Ahh the days of flying before I had kids. I didn’t appreciate them enough. Hours I could fill with anything I wanted. Maybe I’d catch up on the show I was binging or watch a movie. Maybe I’d nap or read a book. I could do anything!
Fast forward a few years and two kids later, flights aren’t as quiet. However, while it’s not easy, flying with kids is still manageable.
Read on for my best tips for flying with kids.
Flying with your newborn? Read here for my best tips to get you through your first few flights with baby.
- FLY DURING NAP TIME FOR BABIES. FOR TODDLERS AND OLDER KIDS, WHEN THEY’RE IN THE BEST MOOD.
- FOR KIDS UNDER 2, PAY FOR THEIR OWN SEAT OR DON’T BE SHY TO ASK FOR EMPTY ROWS
- CALL THE AIRLINE ABOUT ADDING A LAP CHILD AND ANY RESTRICTIONS
- USE A CARRIER FOR BABY
- BRING SNACKS ON THE PLANE – FOR KIDS AND MOM AND DAD
- BRING 2-3 FAVORITE TOYS… BUT ALSO 1-2 NEW ONES
- BRING A TABLET
- BRING EXTRA CLOTHES FOR THE CHILDREN… BUT ALSO FOR YOU TOO.
- COMPARTMENTALIZE THE BABY BAG FOR TRAVELING
- DOWNLOAD THE AIRLINE’S APP ON YOUR PHONE AND TABLET BEFORE FLYING
- GATE CHECK THE STROLLER (IF YOU NEED IT)
- TRAVEL LIGHT ON THE PLANE
- PREPARE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN BEFOREHAND
- GET ON THE PLANE LAST (IF YOU HAVE ASSIGNED SEATS)
- DRINKS OR SNACKS DURING TAKEOFF AND LANDING FOR KIDS EARS
- PREP THE KIDS FOR THE FLIGHT
- ASK OTHER PARENTS ABOUT FLYING
- BE FLEXIBLE!
FLY DURING NAP TIME FOR BABIES. FOR TODDLERS AND OLDER KIDS, WHEN THEY’RE IN THE BEST MOOD.
When my son was a baby, nap time was the perfect time to fly. He’d have a bottle during take-off, nap for a couple of hours, then another bottle at landing… easy peasy!
The older he got, the less easy peasy it got… he’d get too excited with the new environment and would take forever to nap, then wouldn’t nap as long, then would end up cranky.
So, I started booking mid-morning flights after breakfast. He’s a lot more chill in the morning and can be entertained easier. He is (for the most part) content and I don’t have to worry about him going down for a nap. You know your kid’s moods so use that to your advantage and plan around them.
FOR KIDS UNDER 2, PAY FOR THEIR OWN SEAT OR DON’T BE SHY TO ASK FOR EMPTY ROWS.
The more room, the better when you’re flying with kids so if you can buy an extra seat for your kid under 2 then do it! It gives you more room to get situated plus you will have one less (or no!) strangers in the row with you.
If you can’t swing the extra seat, ask the desk agents about any empty rows they can move you to. Every time I’ve asked they’ve always tried to help me out.
CALL THE AIRLINE ABOUT ADDING A LAP CHILD AND ANY RESTRICTIONS
Airlines all have different rules for flying with kids.
For example, American Airlines prefers that you call to add a lap child to your ticket, or you can do it on the kiosk when you check-in. (Once, I forgot to call before and the desk agent gave me a stern warning to call, not wait until you get to the airport). My sister flew United and said they didn’t even ask about her daughter. When we fly Southwest, I’ve been asked for my son’s birth certificate.
Policies are always changing, so be safe and call beforehand to see what you need to do.
USE A CARRIER FOR BABY
My baby carrier was one of the most used items I own! It keeps your arms free and babies love them. During the newborn stage I would face the babies towards me and they would snuggle and fall asleep almost immediately.
Once they got a little older I would face them out so they can see the world; they’d be so entertained I wouldn’t hear a peep from them. In my opinion, it’s the BEST baby product when flying with kids.
If you’re looking for a great carrier, try this one made by Ergobaby.
BRING SNACKS ON THE PLANE – FOR KIDS AND MOM AND DAD
Bring their favorites and bring a lot! It’s one of the best ways to keep my kids quiet (when flying, but also in general). They’ll get excited every time a new one comes out. I usually bring snacks like goldfish, popcorn, sliced banana, string cheese, grapes, cheerios, or granola bars. Get a good breakfast in before the flight so they’re happily munching and not ravenous. Also bring a couple of sweets like lollipops for a fun treat. And juices are allowed through Security, but they’ll need to be removed from your bag to be screened separately. Read over the TSA website for specific information on what’s allowed.
And mom and dad—remember to eat before the flight too or bring your own snacks. A couple of times I’ve been so busy getting everything ready I forgot to eat or bring anything for myself and was starving the whole flight. Being hungry just makes everything harder!
Tip: There are water stations all over airports nowadays so bring a couple of empty water bottles to fill up once you are past Security.
BRING 2-3 FAVORITE TOYS… BUT ALSO 1-2 NEW ONES
Bring them out one by one. And these don’t have to necessarily be toys—books, stickers, magnets, coloring books, play-doh all work. Just make sure they’re not tiny pieces, you don’t leave a huge mess, and it doesn’t bother the people around you (like a book of farm animal sounds).
Make sure to bring any attachment items too! If they have a stuffed animal or blanket they love, bring it.
Read over my full list of the best toys to bring on a plane with kids – it’s seperated by age too.
BRING A TABLET
As much as I hate giving my kids screen time, desperate times call for desperate measures. To limit the screen time, I try to use it as my last resort. When we get in our seats I like to play games about the plane first—like, “what colors do you see,” or “what do you see outside the window?” Then snacks, favorite toys, new toys. Lastly, the tablet.
Once you’re off the plane, limit it as usual. Don’t forget the charger and to charge it up the night before.
If you’re looking for a great tablet for kids, check out the Fire 7.
BRING EXTRA CLOTHES FOR THE CHILDREN… BUT ALSO FOR YOU TOO.
Every mom knows to bring extra clothes for the kids, but don’t forget your clothes! You never know when you’ll get spit up (or worse) on you and you don’t want to smell for the whole flight and rest of the travel day. Put this outfit in a ziplock bag so you can put the dirty outfit in there when you change.
And always bring extra socks… kids just love taking their socks off, don’t they?
COMPARTMENTALIZE THE BABY BAG FOR TRAVELING
For everyday use, everything has a perfect place in the baby bag and it’s easy to find whatever you need. When traveling, there’s more in there and you’re sitting in a cramped space—so organize everything that goes together and put them in their own bags.
Put diapers, wipes, ointment, and an extra outfit in one bag, toys in another, meds in another, etc. that way it’s just one easy grab in there. (Think of gallon ziplock bags or small drawstring bags.)
DOWNLOAD THE AIRLINE’S APP ON YOUR PHONE AND TABLET BEFORE FLYING
If your plane doesn’t have the entertainment screens for each seat (which has suddenly happened after COVID hit), a lot of airlines have tons of entertainment on their apps now—but you have to download the app before the flight. Make sure to download on all of your devices in case one of them dies. The apps have movies, tv shows, games, music… lots of different options to keep kids entertained.
It’ll also give you flight info so you can see how much time you have left and connecting flight info if you need it.
GATE CHECK THE STROLLER (IF YOU NEED IT)
I know people that just check their car seat or stroller with their luggage and like to be done with it until they’re at baggage claim. If your kids are older (or behaved enough) to get through the airport walking on their own, do it! But getting through the airport with toddlers can be difficult—make it easier by bringing a stroller.
If you know that you won’t need it at your destination, consider buying an umbrella stroller just for the airport.
But if you WILL need one, then bring your normal stroller or buy a travel stroller. Once you get to the gate, just tell the agent so they can put a tag on it and drop if off either with them, or when you get to the tarmac. It’ll be waiting for you once you get off the plane, and (best part) it travels for free!
Looking for a travel stroller? Read my list of the top 9 travel strollers.
TRAVEL LIGHT ON THE PLANE
My first flight as a new mom I basically brought his whole nursey in the baby bag… and used less than half. Don’t think that you need every little thing because you’re traveling—just bring the necessities! You don’t want to be weighed down with a huge bag or multiple bags when flying with kids.
My traveling necessities are bottles, snacks, diapers and wipes, extra clothes, small blanket, toys, a tablet, a few ziplock bags, and a small medicine bag. I put my wallet and cell phone in there too, so I didn’t have to bring a separate bag for myself. Also, if you’re using something constantly during a certain period (like teethers or certain medications), throw it in there. Read my post about what to bring on the plane here.
PREPARE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN BEFOREHAND
Save time at the airport by checking-in to your flight the day before, select your seats and pay for baggage if you can, print your boarding pass or get it emailed to you. Put your bottles in a separate pocket or a bag to easily take out.
Extra tip: if you can, sign up for TSA pre-check. It is so much quicker than regular security and you don’t have to take your shoes and extra clothes off. You can use any time savings you can get when flying with kids.
GET ON THE PLANE LAST (IF YOU HAVE ASSIGNED SEATS)
If you have assigned seats and don’t need to fight for the overhead storage space, don’t rush onto the plane. It’s just more time that you’ll be cramped on the plane. Take a walk around the terminal, go up and down the escalator, or look out the window at the planes… anything to get energy out!
For non-assigned seats, ask the gate agent about family boarding.
DRINKS OR SNACKS DURING TAKEOFF AND LANDING FOR KIDS EARS
This is a classic for flying with kids. Kid ears are sensitive and the change in pressure will make their ears hurt during takeoff and landing. Have them drink liquid, chew snacks, or use a paci to help with that.
PREP THE KIDS FOR THE FLIGHT
For the toddlers and older kids, let them know what’s going on a week or so before. Tell them they’re going on an airplane, what to expect, where the family is flying to, and who and what they’ll see when they get there. Get them involved with the packing– let them pack their own backpack for the plane. Show them pictures of airplanes or read books about traveling. Get them in the mindset so they’re not completely thrown off guard once the day comes.
ASK OTHER PARENTS ABOUT FLYING
Pretty much every parent has traveled with kids, so ask around! Everyone has their own tips and tricks.
I was talking to my co-worker about traveling and she said she had a traveling car seat backpack in for the airport—then she brought it in the next day so I could borrow it! Another co-worker gave me extra window stickers she had. You never know how someone else will be able to help.
When I was planning my wedding, everyone told me “try not to stress out about everything because something WILL go wrong on your wedding day.” Sure enough, as much as I planned there were things that went wrong.
Think like that when you’re traveling with kids. Expect for something to go wrong and just go with it. Do what you can to get through the flight with your children and remember that you will eventually land and it’ll be over!
What are your best tips for flying with kids? Let me know in the comments!