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posted: 2/21/2014 1:01 AM

How to navigate connecting flights with kids

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By Cindy Richards TravelingMom.com

Living in Chicago, home to two international airports, means that a great chunk of the world is reachable via direct flights. But not all. Sometimes we have to connect. And connecting flights when traveling with kids can be a challenge. These tips will make it easier to navigate connecting flights and reduce the chances of missing a flight.

1. Book early flights. Early morning flights are more likely to leave on time than the flights later in the day.

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2. Give yourself enough time. Leave yourself two hours on domestic flights and three hours on international flights when you have to clear customs before boarding the next plane. It can mean entertaining kids in the airport while you wait, but a two-hour wait is preferable to a missed connection.

3. Sit at the front of the plane. The closer to the exit door, the faster you'll reach your next gate. If you're in the back of the plane, it can take 20 minutes to deplane.

4. Choose to carry-on. Kids as young as 4 can pull their own small carry-on, especially the new lightweight four-wheel spinner bags that are so easy to maneuver. Carry-on bags won't get lost by baggage handlers or fail to make the connecting flight.

5. Know where you're going. Download or print out a map of the airport where you are connecting so you know where everything is -- including the restaurants, restrooms and children's play area.

6. Share your contact info. Your airline can text or email you if something goes wrong. The earlier you are aware of delays or aircraft changes, the faster you can rebook your flights without additional disruptions.

7. Tweet your way to success. If you have a problem, tweet the airline. You might get a response much quicker than by calling the customer service line.

8.  Use the facilities on board. If everyone uses the potty on the plane before landing, you can save one crucial stop as you're rushing to make the connection.

9. Ask for help. Rather than panicking about missing a tight connection, ask the flight attendant for help. They might be able to notify the staff that you are en route, and arrange for airport cart transportation to pick you up and take you to your planned departure gate.

• Cindy Richards is the editor-in-chief for TravelingMom.com, where she writes the TravelingMom.com TravelingMom with Teens blog.

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