Air travel can be stressful on the best of days but add a couple of kiddos into the mix and you have the potential for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have been traveling with kids for many years and we have this down to a science. Did I mention that I have 5 kids? Yep, and let me tell you they are professionals when it comes to airline travel. Here are some of my BEST Air Travel Tips for families.
Air Travel Tip #1: Be Prepared!
No seriously, be prepared. Your preparation will depend on the ages of your child or children, but the basics you need to prepare for are:
- Food/Drink–Can/Will your kiddo eat the airplane provided snacks? Can/Will they drink the provided beverages? If not, you will need to pack sustenance. Yes, even IF you just finished eating right before you get on the plane. Kids need to eat and need to eat often and if you don’t provide something for them to eat, things could get ugly–fast! I suggest easy to pack, individual, durable snacks like crackers, dried cereal, fruit snacks, granola/cereal bars..etc. These things are easy to eat, take up little room in your carry-on bag, and do not make a mess or stink up the airplane!
- Activity–Things to entertain before and during the flight. Some of our favorite quiet activities include coloring/sticker/activity books. I like to go to the Dollar Tree and buy those little activity packs for each of the kids. Gives them not only something to look forward to on the plane, but also something NEW to do on the plane. We also let the kids use the iPad to watch movies. If you do this, remember to bring HEADPHONES (not ear buds) for your little ones. The ear buds do not stay in those little ears very well and, speaking from..ahem.experience, they can cause some trouble with little ones. You can purchase inexpensive, kid-sized headphones just about anywhere and you will be glad you did.
- Comfort–diapers, blankie, sweatshirts, favorite stuffed animal.
What you will need to bring will be dependant on your kid(s).
Each of our kiddos brings their own carry on backpack when we fly and I allow them to pack it themselves. HOWEVER–please note, that you, as a parent, are still responsible for whatever they pack, so it is a good idea to make sure to check those carry-ons before you go through TSA. My second born is notorious for having a stray water bottle in his bag. EVERY. TIME. He claims he checks. He claims he has no recollection of putting them into the bag. Yet, somehow there is always one in there. So, just to save embarrassment and time, take a peek in those bags before you leave. Checking also gives you the opportunity to veto things that are not necessary to bring on the plane– things like 20 stuffed animals, scissors, three types of balls, an entire case of GoGo Squeez… You get my point.
Babies and Tots,
by nature, just need more stuff. Consider packing a favorite blanket and a few favorite toys as well as diapers, wipes and a change of clothes. I always packed an extra shirt for myself, as you never know when the baby might get a bit spitty.
My ultimate, super-secret air travel tip: Ziploc bag. I always, always, always pack at least one empty Ziploc bag when I travel. You never know when you’ll have trash, or a dirty diaper, or wet clothes, or have a ripped bag of crackers which are now spilling everywhere,or, Heaven forbid, someone gets sick! Ziploc has saved me so many times that I don’t go ANYWHERE without one –not just for air travel, but in the car, on a boat…anywhere.
Air Travel Tip #2: Make sure your kids know what to expect
Regardless of your kids’ ages, you should prepare them for air travel. Let them know what to expect. Older kids probably only require a quick debriefing, while younger kids may need many reminders of what happens both at the airport and on a plane. Air travel can be scary for kids so let them know what is going to happen. Let them know that they will have to go through TSA checkpoint and that certain things are not allowed through the machines. Give them the “whys” of what is happening, regardless of age. It’s important for kids to learn that TSA agents and flight attendants do things that keep us safe–rather than meer people causing inconvenience.
In addition to letting your kids know what to expect at the airport and on the airplane, this would be a great time to “lay down the law” of what YOU expect from them with regards to behavior. Set firm but realistic expectations for them and make sure your kids understand what will or will not be acceptable.
I require/expect three things of my family:
- no kid under the age of 16 is allowed to walk anywhere by themselves in the airport
- everyone is to move quickly and quietly through the TSA checkpoint
- I do not tolerate any sibling fighting whatsoever on board the airplane.
Anything else is really situation/kid dependant. I mean, come on, they ARE just kids. Kids get crabby and impatient, bored and hungry, and I get that. So before you travel, decide what you expect from your kids and then let them know (repeatedly) what those expectations will be.
Air Travel Tip #3: Lap child or not?
This is really a matter of personal preference. With our first-born, we used to purchase him a seat and then lug his giant car seat through the airport and on board the plane. It worked for him because he was always a bit on the squirrely side. We got wise and just utilized the ‘lap child” offer for the other 4 kids, as they did better flying while being held.This is not the case for every kid. You need to decide what works best for you and your family when it comes to air travel. It is important to note that kids can be considered a “lap child” on most airlines as long as they are under 2. You will, in most cases, need to provide proof of age for your lap child so be sure to bring your child’s birth certificate with you when you travel.
So there you have it, my three tips for smooth family air travel.
I’d love to hear YOUR family air travel tips! Comment below.