Surviving a Flight with Kids
When it comes to flying with kids, it can be a big fear for many parents. You don’t know what mood they are going to be in and you fear them having a major meltdown facedown in the middle of the aisle. It is true that kids can be unpredictable, but you can plan ahead to set yourself up for as much success as possible. Follow these tips on how to survive a flight with kids.
Pick Your Seats
Pay to Sit Together
Nowadays, you can save money on flights by not getting your seat assigned until you arrive. This can be great if you are traveling alone, but when traveling with kids always pay the extra to book your seats together. I have read about too many stories about kids having to sit separately (which sounds insane!) but don’t take the risk of it happening to you.
Choose Bulkhead or Window Seats
Window seats are great for kids to look out and see the environment, which can be entertainment in itself. It also helps prevent kids from getting in the way of people going up and down the aisle.
For lap infants, you can reserve bulkhead seats and a bassinet. These are great to give your arms a break, especially on longer flights where you might want to sleep. To reserve these, call the airlines immediately after booking your flights. Before your flight, call to confirm that there have been no changes.
Under Two are Free
Kids under two fly free by sitting on your lap. If you can afford it, you might want to consider getting them their own seat though. Many people choose to pay for the extra space and use their car seat, which their child is used to traveling in. Getting your kid their own seat can also give them more space to move around on longer flights.
Hangry kids on flights is definitely something you want to avoid. Bring some of your child’s favorite snacks to keep them happy throughout the flight. Space out giving them snacks though so they don’t end up wanting to eat everything within the first hour of the flight.
Reserve Kids Meals
If you are traveling on a long flight that serves a meal, put in a specialty request for a kids meal. Not only is this great for picky eaters, specially requested meals get served first. This means your kids won’t have to wait for their food causing them to get hangry and impatient.
Eat or Drink During Take Off
Help your little ones adjust to the air pressure by making sure they are chewing or drinking during take off. This will help their ears to pop and prevent any sort of pain associated with the pressure changes. For infants, try to time breastfeeding during take off. It will help keep them calm as well.
Transporting Breastmilk or Formula
As we all know, liquids are not allowed going through airport security. The exception is breastmilk and formula. They recommend that you transport this in clear plastic bottles rather than the pouches. Alert the TSA agent before you go through screening that you are carrying liquids and they will have to screen it separately. You are allowed to bring freezer packs in your carry on items, just make sure that they are frozen and not thawed.
For further information, check out the TSA website here.
The go-to for most travel nowadays is a fully stocked tablet. I really don’t like screentime in general, but travel days are the exception. Download movies or books ahead of your flight onto a tablet to keep your child entertained. Many airplanes are now equipped with charging ports, but I would bring a portable charger just in case. Also, make sure you bring over the ear headphones so your child isn’t blasting their game for everyone around them to hear. Seriously, don’t be that person.
Coloring books don’t take up a lot of space and is something that you can do together on the plane. You can carry a few crayons in a small pouch or in a travel soap container. Twistable crayons are also great because you don’t need to sharpen them.
I used to play cards with my mom on the airplane all the time and loved it. You can’t play anything that takes up a whole lot of space, but something like Go Fish is pretty easy. You can also get UNO which comes in nice metal tin which is great for travel.
For little kids, get some window clings that they can play with on the plane windows. These you can typically find pretty cheap at the dollar stores in all sorts of characters. They even make some pretty cool letter ones that are great if your child is learning how to spell.
Fly During Nap Time
A screaming, tired child is definitely a big fear for most parents when flying. You don’t want to be that parent judged by the many impatient people who don’t have children. You are not alone in thinking that. When possible try to fly during your children’s nap times. For some, this might mean flying late at night or mid afternoon. The white noise of flying often is enough to help sooth kids to sleep if they are tired.
Keep your flights as short as possible by getting nonstop flights. This may mean paying a little extra, but the convenience is well worth it. If you are lucky, they will nap on the way there and wake up at your destination happy and well rested.
Bring a Blanket/Pillow
My husband and I took this blanket & pillow combo on our trip to Thailand and we loved them. We have since turned them on to our kids who think they are great for road trips and sleeping on the plane. Planes are notoriously cool so having a lightweight blanket is great to ensure good sleep. This pillow even has a strap that can easily go around your luggage to keep it handsfree.
What to Expect
If your kids have never flown before, walk them through what to expect at the airport. Explain how you will have to go through security and find your gate. Tell them how you have a boarding pass and time when you get to go on the plane. Show them pictures or videos if that helps you explain.
Minimizing any sort of surprises helps ensure a smooth trip. Not only that, but it will help your kids get excited for different parts of the airport. Many airports have a tram or all those people movers, which can be a lot of fun for kids to experience. Walking them through what to expect will give them things to look forward to.
When traveling with small children, you get the privilege of boarding first. This can give you some extra time to get settled if you need it, which can be great especially if you have an infant with a lot of stuff. If you have a rambunctious toddler though, consider boarding last. This will allow them to run off any additional energy before being trapped inside a plane for hours. Boarding can sometimes take 45 minutes, so why spend that extra time sitting down when your kid could be getting out their wiggles.
I know many people that use little surprises to help get their kids through long flights. It could be a special treat or a small toy, but something to hand out every hour of the trip they make it through without being fussy. This gives them something to anticipate as well as be rewarded for good behavior during flights.
Pack Extra Clothes
Accidents happen all the time with kids, so make sure you are prepared. Even if your child is well out of the potty training stage, it is still good to have an extra set of clothes on you perhaps for plane sickness or just the occasional spills. For smaller kids, I recommend using a diaper backpack that helps keeps you handsfree to deal with kids and luggage.
Use a Stroller
You will sometimes find yourself walking miles through an airport to get to your gate or trying to make a connection. Make it easier on your child’s little legs by using a stroller. These will have to go through security, but you can check them at your gate. They even make strollers that fold up small enough now that can fit in an overhead bin or under your seat as your personal item.
Clean Up After Kids
This has recently been a debate online, but I say you should always clean up after your kids on a plane. Try to keep things as neat as you can throughout the flight to prevent having a lot to do when you land. You can even use the sickness bag that comes in the back of your seat as a small trash can.
Kids can feed off your nervous energy, so make sure you stay calm when flying. It is natural to be nervous on how you will keep your kid well behaved for an extended period of time, when you might be missing the usual meals or nap times. Stay calm though; you will get through it. Flight attendants have seen kids fly a million times before and can be a great resource if you find yourself struggling with anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Use these tips to help set yourself up for success. Flying can be unpredictable, so just remember to stay flexible. Have any tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!
Heading on a road trip with kids? Check out my road trip must-haves!