Q: We’re traveling home for Christmas and this will be our 2-year-old daughter’s first flight. I’m feeling stressed and anxious about it. Can you offer any advice?

Jim: As a seasoned traveler, I have tremendous admiration for parents who navigate a cross-country flight with little ones. So does Shawna Purvis, who’s a flight attendant and a friend of Focus on the Family. She’s offered these helpful tips, which I’m happy to share.

  • Get online. Most airlines offer online check-in, allowing you to bypass the ticket counter. You can also research baggage policies — while many airlines charge for luggage, some allow car seats and strollers to be checked for free.
  • Dress in layers. Climate control on planes can sometimes be a challenge. Layering allows you to shed clothes when you’re too hot and bundle up when you’re too cold.
  • Plan child-friendly entertainment. Visit a dollar store and buy a toy or two for each hour of travel. Your children will love getting to play with new toys, and you won’t care if these inexpensive items accidentally get left behind on the airplane.
  • Bring your own amenities. Unfortunately, amenities like pillows, blankets, meals and snacks are things of the past for many airlines. If you think you or your children will want these items, plan to bring your own so your family won’t be left hungry and disappointed.
  • Prepare for ear pain. Lollipops are good for plugged ears as well as little mouths that won’t stop chattering.
  • Manners matter. Flight attendants are like most people. If you’re positive and respectful, they’ll be more likely to help you out as much as possible.

Ease the airport pick-up. During the holidays, the lineup of cars for the arrivals section can be a mile long. Try meeting your party at the departures area, where there is usually a lot less traffic.

Q: My mother-in-law buys me gifts that I don’t like. No matter what the item, it rarely fits my tastes. I don’t want to hurt her, so I pretend to like the gifts. But I don’t want to be dishonest either. How should I handle this?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: I appreciate your question, because this is a place most of us have been. Yes, honesty is an essential virtue. But it doesn’t mean disclosing every thought or feeling floating around in our heads. (If you disagree, you may reconsider when your truthful toddler tells the big-boned lady in the checkout line that she’s fat.) Before deciding to let your mother-in-law know your feelings about a particular gift, I’d strongly encourage you to carefully examine your motives and your relationship with her.

The fact that you want to avoid hurting her unnecessarily suggests your heart is right — and that you value her more than things. So consider that while you may not be crazy about the gift, you can use the occasion to focus on and express your appreciation for the giver.

Whether you privately discuss your dissatisfaction with her gift largely depends on the strength and safety of your relationship. How long have you known her? Have you exchanged candid emotions before, and what was the response? Is she insecure or prideful in her gift giving to where criticism might be especially painful?

If you’re not “there” yet, you might spend time shopping together, both to build your relationship and to become better acquainted with each other’s preferences. Or, your family might consider drawing names with each person submitting a “wish list.”

Building strong relationships with in-laws takes intentional thought and grace, but it’s worth the effort. If we can help, don’t hesitate to give our Focus counselors a call.

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.