Flying with kids is something that can strike fear in even the calmest, most experienced parent. Long hours in a confined space, limited leg room, turbulence, jetlag, and endless waits in crowded airports make it hard enough for adults, let alone young children.
Luckily, there are ways you can make flying with your little ones a fun and enjoyable experience. Or, at the very least, that won’t spare you, your family, and your fellow travelers.
These ten parenting tips offer great advice for getting you to your vacation destination without feeling like you’ve survived an unpleasant ordeal.
#1. Tell your kids what to expect in advance
The unknown can be very scary, especially for children who are only a few years old. In the days or weeks before your flight, talk to your kids about what they can expect. Tell them what the airport will be like, how they will go through the security screening process, what the inside of the plane will look like and feel. Tell them about toilets, seats, and why it’s important that they stay calm and quiet.
If they are old enough to understand how the air pressure in the cabin can affect their ears and why it may cause a little pain, explain that as well. Otherwise, just prepare them by letting them know that their ears might feel a little weird and that’s completely normal.
It’s a good idea to show them pictures or YouTube videos of what they’re doing so they can understand what will happen. Don’t forget to let them know that it’s a lot of fun and an exciting family vacation awaits you on the other end.
#2. dress in layers
Prepare yourself for the many changes in temperature during the flight, and make sure you dress your kids in layers. Planes can be cold, but also hot, and a little stuffy, and babies react quickly to changing temperatures.
Wherever possible, make sure each layer is easy to remove and doesn’t have too many zippers, fasteners, or buttons. A baby that’s too hot can quickly get antsy, and it’s not always easy to undo the fastenings if they’re wheezing sadly.
For the same reason, avoid shoes with laces. Not only are they easier to remove in flight, but they also speed up security checks. Slip-ons or shoes with Velcro straps are your best option.
You can follow the same advice for yourself. Wear layers that are comfortable and not too heavy. You’ll need to carry your luggage, kids, and other luggage with maximum ease, so you don’t want to wear anything that’s too restrictive when flying with kids.
#3. pack snacks
While many airlines have snack carts that show up regularly, they may not have kid-friendly options or meals that your kids will eat. So to make sure you don’t wind up with hungry kids, pack a good stash of snacks in your carry-on bag.
Puree sachets, little packets of crisps, and even a sandwich or two are always winners. In addition, you can add some treats to keep the little ones happy. It’s a good idea to include some age-appropriate sweets or lollipops that everyone can suck on to reduce the chances of a sore throat or earache. These little details can make flying with kids less stressful.
#4. Select the option of Early Boarding
Airlines know that flying with kids isn’t easy, so they do their best to make it a little less stressful. One way to do this is to provide families with the opportunity to board the plane before anyone else.
Early boarding is a great way to get everyone settled before the plane fills up. This is especially useful if you’re traveling alone and have to stow away a booster seat or other kid-friendly flight equipment. Programs like TSA Cares can assist with early boarding requirements and expedite security checks if you contact them in advance.
With early boarding, flight attendants can give you more attention, and you can make sure you’re comfortably seated with your carry-on luggage before everyone else starts arriving.
#5. stock up on activities
Flights to even the most exciting family vacation destinations get boring. For young children, excitement quickly fades once in the air. Even if you have a window seat, there’s a limit to how much time they’ll want to spend looking at the clouds.
Don’t be the parent who forgot to pack something for your kids. Before you set off, make sure they have many different activities for you to enjoy. Depending on their age, you can pack toys or games that they can play quietly. You may also want to buy them a new toy to make the travel experience more exciting and hold their attention for a longer period of time.
A tablet, LeapPad, Nintendo DS, or any other mobile device on which they can play games and watch movies is an absolute lifesaver. It’ll offer hours of distraction, and you can pack headphones so they can listen quietly without distraction. Just make sure you have it fully charged and if possible have a spare power bank when flying with kids.
#6. Book with your child in mind
Flying with children under one year old is especially challenging. If you have an infant, book a row with a bassinet. Even if you fly the entire flight holding your baby, you’ll have a little extra leg room that can make all the difference.
Flight attendants are used to helping parents, so if you need to hold your baby while going to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat, just ask. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you need help!
#7. Invest in a Travel Pram
Airports are huge, busy, and confusing, and if you have a child under four, you may struggle to hang on to them, your luggage, boarding pass, and everything else you need. The last thing you want to do is chase after your child or worry about them wandering off.
A travel pram that you can fold up and take with you on your flight is the perfect solution to this dilemma. You can tie your baby in the buggy and push them from one place to another. They won’t get tired, and you know they’re always safe.
#8. Have everything you need in easy reach
You should consider your carry-on bag as your lifeline when flying with children. You will have to fully pack everything you need for the flight here for you and your kids. And you need to pack smart so that you can have easy access to everything you need. Hopefully, you won’t need to deal with additional screening at airport security before a long-haul flight.
If there’s two of you, one parent can be the designated snacks and entertainment carrier, while the other can carry essentials like wet wipes, sanitizer, diapers, a change of clothes, and whatever else you might need.
If you’re on your own, you’ll need to consolidate everything in one bag, so pack the items you need most and those that probably belong at the bottom. Using a carrion will make air travel much more enjoyable when traveling with young children.
#9. fly early and leave first class
Morning flights are less full, and less likely to be delayed. They are also a great time to fly with kids because they will be awake recently and not feel tired or fractured. Overwhelmed and tired little kids often suffer from meltdowns, but if you start flying early in the morning and avoid redeye flights, you’ll be in better shape.
While first class offers more space and better amenities, you risk the wrath of fellow passengers who have booked their seats to enjoy the peace and quiet and a more luxurious experience. So when you’re traveling alone or when your kids are a little older, keep your upgrade.
You are likely to get more sympathetic travelers and a lot of support in the economy. It’s far more family-friendly, and a lively little, sad baby, or child with tantrums won’t cause nearly as much upset or distraction.
#10. take care of yourself
Flying with kids is potentially exhausting, emotional, and stressful. However, making sure your needs are taken care of can help make the whole experience that much smoother. The best way to do this is to prepare in advance.
If you’re short on time, use a telehealth service to deliver medication for migraines, stress, and anxiety so you don’t have to go without it. You should also make sure that you have stocked anti-nausea, stomach upset and general pain relievers. Doing so will help keep you in the best possible shape for the flight ahead.
Apart from taking care of your physical health, you can pack a few things to make traveling more comfortable for yourself. A neck pillow, soft jumper, book or magazine are all great ways to make flying with kids a little more comfortable.
At the end of the day, if you are headache and relaxed, relaxed and relaxed, your little ones will notice it.
Final Thoughts on Flying With Kids
Flying with kids isn’t something you’re afraid of. With a little pre-flight planning, you can make the experience as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
Your carry-on and flight attendants are all-important, so make the most of all their benefits and what they can do for you.
And remember, your flight is taking you to your vacation destination, so even if it’s not all fun and games, you’ll be on vacation soon!
Cassandra Karpiak is the founder of Caravan Adventure Family Travel and the mother of two adventurous, young boys. She is a family-focused, adventure travel advocate who grew up in Toronto with Danish descent. Cassandra with her two boys has often visited over 20 countries on three continents!