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Family Vacations & Travel: Tips for Flying with Children

Family Vacations & Travel: Tips for Flying with Children

Vacations are a fantastic way to spend time with your children and family. Maybe you’re visiting relatives, or checking out the ideal theme park, or possibly even exploring an exotic location. But if getting from point A to point B will involve air travel, you might be looking for some ways to make it as smooth and painless as possible. Whether it’s a short flight or a long trek, there are a few things to keep in mind when flying with children.

My local moms group recently tackled the “flying with child” topic on our chat board. One mom said “wondering if anyone has any ideas/tips about easiest way to fly with a 15 month old. Any ideas/suggestions appreciated!” Here are some tips (along with my own) that were shared.

Plane Travel Tips for Families

Before You Book

  • If traveling with one parent and child, consider booking the aisle and window seats near back of the plane and hopefully the middle seat will be available. If not, it’s most likely the middle seat occupant will move.
  • Consider the time of day you travel. If your child is an easy sleeper you may want to fly at night. If your child is like mine, flying at 10 a.m. is best (no super early wake-ups which would surely ruin the first few days of the trip and no late night flying as they never sleep on planes).

Little boy sitting in plane cockpit

Car Seats

  • If you’re renting a car, consider renting a car seat vs. bringing one.
  • Consider purchasing a car seat travel accessory like this one to help you convert your car seat into a stroller.
  • Consider purchasing a lightweight car seat that is easier to lug around the airport. Many people that responded to the post mentioned buying a second car seat just for flying (which can double as a car seat for grandma/grandpa’s car when not flying).
  • Car seats are always changing. Before you fly, check to make sure yours will fit most plane seats (since you might use it more than once on different carriers).
  • Laws change too. Check to see if a car seat is required for your flight and age child.
  • If you are checking a car seat, buy a bag for it to keep it protected.

Little girl sitting in plane cockpitAt the Airport

  • Consider purchasing small suitcases with wheels for your kids to use as carry-ons. Pack your child’s essentials in these bags (i.e. entertainment, blankies, night lights, a change of clothes).
  • Use the straps that come with most suitcases to link bags together so you can get around easier.
  • Don’t forget the convenience of a backpack!
  • If there’s a play place at the airport, plan some extra time to allow your child to play and get out their energy before boarding.
  • Use the double stroller to push the car seats through the airport. Make the kids walk!
  • Pre-board the flight to install seats and gate check the stroller. Even if not installing seats, take advantage of airlines that allow families with kids to board first. The extra time without the crowds can be very helpful.
  • Find out what your carrier serves for snacks and drinks. You may want to purchase child-friendly snacks and drinks if you forgot to pack them.

Kids sitting in plane cockpit

On the Plane

  • Ask to meet the pilot and then ask him/her for wings! Many airlines give out “wings” to kids who travel. My kids like to collect these. And if you’re extra lucky like my kids have been, you may even be allowed to sit in the cockpit.
  • Bring a small bag of Dum Dum lollipops. Depending on your child’s age, he/she may not chew gum yet and lollipops will help with ear popping (and as an added benefit, if they start to scream or cry, the treat can be a quick silencer).
  • Wrap and pack “presents” for the trip to keep your child entertained. Unwrapping takes time and distracts them. Bring paper to wrap the same things for the ride home. Wrap things like a few Lego Duplos for easy building, Crayola Color Wonder Markers and mini paper pad (wrap separately), silly putty or playdough, stamps set, sensory ball, etc.
  • If you plan on allowing electronics, bring headphones that go over the entire ear (not just earbuds which tend to pop out of little ears).
  • Pack snacks in hard containers such as goldfish and cheerios so they don’t get crushed in your bag. Consider bringing yogurt, fruit, etc., as you won’t find these on the plane. Pack your suitcase with snacks for the ride home if you aren’t staying somewhere where you can easily restock.
  • Consider making edible Play Dough before you leave. Both entertaining and okay if your child consumes some when you are looking the other way!
  • Bring an empty sippy cup. In most airports you can now fill it with filtered water after going through security. If nothing else, you can fill it with bottled water, juice or milk.

Family beach vacation

Flying with children can be very stressful. But just remember you aren’t the first parent on a plane and often the hum of the flight will drown out your child if he/she gets fussy. Soon enough you’ll be landing and enjoying the vacation you hoped for. Safe and happy travels!


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