Flying with kids can be quite intimidating at first, but it actually isn’t all that bad if you keep a few key things in mind. I have some recommendations that will definitely make your traveling with kids easier and help put your mind at ease.
1. Car Seats
Let’s talk about car seats. Are you doing any driving at your destination or will you be exclusively taking trains and buses?
If you are driving and will be renting a car, then you can either bring your own car seat with you or rent one from the car rental company. We have done both. The rental car seats are super convenient, but keep in mind that they likely won’t be what your child is used to. Depending on the child, this may or may not be a big deal.
The times we brought our own car seats, we put them in a car seat check-in bag and it fit both a car seat and a backless booster—I highly recommend one of these bags. This is especially nice because it keeps them protected and you do not have to lug the car seats through the airports. We have a car seat check-in bag with wheels—making it convenient to roll.
Rather than checking them with their luggage some people do carry their car seats with them through the airport and strap it in their child’s airplane seat. This is nice because the toddlers are secure and won’t be unbuckling themselves throughout the flight. We’ve never done this but have seen it and it seems to work well.
2. Bring a Stroller
A stroller is a must! We have even brought two strollers flying before, since we had both an infant and a toddler at the time. It’s super convenient being able to push your child while stowing carry-on bags below and using hooks or carabiners to hold additional items such as water bottles.
The last trip we went on, my 3 year old son was able to help push a carry-on suitcase while being pushed in a stroller. This was actually useful because he felt like he had a job and it helped keep him entertained.
Make sure you purchase a stroller gate check bag! The small cost of the bag will save your stroller in the long run. The airport staff does not handle strollers all too kindly. Plus, they can get super dirty in the bottom of an airplane. I’ve seen a couple of damaged strollers before where the families couldn’t repair them and just set them by a trash can at the gate. You don’t want that to happen as the first thing on your trip, so I highly recommend a stroller gate check bag!
Pro tip-make sure to get a special handling tag for your stroller at the gate booth as early as possible. Then, you can attach it to your bag and have it already before you board the airplane.
3. Have a lot of Food
Make sure you have a lot of food! Kids constantly eat and you definitely don’t need any tantrum’s going through security or on the final decent of the flight.
I like to make snack bags with a couple of my kids favorite snacks. If you’re going on a longer flight or flying through a meal, pack your own lunch. It’s rare that airplanes have toddler-approved lunches. Plus, if you pack your own snacks, then they can eat whenever they are hungry rather than waiting for the snack/drink cart.
Pro tip-if your child can have a lollipop, it can help their ears with take off and landing. For babies, a bottle or a pacifier helps with this too!
Pro tip part 2-don’t give your kids more candy than usual. For example, don’t pack a whole bag of Gummies and expect them to self-regulate—they have no self control. I did this before coming back from Disney World and it did not end up well…
4. Bring your own Water Bottles
Bring your own reusable water bottles from home (this is cost saver tip too)! Buying water bottles can get quite expensive throughout the trip, so save yourself a little money. Plus, it’s more environmentally-friendly to bring your own water bottles from home and fill them up after security checkpoints.
Kids can easily get dehydrated, so bringing their favorite cup along on your journey can help encourage them drink more water. For toddlers, make sure you bring one that has a spill-proof top. For older kids, having a hook or carabiner on the top is useful to easily attach to a stroller carabiner.
Pro tip-many airports have contactless filtered water bottle refill stations. Plus, some resorts are starting to have these stations too!
5. Each kid gets their own Carry-on
Make sure each kid (any age) has their own backpack. This is an easy way to keep everything organized. Plus, they feel special having their own bag. It’s fun for them opening their backpack and finding surprises. Just the aspect of a surprise keeps them entertained in itself.
Pro tip-for toddlers who can walk, get a backpack with a leash. Yes, it looks funny, but it helps if they are prone to run off!
6. Use Electronics for Entertainment
Yes, electronics entertain kids and can be super helpful while traveling. My kids have their own Kindle Fires and I highly recommend them. It’s perfect because there is a parent dashboard where you can control what your kids have access to. You can avoid overuse by setting “travel time” as a special time for electronics that is apart from the daily routines.
Wi-fi while traveling is rarely reliable, especially on airplanes, so always make sure games and shows are downloaded before the trip. I like to do this a couple of days beforehand. While you are still at home, make sure to turn their devices into airplane mode and double check what’s available. A tablet without Wi-Fi and without pre-downloaded content is an expensive brick. Don’t bring a brick on your trip.
I like to download a couple of kids games and shows on my devices too just in case their own devices don’t work. I’ve had this happen and it’s not too fun (see brick comment above). My son ended up on my iPad while I read.
Last but not least, make sure you have the right attachments and converters for all the devices. For example, make sure you have a converter jack for your phone so kids headphones can be plugged into it just in case. It can be tricky making sure headphones plug in properly, so check it all out before you leave the house.
7. Pack Toys
Every kid loves to play and it’s good to have a couple small toys they love and maybe some new ones too. My boys love the small transforming cars and trucks and they have actually entertained them for quite some time on flights. Avoid toys that make a lot of noise though out of respect for the other passengers. For babies or toddlers, make sure you have teething toys—they will find other things to teethe on if you don’t.
8. Activities—Books, Stickers, etc.
Since you can’t expect a child to be entertained solely from a tablet, it’s nice to have several non-screen activities. My kids have always loved magic marker coloring. This is nice on an airplane because coloring won’t get on the seat or tray. Other favorites include: traditional crayons and coloring books, water color painting (careful with that one), sticker books, dry erase books, and more. I love finding these items at the dollar section at Target!
9. Bring their Favorite Stuffed Animal & Blanket
If you have a long flight during nap time or overnight, it’s helpful to bring their favorite stuffed animal and blanket. Making your child more comfortable is the best way to help them to fall asleep. We have done several overnight flights and it definitely helps if they have a familiar favorite friend and their own blanket along!
10. Fly First Class
No one likes being cramped and it’s definitely worth considering paying a little extra money for a bigger seat with more room—especially one that reclines fully into a bed. Our kids have done really great flying in first class and we have actually received many compliments from both passengers and flight attendants alike on how well our kids fly. They could barely tell kids were seating in first class! Particularly for long flights, it’s worth checking if first class fits in your budget. It’s special for the kids too (not just adults), and the extra comfort goes a long way for everyone, making sure that you and your kids start or end your journey feeling refreshed rather than jet-lagged.
The bottom line is: don’t be afraid to fly with kids. All the tips and tricks listed in this post are things we’ve actually used multiple times and they really to do help! All the prep work before the flight does pay off and you’ll thank yourself later. Happier kids make happier parents!
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