There's something so "American Gothic" about this photo!

Even though it's a short flight and even though it's direct, it still seems so stressful traveling with littles. But I think we finally figured out a few things that help exceptionally. And now I feel like flying might be less of a big deal than it has been in the past. Here's what I've learned:

• Go to a private lounge. Luckily our credit card gives us access to many/most, which is how we discovered this perk, but you can always pay a fee for access. Free drinks like juice and milk and beer and coffee for the grownups, free snacks (carrot sticks, crackers, grapes, apples, sometimes little sandwiches and fancy cheeses), really comfortable seating and living-room styled sitting areas, room to spread out, WiFi and outlets for device-charging everywhere. We got the kids fed, furniture to climb on/under, room to run around, curtains to hide behind. We also juice'd up the iPad and stashed some extra snacks for the road. 5 minutes before boarding we walked to the gate and it was a shock to be reminded how crowded, uncomfortable, dirty, and miserable that area is in comparison.

• If the flight is delayed, kill some of the extra time by going on an adventure. We forget that somewhere along the path to adulthood we decided that staying put and sitting down was the best way to kill dead time. Kids don't think so. Our flight was pushed back hours, and we were able to both fill an hour and thrill Everett by riding the Air Train to a different terminals. Train? Airplanes out the window? Escalators? Elevators? What fun! Way better than being expected to sit still for yet another hour.

• In the past, no matter how we've tried to pre-empt the whole ear-pain thing, inevitably Everett wouldn't drink his juice and Alice would be screaming and bucking like an animal amidst death throes. Solution? For Everett it's a lollipop. For Alice it was just a matter of realizing that we were waiting until it was too late. We were waiting for right before touch-down. And then it dawned on me: most of the drop in elevation occurs way before then. As soon as the pilot announces that we're starting our descent we'd try to delay and delay, worried we'd run out of milk too soon. Now we know that's actually the perfect time to have her start chugging. And if you run out of milk a little early, make her laugh as hard as she can – baby belly laughs are so strong, they have to swallow to catch their breath. So it might be exhausting, but I sang "grand ol' duke of york" and bounced that girl on my knee high enough to give me sore abs the next day. She was laughing so hard she could barely breath.

• Get them to sleep. I know what you're thinking: right, but how?! I finally figured it out and it's so obvious. For days in advance we told Everett that we were going on an airplane soon. He couldn't wait, so he loved talking about it. And every time it came up, we said we were going to take a nap on the plane. "We'll board the plane. Where's the cockpit? There it is! Hi, pilot! Where's our seats? I don't know… oh! There's our seats! Fasten the seatbelt. Click! And then we'll watch some iPad, have a snack, and then it'll be nap time!" I asked him if bunny will take his nap, too. I asked him if he wants to take his blanket or jammies. We weaved it into his expectation, so once on the plane, when we announced it was nap time, it was a total non-issue and he curled up and went to sleep. I can't believe it took me this long to figure that out.