Flying With Kids

Flying With Kids

Too many parents are terrified to fly with their children, when the fact is that kids can be fantastic fliers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Children are often more patient than we give them credit for, most of them love to travel, and unlike us world-weary adults, they find air travel interesting and exciting. Getting through security and dealing with jet lag is never fun, but in general, the joys of flying with kids will always outweigh the hassles.

I’ve flown with my daughter in tow since she was a baby, and I’m glad I did. The earlier you get your children used to the ins and outs of air travel, the more confident and happy they’ll be from takeoff through landing. We have our routine down to a science, and the more you fly with your kids, the easier it will get. From there, you can take them anywhere in the world, so until they master the art of air travel, try not to sweat the small stuff, check out these posts full of smart tips for flying with kids, and stay focused on how valuable those early travel experiences will be for your whole family.

Tips for Flying with Kids

Is getting there half the fun? I won’t say it can’t ever be when you’re traveling with kids, but let’s be realistic. Flying with kids is definitely very different from hopping on a flight as a solo traveler or when you’re traveling with another adult. An overtired infant (or a cranky teen) can definitely take some of the excitement out of setting off for parts unknown. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help everyone in your family have a better in-air experience. Here are just a few of my tips for flying with kids:

Set realistic expectations. Until your kids are older, don’t expect to relax with a few glasses of wine during your flight. In fact, don’t expect to relax much at all. Prepare your children for your upcoming flight by teaching them good airplane etiquette, but expect that you’ll be called upon to handle the unexpected (whether that’s a diaper blowout or a full-blown tantrum).

Prep kids ahead of time. If your family hasn’t flown much, take the time to prepare your kids not only for your upcoming trip, but also for the flight itself. Find some movies or books about going on an airplane for younger kids. Talk about what will happen at check in and at security. If you’ll be eating or sleeping on your flight, talk to them about that, too. Children will be less anxious about flying if you let them know what to expect.

Get the best seats. Book early, plan to upgrade if you can and make sure you grab bulkhead seats if you can’t. The more space you can give kids to spread out and move their bodies, they happier they will be.

Scope out the play place ahead of time. Larger airports will often have indoor play areas in the international terminals where kids can run off some energy before boarding. The airport website will usually have information about where any play areas are located and what they include.

Give yourself more time than you need. You have a lot on your plate already; don’t add the stress of having to rush full speed through a crowded airport to your to-do list. Think about how much time you used to give yourself to get to the airport and get to your gate before kids, and then double it.

Pack little amenities kits. Some airlines (Cathay Pacific® comes to mind) have special amenities kits for children, but many don’t and that’s okay because when you pack your own, you can make them special. Gum, snacks, lip balm, and tissues are must-haves, but you can also add travel-sized art supplies, a little gift to unwrap, and other small treats that will make every flight feel like a special event.

Pre-order kids meals. There will usually be a limited number of kid-friendly meals on the flight, but if you don’t pre-order, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get one. The other benefit to ordering ahead is that children usually get their meals first and sometimes their meals will come with activity kits or special desserts.

Throw screen time limits out the window. You may be surprised to find that your usually screen hungry kid is so occupied by the novelty of the flight itself that they barely make it through one movie. Then again, unlimited screen time may be what keeps your whole family sane on long-haul flights.

Create a light day one itinerary. Chances are, you’ll spend just as much time caring for young kids in the air as you do caring for them at home — especially on international flights — so you may feel exhausted when you arrive. Your first day at your destination should account for that, and you should plan on going to bed early that night.

Want even more tips for flying with kids? Over the years, I have put together a long list of them. Here are my tried and true tips for flying with kids (which I’ve broken down by age group since flying with a baby is very different from flying with a big kid) and for dealing with jet lag in kids. Hopefully I can help make your next flight a great one.