It can sound impossible. It can sound miserable. It CAN be. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be!
Oftentimes parents are nervous to fly with their kids. They are worried about the wait time for the flight, getting through security, keeping them quiet and entertained on the plane, and not making everyone around them angry, etc. There are so many things that CAN make flying with kids difficult, BUT just like anything else, there is a right and wrong way to fly with kids. Flying can be easy and simple and even part of the excitement of the vacation!
WHAT TO PACK for the plane ride:
ELECTRONICS!!! I put this first because it is the MOST helpful thing you can bring on a flight for a kid. Even if you are not a huge fan of screen time, the airplane is not the time to be picky. This has given our kids and us as parents MORE sanity than anything else we have done.
All four of our kids have tablets and a pair of headphones. We also bring our Nintendo Switch. The tablets don’t need to be fancy. You can buy them for $30-100. Before boarding the plane, make sure you preloaded games and movies.
Bring plenty of wall chargers. A portable charger is also a good idea for especially long flights and layovers. Don’t forget headphones! Make sure they are child size.
Other things to pack
- Bring a Blanket, Sweaters/ Coats, etc. and wear long pants. Even if it’s the dead of summer, planes are COLD! Jackets and pants are an easy way to fix a potentially miserable flight. We always bring a small blanket as well. We usually have at least one kid that’s still cold even with their sweater. They can also encourage naps! (always the best option!)
- Snacks are always a good idea. Remember that liquids have to be under 3 oz, so crackers, fruit, and sandwiches can be a great option. We like to add special candy so it’s something they look forward to and keeps them busy. Suckers are nice because they last a long time. Crunchy snacks are great for takeoffs and landings. Sometimes the altitude change can be hard on small ears and cause pain. Chewing often relieves any discomfort.
- Try to avoid toys and activities that have a lot of pieces. The kids will drop many of them. This will frustrate the people sitting around you, or you will lose them altogether. Instead of markers or crayons, consider water wow books. Sticker books are a better option than a much-loved character toy set. If it is something they don’t normally use they will be even more interested in it. Books are always my favorite, but be mindful of weight. You will be wearing a backpack full of them.
- Even if your kids don’t regularly need a stroller, they can be helpful at the airport. We bring a double stroller and use the back half to pile up luggage. It also helps for super late or early morning flights when the older kids who are too exhausted to walk.
At the Airport
*Waiting for the flight is boring. One thing we like to do is have one parent take the kids for a walk or through the stores. Some airports even have play areas for kids! This is a great time to get their wiggles out before sitting for a long flight. While one parent is taking the kids for a walk, the other can wait by the gate to get any updates like boarding times, gate changes, and charge electronics.
*Don’t be scared of the early morning or late night flights. No, they are not my favorite option, BUT if there is a huge price difference then it’s worth it. Oftentimes the kids are so tired they will sleep for a portion or even the whole flight! It’s a risk however, they might not sleep and be grumpy, but the lull of the plane is soothing, and usually, 3 out of 4 of our kids are fast asleep for these flights.
*Always arrive at the airport 2 hours before a flight. Don’t risk missing your flight. There are a lot of things that can take longer than expected, such as long lines at the ticket counter and security. You’ll also need time for bathroom breaks and checking strollers.
*Security can be a pain with all of your kids. To make getting through security easier, fold up your stroller before you get to the table and put it on the belt before the rest of your stuff. It gives your kids a place to sit while you wait for all your other items on the other side.
*All food needs to be taken out and examined so keeping all your snacks in the same see-through bag makes it easier. Occasionally our wipes have set off the x-ray machine and had to be searched, so to save time, just take them out as well. Electronics bigger than a cell phone need to be taken out as well. They need to be placed apart from each other with nothing above or below them.
One positive thing is kids under 12 can keep their shoes on! Hooray!
Infants under 2 years old do not require a ticket, however, don’t forget to bring a vaccine record or birth certificate for proof of age.
Having a lap child can be a HUGE savings, but can also be a nightmare because holding a wiggly baby on your lap can make it cramped. Here is a secret tip if you fly SOUTHWEST. If you wait to check your infant car seat at the gate instead of checking it as luggage at the ticket counter, you can ask the gate agent if there are any extra seats on the plane. Southwest will allow you to take your infant seat onto the plane if there are any open seats. MOST flights have allowed us to do this. Not only does it give you extra room, but your infant is comfortable in their car seat. The seat will need to be next to the window and can be strapped in. Babies usually love this and fall asleep quickly. Also unlike a car, if they need to be pulled out they can be!
Try some of your sleep routines when taking off. The lull of the plane mixed with their ques to sleep can be comforting and help them nod off. We nursed or gave a bottle on take-off and most often had a sleeping baby the whole way!.
Some airlines are more workable than others by helping families sit together. We had a terrible experience on United when our seats weren’t together. They made us go around and beg other customers to switch seats so we could sit by our kids. Delta and American were more helpful and asked others for us, but Southwest is our favorite since no one has an assigned seat. Southwest boards families just after boarding group A. This allows all families to pick their seats and get settled in before the rest of the flight boards. No worries! You’ll sit by your kids!
I hope this list helps ease your fears of flying with kids! If you are prepared this can be a fun adventure for young ones. If it’s still hard, remember, flying is faster than driving and in a few short hours it will all be over, and then you can make amazing memories at your destination! Happy Travels!