candy maker uses all natural ingredients and local fruit to make their yummy treats. Grab a bag of the Coffee Lollipops for the adults.

Bring passive entertainment

I once heard a mother teaching — literally educating — her kids for an entire 2.5-hour flight. Good on her. But not everyone has the capacity to be a super-parent for an entire flight. Some relaxing, passive entertainment can be a savior when you need a hand. Download some new movies or games on your tablet or smartphone. There are cushy kid-friendly headphones most kids are willing to wear for an extended stretch. If you limit TV, try read-along books or education games.

Pick: Lilgadgets Connect+ Headphones ($21 at amazon.com). These limit volume so kids’ ears won’t get blown out, and they fold down to save space. Best of all, they can connect together so you don’t need a splitter when both your kids want to watch the same movie.