Whether it’s for the holidays, a family vacation, or a weekend getaway – flying with kids can be hard. Knowing the best travel practices will help to alleviate further headaches down the line. We have some tips and tricks to help.
When making decisions for your upcoming travel, try and plan with four stages in mind. The first stage is the preparation you can put in before you even get to the airport. The next stage is getting your little ones to the airport. Take advantage of any pre-flight time to get them ready for the long (or short) trip. Once you're on board, gears shift to keeping them entertained and happy during their time in the air.
And finally, we'll discuss the landing stage, getting off the plane, and out of the airport, and the next exciting chapter of your trip. Continue reading for some tips and tricks for each of these important stages while flying with kids.
Key Points of Flying with Kids
- Be prepared. Flying and airports can be a very stressful experience for adults, let alone for kids.
- Make sure to try your best to make flying a fun experience for your little ones.
- Just because you've touched down doesn't mean the travel experience is over for your little ones. Be sure to organize your things in an efficient and effective way to minimize the time and stress it takes to deboard and leave the airport.
In Preparation For Flying
In terms of preparation, here are a few pre-flight things to keep in mind:
- Direct flights minimize airport time. This way you’re also less likely to use up valuable activities they could otherwise be doing on the plane. Booking flights that match up with a nap time might be best for keeping your little one’s schedule on track while flying with kids.
- Be sure to book your seats together. If you can't, some passengers might be willing to trade. Either way, it’s one less thing to think about as you board your flight. If someone doesn't want to switch with you speak with the stewards to discuss possible options.
- The “kid friendliest airlines,” according to Sevencorners.com, include JetBlue, Virgin America, SouthWest, and Alaska Airlines. Each of these airlines offers special deals for families traveling with kids. Benefits Include reserved family rows, free carry-on bags, changing tables in the lavatory, kid-friendly meals, and personal entertainment tablets for use during the flight.
- If you find yourself having to fly a non-kid friend airline, maybe investing in a cheap tablet could be worth the additional purchase to avoid the potential stress.
- Be sure that strollers/car seats are TSA approved so you don’t run into any red tape before takeoff.
- Take a look at the map of the airport you’re departing from. Once you’ve booked your tickets, you can usually see your gate. This will at least give you an idea of where things are on departure day.
- TSA PreCheck or Global Entry might be worth looking into. PreCheck enables you to go through a much faster version of the security line. Especially when you have small ones in tow, PreCheck can be a stress reducer. TSA PreCheck is $78 for 5 years and if your child is under 12, they are included in your PreCheck status (via tsa.gov). Global Entry costs $100 for application to the Trusted Traveler Program. This fee applies to any adult or child, regardless of age. Global Entry expedites your entrance into the United States from abroad. It may be a better option if you are flying with kids internationally, more than once a year.
- Packing can always be tricky for planes! Be sure to bring some of your kids’ comfort items (blanket, stuffed animal, pacifier, etc.) It’s also a great idea to pack a change of clothes, specifically layers for your little one. Planes can be very cold or your young one could start running hot and in these instances, being able to add or subtract a clothing layer will be a really good resource.
- If you’re bringing formula or pre-pumped breastmilk for your flight, it’s important to know that these liquids are exempted from the 3.4 fluid ounces rule when going through TSA (via tsa.gov).
- When traveling internationally it's vital to research your intended country's customs laws and what you are allowed to bring in terms of breastmilk, formula, and size limits.
- Consider portable charging banks and pre-downloaded flight entertainment.
Once You're Getting Ready to Fly
Reaching the airport is when the stress of flying with kids can truly begin to set in. Depending on the flight time or layover time, being ready to go is the best option. Once you reach the airport here are some steps to take to get on your flight in the most relaxed manner:
- Make sure you have your in-flight activities in a bag that is easily reachable once you board the plane. Other things you, yourself may need should also be easily accessible.
- Reserving food on the plane or packing it ahead of time, do what’s best for your family! Sometimes it’s easier to eat before your departure or to pack snacks or a pre-made dinner to know you’re covered on the flight. There is nothing more stressful to deal with than a hungry child in a tight metal tube.
- Use the bathroom! Even though there’s one on the plane, it’s always a good time to go. Just in case you can avoid an on-flight accident!
- Once you’re at the gate, you can take advantage of pre-boarding, which airlines offer to families traveling with young children. The policy is often based on the airline so check in with your gate agent upon arrival.
One thing to note is that pre-boarding, while handy, does mean your child will be on the plane waiting for longer. If your child doesn’t do well with waiting, it may be better to board with your group at the front of the line. You can also just wait and board last if you’re not worried about overhead space for your carry-on luggage (via tripsaavy.com).
- Kidshealth.com recommends the use of acetaminophen 30 minutes before the flight to relieve ear pain from the change in altitude pressure.
- Kid's strength Dramamine could be used if your child gets motion sickness but consult with your doctor beforehand.
Once You're On Board The Airplane
So you’ve made it to your seats, and off you go! Here are some things to help you while you're flying with kids:
- If your child is able, chewing gum during takeoff or landing will help with ear pressure. Alternatively, babies can nurse, swallow or yawn to help with the change in pressure.
- Firstly, try and encourage them to enjoy their experience riding a plane. Have them look out the window, take a short walk down the aisle, etc. Provide entertainment once boredom has truly set in – flying can be a cool experience!
- Check out some printable activities, and bring coloring books, picture books, etc. Amazon offers a wide range of toys to travel with, including the Orsen LCD Writing Tablet for Kids and sensory toys that can keep your child engaged in flight.
- Make use of the pre-downloaded entertainment or if the flight offers tablets, find something your small one will enjoy.
What To Do When You've Finally Landed
Your plane has touched the ground, flight attendants are preparing the doors to open, and your little one can't wait to get off, or maybe they're fast asleep:
- Take a moment to gather your things. Make sure nothing dropped below the seat or was left in the seat pocket in front of you or your child.
- Use the bathroom, again! Just to efficiently move through the last steps at the airport, be sure to check this off your list before gathering your bags, if you checked any, and moving to the transportation section of the airport.
- Enjoy your trip! You’ve made it through all the stages and you did it in, hopefully, one piece!
Traveling with your child or children can be stressful if you let it. Of course, things might go wrong. You'll miss a connection, TSA might take longer than expected, or maybe your child is simply not having the airport experience. However, with these tips and tricks what could be a stressful travel day could be a joyous new experience for you and your child.