Airplane Travel with Children

Traveling with ChildrenA few months after I had my first baby we planned a trip to visit family.  An airplane trip.  I was terrified.  Like many new challenges for a first time mom, I didn’t know what to expect; I had visions of a screaming infant, being covered in baby output and evil side glances from all who were within range.  All this envisioning of everything that could go wrong led to over-preparedness.  And, as it turned out, the little guy slept the whole flight.

Let me say that, 3 kids later, they do not always sleep the entire flight.  We have travelled a lot with little ones – the majority of the time just me and the kids- and I’ve come a fair way since that first flight.  I have some tips to share that may make your next flight with little ones a bit less stressful.  Keep in mind that my kids are ages 6 and younger.

1.  Throw all the rules out the window.  I mean it.  If it helps you to write them on a piece of paper and literally throw them out the window, do it.  Then, go pick up your paper and throw it away because littering is wrong.  The name of the game is flexibility.  You have to be flexible when it comes to little ones and airplanes.  This is not about eating healthy and watching less tv.  It’s about getting you and your kids through the air without meltdowns (from the kids, you and the other passengers).  If it takes 5 lollipops and 8 episodes of Dora, so be it.

2.  If your kids are big enough, let them carry their own backpack. I usually fill the backpacks with a few new prizes and snacks.  The key is new.  Whether it’s dollar store junk that will get thrown away later or a coloring book they’ve never seen, it just needs to be different.  Things that don’t have a lot of pieces are preferred.  Some past winners for us have been: transformers, Crayola color wonder sets, stickers, playdough, chapstick, wikki stix, window clings. I also include some snacks and treats that we don’t normally have.  I separate them into each backpack so I’m not divyying stuff out on the flight.  Try to avoid toys that make noise.  If you can’t avoid it, a good tip is to put a piece of masking tape over the holes where the noise comes out; this will lower the volume.  I don’t let the kids peek in the backpack until we are on the plane, and usually not until we have started backing away from the gate.  Once we arrive at our destination, I put the backpacks away and they don’t get them back until the flight home.

3.  Strollers are great for the smaller crowd.  My last trip I took my sit and stand and was able to pile all three kids and their carry ons in the stroller.  It made getting through the airport much smoother.  Don’t be intimidated by security.  Families usually get to go through a special entrance toward the front of the line, and most of the time people are willing to help you.  If not, or if people get annoyed by the time it takes you to get through, oh well!  They will get over it.  Going through security can be one of the most stressful parts of travelling with kids, so just breathe deep and think clearly.  Put your kids in shoes that are easy to take on and off.  Prep older kids ahead of time and have them help with the younger ones. If you have a baby, keep in mind that you will have to take the baby out of the carseat or carrier or sling.  Just plan on it.

4.  Another good alternate to strollers is a handy little strap that connects a carseat to a carry on suitcase.  This is the one I have  I use this instead of a stroller if I am planning on taking the carseat on the airplane and if I won’t need my own stroller at our destination.  An added bonus is that I can fill the carry on with extra diapers and clothes – items I most likely won’t need on the flight but are nice to have just in case.  How do I decide if I’m taking the carseat on?  I take it on if it will be a direct flight that is over 3 hours and if I think my child might nap.  The downside is they will kick the seat in front of them.  The upside is they are strapped in and they may sleep.  If it’s a shorter flight or I have a connection (which I try desperately to avoid), I check the carseats.

5. If you’re travelling by yourself with small children, check in at curbside.  It’s worth it.

6.  DVD players, iPads, Leapsters, new movies, new apps, new games. Enough said.

7.  If your flight is not sold out, ask the gate agent if you can sit next to an empty seat.  Extra space equals a million times extra sanity.

8.  Before you board, go potty and change diapers.  If you don’t have luggage that needs to go in an overhead bin, don’t worry about boarding early.  That’s just 20 more minutes you have to entertain the kids on the plane.  It’s ok to be among the last to get on!

9.  When the distraction of toys and movies and treats wears thin, we play I Spy.  We count the lights on the wing.  We sing silly songs.  Because, let’s face it, the thing your kids want the most is your attention!  Plane rides are a good opportunity to just be with your kids.  Read them a book.  Look through the SkyMall magazine together.  Point to shapes on the emergency pamphlet.

10.  No matter how prepared you are, travelling with little ones is not easy.  Just accept that.  If your kid screams the entire flight, at least you know the flight will end at some point.  Be willing to accept help from strangers.  Be willing to give your child yet another treat.  Be willing to be flexible.

camiA Mom Knows Contributor

About Cami

I am learning how to be a mother of three and enjoying the process (most of the time!). In those dreamy days of my past life when I had hobbies, I enjoyed crafting, sewing, reading, cooking and sleeping. I'm told those days will return again. In the meantime, I'll enjoy kissing the sticky faces of my three munchkins.

2 Responses to Airplane Travel with Children

  1. rose says:

    Traveling can be frustrating when you have kids with you. I have two little ones and I have tried both ways, traveling by car and by plane. Once on the plane it is faster to get to the destination, but in the car, you have room to make stops and let them get out and stretch. Either way it is stressful. I agree about taking a stroller if possible. It is a lot easier to make it through the airport without losing a kid. Any electronic device is a lifesaver. I bring my iPad with me because it gives the kids more options then just watching movies. They can play games, watch a movie, or even watch TV through my provider DISH Network. I have the Sling Adapter hooked up to my receiver and it gives me access to all my subscription channels. The kids can watch live TV from anywhere we can get a Wi-Fi connection. It is great for when we have a delay in our flight or a lay over. The kids love being able to watch their favorite shows while we wait or even in the plane. I am so glad I learned about this app and product working for DISH. It has been such a lifesaver. Another tip I want to throw out there is going to the dollar store, picking out a few toys, and giving them to the kids throughout the flight as surprise gifts. That works wonders.

  2. April Miller says:

    Great advice! We just returned from our first flight with our 12 month old. We definitely had to break some rules. I wrote about it on my blog Visiting your site from the UBP. Glad to have found you!