Long car rides with little ones can test any parent’s patience, but flying with kids can take patience to a whole new level. Security lines, luggage, transferring flights, and cramped seats, it’s enough to make any mom panic. So to make your traveling process a little less stressful, here are a few flying tips for kids.
For this blog post, I knew I had to chat with one of my dearest friends first. Erin is a mama of twins and her girls have been on dozens upon dozens of flights. They have been flying since they were just a few months old. She says the best tips come before ever stepping foot on an airplane.
Arriving at the airport
One of the most crucial flying tips for kids comes down to one thing. Time. Lots of extra time. Even without kids, I arrive 90 minutes to two hours prior to my flight departure just in case any unexpected things come up.
One flying tip for kids is to make checking your baggage as easy as possible. You have a few options for checking in your baggage:
Economy Parking Lot
Airport Carts Ticket Counter
Every airport is different, but some have the option of checking your bags at the economy parking lot. You’ll need to arrive at least 90 minutes early. But it saves you the trouble of schlepping all of your suitcases on the long trek from the parking lot to the ticket counter.
If you don’t have access to parking lot check-in, the next best thing is curbside check-in. You can have your travel partner drop you, the kids, and all of your luggage off at the check-in curb and then go park the car.
If neither of these options is available, then make sure to bring a few extra dollars and rent one of the airport carts. Because let’s be honest, the fewer the number of things you have to push or pull, the better!
If your littles are small enough, one of the easiest ways to maneuver through security lines is by wearing your baby. Whether it’s a Moby wrap, K’tan, Baby Bjorn, or an Ergobaby, everything becomes easier when you’re hands-free! Check out this list of top baby carriers.
If your kids can carry their own belongings, have their essentials packed in pint-sized backpacks so your hands are free to load other things on to the conveyor belt. To make things go smoothly, I take a few of the luggage bins and step to the side so everyone can take their shoes off and load up without holding up the line. This is where flip flops or slide shoes make life oh so much easier.
Keep in mind that bringing a stroller through the airport can be helpful when it comes to transporting everyone and everything in one piece. However, it will have to be checked separately at security, and if your particular stroller has parts that are detachable, you may have to break it down.
The first time we took our kids on an airplane, I thought we would just roll that sucker, which contained every single thing we were carrying in the compartment underneath, through the metal detector and be on our merry way. I could not have been more wrong.
We had a City Select double stroller and had to completely break it down, seats and all. My armpits are sweaty just thinking about how Ryan and I fumbled and then panicked when we couldn’t get the stroller to collapse, bickering like new parents who had never taken that thing apart in our lives.
And of course, as we were attempting to do this, angry travelers huffed and puffed behind and our 11 week and 2-year-old little people screamed in protest. My best advice is to break down the stroller and condense everything as much as possible before getting in line.
When it comes to the plane, you may have a short ride or it can be a long one. Here are some flying tips for kids when it comes to sitting on the plane.
My friend Erin made goodie bags in her early travel days for the passengers sitting around their assigned seats. They included a little note explaining that her twin girls were on the flight and that they may get fussy. She put Starburst candy inside in case her girls “burst” into tears, along with foam earplugs just in case. It may not have prevented any infant meltdowns but she said that other travelers were appreciative and may have been a little more understanding.
Snacks, snacks, snacks
Am I the only one whose kids can plow through food when we travel like they truly believe it’s going to be their last meal? There’s nothing worse than being on a road trip or on a cross country flight having kids tell you they are absolutely starving every 10 minutes. My flying tip for kids when it comes to food is simple. Be prepared.
I use large Ziploc bags for different stages of travel. Once boarded, I use reusable Tupperware bins that have multiple compartments for different snacks, treats, or a full meal. Try to avoid foods high in sugar or those with a strong smell as it may affect other passengers.
Snack Favorites on a Plane
The Tupperware bins contain the mess and allow them to close the lid and continue eating later if they choose.
Each of my kids also has a reusable water bottle and TSA typically allows liquids to be carried across security if they are for children (formula, water bottles, juice, etc), as long as you are comfortable with them testing the liquid at security.
Depending on how far you’re traveling, it’s helpful to try to break travel up into segments. I’m definitely that mom who lets her kids run up and down the terminal pre-flight to really try and deplete them of as much energy as possible.
Once boarded, we play card games and read books for as long as their little bodies will focus. I really do try to limit my kids’ screen time in the day to day life. But my personal belief when traveling with kids is simple. Survival.
Each have their own Kindle Fire and pre-flight, I make sure they are fully charged, and their snazzy headphones are packed. Oh, and I always bring along an external charger. When games are no longer cutting it, a movie or a few episodes of a favorite show will help the time pass.
A few times during the flight, my husband and I each take a short walk up and down the aisles if it is safe to do so with the kids. We play games like “I spy” or have them point out different things around the plane to keep them from sprinting off like Olympic runners.
More Tips For Flying with Children
You Don’t Have to Check Strollers and Car Seats
Most airlines allow you to take strollers and car seats with you without checking them. If you’re worried about these things getting lost or stolen, proceed to the counter at your gate and ask for special tags for the items to be checked immediately before boarding.
You will walk them all the way down to the plane and they will be loaded from there. Once you have arrived at your destination, the items will be waiting as you deplane. Here are some travel bags for car seats and strollers to make sure they are not damaged.
If you don’t want the hassle of taking car seats with you, rental car companies allow you to rent them with your order.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for help along the way. Most seasoned employees are used to kids on their flights and may have a few tricks up their sleeve.
If you have an infant, try nursing or feeding them a bottle during takeoff and landing. It may help their ears adjust to the elevation change.
Before we leave the house, I have each kid pack their backpacks. They include their favorite toys and simple games, along with their food containers and water. I also switch to a backpack for myself over a purse because once again, hands-free! My backpack contains extra snacks, games, a few toys, and since I have a kiddo with a sensitive stomach…Dramamine.
Flying doesn’t have to be stressful and a few of these flying tips for kids may make the difference between a smooth flight. As always, before any flight, make sure to go to https://www.tsa.gov/travel before you depart so that you are prepared for the newest travel regulations.
Megan Rix is a former at-risk high school English teacher turned stay at home mama, lifestyle blogger, and entrepreneur. After leaving the classroom to focus on being a mama, she needed a place to document the life of her very strong-willed child and what she realized along the way were all the things in her life that “anchored” her. A love for food, beauty, family, and giving back to others helped shape the blog as it looks today.