Flying in airplanes and navigating the airport with young kids can be a challenge, but many parents find that it's well worth the effort. Kids can learn how to travel from an early age and this helps develop new skills and priceless family memories.
For this list, we surveyed the parents of well-traveled young families and compiled their top ten best tips to survive flights with kids.
1. Above all, give yourself and your family some grace. Being relaxed and unworried by others' judgments can ease the pressure on your family. Don't be a martyr. Do whatever's best for your family to get through travel.
Flying With Infants and Babies
2. Breastfeed or bottle infants during takeoff and landing to help with ear pain and popping.
3. Put together a small packing cube with a few diapers, wipes and and extra onesie that you can easily pull out of your carry on. Since the bathrooms on planes are so small, it’s easier to manage instead of the whole diaper bag.
3. Buy a seat for your child and buckle them into an FAA-approved child restraint when the seat belt sign is on. This protects from brain and spinal injuries that can be caused during turbulence. The GoGoBabyz Travelmate can quickly convert your regular carseat into a stroller for the airport, and using the car seat on the plane allows the child to be in a position they're used to sleeping in. Kids under 40” and 22-40 pounds can also use the FAA-approved CARES harness.
Flying With Toddlers
4. Put together a "busy bag" for the flight. Hold off on using the most desirable toys until you're actually on the plane. Here are some suggestions from parents for things to pack:
- Wedding favor sized bubbles can get through security, and entertain and encourage movement in airports.
- WikiStix are wax covered yarn that can temporarily stick to the tray table or window or board books, or get molded into shapes.
- Finger foods for snacks double as an activity because they take more time to consume (i.e. raisins or dried fruit, low-sugar cereals, pretzels sticks, peanuts, etc... Remember that you can't take fresh fruit into many countries, and try to avoid giving kids a sugar high.
- Blank paper, stickers, a few crayons or color pencils.
- Activity books, reusable sticker books, or coloring books
- Q-tips dipped in a wet napkin or a millimeter or two of water can make a great effect on colorful construction paper for low mess “painting”.
- Finger puppets, pipe cleaners, other soft things to fiddle with
5. Check the airport's web pages ahead of time for mothering rooms, family restrooms and play areas in the airport you'll be visiting. Take advantage of down time in the airport to be active and let out the wiggles.
Traveling With Young Children (age 3+)
6. Get a set of cheap or hand-me-down tablets for children that are used exclusively for travel. Update the apps before each trip with something new and age appropriate. Make sure they have kid-friendly headphones as well, since airline headphones are usually too big for children. (Pack an earphone splitter if two kids will want to watch the same show.)
7. Let school-age kids help pack their own carry on from pre-screened options. Gum, water bottle, new reading book, activity book, crayons and paper, small blanket are all good options. Discourage over-packing by reminding the kids that they'll be carrying their own bag.
8. Teach your children the rules of the plane. Let them know about the seat belt sign, the boarding process, etc. Help make them aware that there's an authority other than their parents that everyone on the plane abides by.
9. Teach your kids to travel from start to finish. When they're old enough, give them the confirmation code and have them check in for you, print the ticket, find the gate number. Show them how to look for their flight on the arrival board. Ask them what you should do to prepare for TSA. Have them give their own IDs and tickets to TSA and gate agents and let them answer the agents' questions themselves.