I am not an expert by any means, but we have flown with kids a few times (I prefer to drive, really).
Our first trip was when K was 9 months old and our most recent trip was over Thanksgiving with all three kids – ages 8, 6, and 22 months at the time.
Fortunately, I have had hubby with me for all trips, but I have scrounged around the web and our experiences for some great tips for traveling with kids by plane for those with or without a partner in crime.
Booking the Flight
- I always try to get a non-stop flight if possible. Or as less stops as possible. Although, other parents recommend making stops if it is a long flight so that the children have a chance to run around and get out some of their energy. (We have never flown longer than 3 1/2 hours.)
- Personally, I prefer to fly early in the morning when the kids are likely to go back to sleep, or at night when they are likely to fall asleep.
- If at all possible, research the less traveled days/times when you are planning on traveling. On our last trip home during Thanksgiving, I planned our trip so we flew out on a less busy day and then flew home on Black Friday – another less busy day.
- Figure out transportation. Are you going to need car seats to be checked, on the plane, or can those be figured out at the destination?
- How are you getting to and from the plane? A stroller that will need to be checked? Babywearing?
- Keep it as simple as possible with the least amount possible!
Preparing for the Flight
- Use my handy dandy packing printable
- Pack as much as you can in a carry on. Most airlines will allow a carry on plus one personal item per person. All other luggage must be checked.
- Pack necessities and expensive items in the carry on. Necessities being anything that you cannot go a day without if your luggage was lost (ie: medications, diapers and wipes to last you the flight and time it takes to get to a store) and expensive items being anything you don’t want broken or stolen.
- Have a small back pack for each kid with activities to do. Coloring books, books to read, headsets (in case there is free on flight movies), handheld games, a favorite stuffed animal to entice napping, etc. (A’s diaper bag is a backpack so we packed as much of her belongings as we could into her diaper bag which allowed for another carry on for her.) Do not bring little pieces or easy to lose items. You know your kids – pack what is least likely to cause bickering.
- Pack an extra pair of clothes for the kids (and you too) in a carry on. I like to put the kids’ extra clothes in their back pack carry on.
- If your pediatrician says that you can give your child Benadryl or some other type of ‘calming’ medication prior to flying – be sure to test it out a few days in advanced. We were told to do this with K on her first flight and Benadryl had the opposite reaction on her. Had we not known that and did it the day of the flight, we would have had an insane 9 month old!
- One mom at Minitime.com suggested tucking a crushable duffel bag into an outside zippered compartment of a suitcase in case you need it on the return trip. You can pay extra for checking another bag, but you don’t want to get stuck with not being able to get that extra stuff home! (Definitely going at the top of my list!)
- Be sure to leave with plenty of time to spare. We usually leave the house 2 ½ hours before our flight is scheduled to leave. It typically takes us 15 minutes to get to the airport and then unload all the kids and luggage.
- When checking in, be sure your seats are altogether (or check in online the night before and get your seats together).
- Be sure YOU are wearing easy to slip on and off shoes for security. (Children 12 years of age and under do not need to remove their shoes per www.tsa.gov)
- Be aware that if you have a bottle or sippy cup with for baby, they will test the liquid in it.
- A tip found at Minitime.com – We use a simple system of keeping track of our miscellaneous belongings when we pass through airport security. I give every member of my family a one-gallon zip-top bag for the contents of their pockets, keys, loose change, etc. The security officers can see what’s inside, everything stays together, and it makes gathering up your stuff much faster on the other side of the x-ray machine.
- While waiting to board, we liked to find a corner that was large enough for the kids to move around without bothering too many people while waiting.
- Bathroom break 15-20 minutes before boarding time! (Or less if your kids are older, but between diaper changes and two older kids needing potty breaks, 15-20 minutes is a perfect start time for us!)
- We like to use this wait time to grab a snack for the kids. Since they don’t allow food through security, we usually grab them a snack before we board. They eat it while waiting or on flight – whichever keeps them quieter the longest!
- Make sure your tickets and ID are easily accessible.
- Ask for a tag for your stroller or car seats that are being checked at the gate BEFORE boarding time.
- With kids, they will let you board before your normal boarding number has been called to allow for extra time to get settled. TAKE IT.
- Let everyone on the plane exit before you. It can be a long wait – especially when you’re in the back – but getting 5 of us, our stuff from under the seats, and the stuff from overhead – it’s easier to go last.
- Breathe. You survived the first obstacle!
Are there any tips you would give parents traveling by plane with kids?