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Looking for tips on flying with kids? You’re in the right place.

Did that title make anyone else’s blood pressure spike? Just me? Cool. Cool coolcooolcool.

I am lucky enough to get to travel home pretty frequently to see my mom. This is generally while my husband is working. Which means…I have to fly alone with my kids! AHHHHHH! 

It’s actually not that bad, and I’ve learned some great things along the way. Usually by trial and error, but hey, I learned ok? I’m here to impart that wisdom onto you. I have an 8 year-old, so I’ve been flying with kids solo for almost a decade. This means absolutely nothing. But hopefully some of these tips will help. 

Tips For Flying With Kids

Know Your Must-Haves:

Babies

  1. Binky (if your child uses one)
  2. Bottle (again, if your child uses them)
    1. These two things are so nice for takeoff/landing because the sucking motion helps pop babies ears. 
  3. Nursing cover if you nurse (I swear by https://www.coveredgoods.com/
  4. WAY more diapers than you think you’ll need. Also, wipes. I generally bring enough for a whole day x 2. You never know if your flight will be delayed and it would be a disaster to be at the airport with a grouchy babe and no diapers and wipes. 
  5. Carrier (Personally I love the https://ergobaby.com/). You are going to be traipsing across the airport and having your hands and arms free is seriously so nice. *Story time. I once had to fly home for a family emergency, I had my 3 year old and a 6 month old at the time. I forgot my carrier and had to carry my baby everywhere. My arms were about to fall off by the time we landed at our final destination!!! Bring a carrier*
  6. Blanket/swaddle. (If your baby needs that to fall asleep)
  7. Extra outfit!!! *Story time again. My daughter blew out (like all the way up her back) right when we landed for a short layover. It was gross. But I had an extra outfit and we boarded just in time.*
  8. Extra shirt for you! If you get spit up or projectile vomited or pooped on, you don’t want to be smelling like that the whole time. Just stick an extra, easy to roll/fold up shirt in your diaper bag and call it a day. 
  9. I always have a small first aid kit in my diaper bag. We’re talking diaper cream, bandaids, neosporin and baby tylenol. It’s been a lifesaver on many a trip, even as just another toy. 
  10. Toys. If they’re old enough. Bring some tried-and-true favorites. Also, it never hurts to stroll up and down the target dollar spot or the dollar store to grab some cheap new stuff. Babies are hard to keep entertained and new toys seem to hold their attention for half a minute.
  11. Snacks. Again if they’re old enough. And some for you too!
  12. Security blanket/lovie. All of my kids have one and they travel with us to help keep the peace. 

If you can, book your flight for their nap time. Sooooo nice to have them just sleep through the flight. If that’s not possible, don’t fret!! See number 10 and 11 above, snacks and toys just became your best friend! 

I try and have them start the trip with a fresh diaper, but that sometimes has no meaning. Babies are going to poop when they need to no matter how recently they’ve been changed. Rude, I know, but such is life. 

There are pros and cons to booking a window versus an aisle seat. You can entertain your baby with the window, but if you need to go to the bathroom or do a diaper change then you have to climb over someone. I generally seem to lean on the side of the entertainment value. Anything to entertain those babes!

Toddlers

Mostly the same as above. You will need all the extras- clothes, diapers/pull-ups/underwear wipes. Toys. Snacks. Security blanket/lovie. 

  1. Shows. When my kids are old enough we let them/bribe them to watch shows for the flight. These headphones are my personal favorite because you don’t need a splitter to hook up multiple sets. They hook up to each other! We get each of our kids a different color so there’s no fighting.
  2. Water cups. They will inevitably be thirsty, because they’re kids. Bring their favorite cup and fill it up after you get past security.
  3. New shows! We download a few favorites and one or two brand-new shows on our tablet. I make them wait until the electronic sign comes up even though if it’s in airplane mode it’s fine the whole time. Patience is a good thing, and I’ll take every opportunity to help mold my children into successful humans. 
  4. Moveable stickers. The plastic/vinyl stickers are fun to stick on windows/the food tray, and they’re easy to peel off!
  5. Stroller for multiples. When it was just my daughter, or even my first son and daughter I didn’t bring a stroller, I didn’t see the need. My baby went in the carrier and my toddler held my hand and walked right with me. When we added number 3 we added the stroller to our necessities. It is gate checkable so you can take it right to the gate, and they’ll unload it at the gate when you land. So so so so so much less stressful to be able to buckle in my children so I know where they are at all times.
  6. Gate buddy. If you can swing it, try and have someone take you to the airport that can help you through security. A lot of airlines will give them a pass so they can go through security and help you to the gate. My husband or my mom is usually mine and it so nice to have another adult to help! It’s not impossible by yourself, but when has extra hands been a bad thing?

Again, windows are a plus and shows! Shows for days. We are a family that is pretty careful about how much screen time our children get, but when I’m flying with my three littles solo…all bets are off. Watch the shows, eat the snacks, just stay quiet and calm until we land. 

If your kids are potty-trained, go to the bathroom before you get on the plane! This usually cuts down on the number of trips down the aisle you’ll need to make. 

Older Kids

  1. Their own backpack. They will feel more independent and grown up being responsible for their own stuff. In my daughter’s we put
    • Her own snacks
    • Her headphones
    • A book or five (because she can’t choose just one)
    • Her lovie. Yes she still uses one at night and I’m ok with that. Let them be little!

Now that I have three kids, one of them has to sit apart from me. I am always careful to choose seats where my daughter will be right across the row from me so I can keep my eye on her/who’s sitting next to her. I let her choose shows to download on my phone (since we only have one tablet) and when we’ve reached cruising altitude she gets to watch on my phone. When I give the boys snacks, I lean over and let her know so that she can grab one of hers. When I fly with my husband, one of us sits with her and one of us sits with the boys. Guess which seat we fight over? 😉

Again, have them go potty before the flight. Emergencies happen, but this tends to help the number of bathroom breaks you’ll need. 

Specific Airline Tips

We generally fly one of two airlines, Southwest or Delta. Delta has cheapo seats but you can’t choose your seat. This one time led me to panic because my daughter was seated a few rows away from me, yikes! The gate agent let me know that when I’m ready to book a flight, if I call Delta and explain my situation I can get the cheaper fares and they will book our tickets all seated together!!! Life saver! When we’re on Delta and can’t check a ton of bags, I have my daughter be in charge of her own small carry-on. Then I pack me and the boys into another one and hook that on my stroller so I can push and pull at the same time. (Unless I have a gate buddy, then they get the suitcase). Delta also *usually* has tablets built into each seat. My kids love to be able to choose their own show or play games. I love Delta for a few reasons and this is definitely one of them.

If you’re flying Southwest, try and check in as soon as possible! This will help ensure that you can sit together since it’s cafeteria seating. Also, check bags on Southwest so you have less to worry about! You can check two free bags per passenger. Has my two year-old had a checked suitcase before? Absolutely. 

Both airlines have a special boarding time for families traveling with small children. This is super convenient! (At this time you also have to fold up your stroller so you can leave it at the bottom of the gangway. This can be a little scary if you have a runner like me. I hold my runner’s hand and the stroller and have my oldest hold my youngest’s hand. These are my two most well-behaved children so this system works well for us. Figure out the best configuration for you.)

We generally pack up our stuff when we land so that when it is our turn to exit the row, we are not causing a traffic jam. 

General Tips

My biggest tip is to make your expectations clear with your kids. We talk in the car about what behavior is acceptable, what is dangerous and what we need them to do. My kids know that they have to sit in the stroller or be with an adult that brought them to the airport. Do they always remember or listen? Heavens no. But the expectations are set, and it usually only takes one or two or 10 gentle/not so gentle reminders. I also bring a special treat like Reese’s or M&M’s for them to have after the flight if it’s gone well. My kids are easily bribed. 

I always always ALWAYS have wipes with me. Even if all my children are currently potty-trained. They’re just great to have on hand! And hand sanitizer! My favorite are the spray kind so my kids don’t squirt out too much. The spray kind is easy to rub in, and since I control the spray, I know they’re getting just enough. I also bring an extra ziploc as an easy trash bag so we can collect everything into one place to hand off to the flight attendant or at the nearest trash can. 

We also go to the bathroom/change diapers again when we get off the flight. You’ve got time, especially if you have checked baggage. Then there’s no fidgeting at baggage claim or in the car ride to your destination. 

Car seats get checked for free. Always and forever. I like to put ours in a car seat bag just so there’s a buffer, but if you need to bring yours, check it!! You don’t want to have to lug that thing around with you while you’re trying to keep an eye on your tiny humans. (I also bought a booster to keep at my mom’s house, and borrow extra car seats from my sisters while we’re home. Then I have to bring ZERO car seats. Hallelujah. It doesn’t hurt to ask around, or have your family ask around. The worst that can happen is they say no.)

YOU CAN DO THIS! Don’t let it intimidate you or keep you from travelling. You’ll find your own hacks and tips that you love. You can do this!!! (And share your tips with us when you figure them out!)

*If you are traveling during the pandemic and you are worried about your kids keeping their masks on, take a deep breath, bribery is your best friend. I have my kids practice, at home in the days leading up to our trip, watching a show with their mask and I bribe them with copious amounts of gummy bears. They know if they keep their masks on (with gentle reminders to get it up over their nose) they will get a gummy bear, which is a snack they can eat under their mask. I have also had great experiences with the flight attendants on the two airlines I’ve mentioned above. They are very attentive to my kids and bring them extra snacks, praise them on their behavior and help encourage them to keep it up. This is immensely helpful.*

-Tara

Check out more traveling with kids posts, like our Disney World and Cruise tips!

Making Magic During Quarantine
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