Flying With Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Air Travel
Air travel has become increasingly stressful in the past few years — long security lines, cramped coach seats and flight delays can make you wish you had road-tripped instead. Once you add children to the mix, the whole endeavor can seem like an impossible task.
But while flying with a baby or small child can be intimidating, it’s totally doable if you’re prepared. We asked our nugget community to pool together their best tips and tricks that they’ve personally tested out at 30,000 feet. Read on to learn how to tackle your family’s next plane trip. Bon voyage!
1. PACK SPECIAL "TRAVELING TOYS"
In order to keep toddlers and older kids busy on flights, consider packing special toys they’ve never played with before. The newness of it might keep them occupied longer. And even if you’re not into giving your kids electronics, a long flight can be a good time to make an exception to your rule. Other ideas to consider? Reusable stickers, Play-Doh and Post-it notes (don’t knock it till you try it!).
2. PACK SNACKS
Every parent knows that a hungry kid is a fussy kid, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks for your journey — non-mess snacks, that is. Nugget founder Ranjana Armstrong also suggests including your child in the process: “For our last trip, I actually asked my son while we were in the grocery store which snacks he wanted for our flight to Mexico. We bought a bunch of trail mix packs we had never tried before, and he got very excited when he opened them midflight.”
Many airlines have cut back significantly on serving refreshments midflight, but if you’re caught in a pinch, just ask the flight attendant what’s available. They’re usually more than willing to spare an extra packet of crackers to keep kids happy.
3. TAG TEAM THE BOARDING PROCESS
If the whole family is flying together, tag team the boarding process. Have one parent board the plane first to stow luggage and get the seats set up for the kids, while the other remains behind at the gate for as long as possible. If you’re flying solo, take advantage of pre-boarding for families. Flying with a baby can be hectic, and this will help you get settled in before other passengers start boarding.
4. GRAB A BULKHEAD SEAT IF YOU CAN
Traveling with a squirmy toddler who’s always on the move? Try to snag a bulkhead seat if you can. You won’t have to worry about him kicking the seat in front of you, and it will give your family more room to spread out.
5. USE BABY CARRIERS AND STROLLERS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Even if your kids don’t typically need them anymore, using a baby carrier or stroller while traveling can be helpful. Strollers can double as luggage carts if needed, while baby carriers can alleviate the need to hold your infant for the entire flight.
Celine Brewer, mom of two and the blogger over at Baby Can Travel, has another tip for flying with a baby: “Pack your diaper change essentials at the top of your bag where they are easy to access and bring only those to the toilet with you. No point trying to fit a bag in that tiny bathroom with you, too!”
6. BRING A SPARE SET OF CLOTHES (FOR EVERYONE)
Kids are messy and accidents happen. Be sure to pack an extra set of clothes for everyone — including you! The 6-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles will feel much longer if you’re covered in spit up the whole time. Another tip? Wear slip-on shoes to make the process of going through security easier.
7. CONSIDER ENROLLING IN T.S.A. PRECHECK
If you’re from the United States and travel a lot, especially with your little ones in tow, consider enrolling in T.S.A. PreCheck. You won’t have to remove your shoes when going through security, and you will encounter much shorter lines in the express lane.
8. BOOK YOUR FLIGHT AROUND BEDTIME
While this isn’t always possible, it can be helpful to book your flight so that it coincides with nap or bedtime. For long flights, aim for a flight that leaves about an hour before bed — hopefully, this will encourage kids to sleep the trip away. For shorter flights, you may consider booking one that lands close to bedtime.
9. ASK FOR HELP
Flying with a baby can be overwhelming, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. Flight attendants can help you carry your car seat, and most seat neighbors will be more than happy to watch your child while you run to the bathroom. If someone offers to help, take them up on it!
10. IGNORE OTHER PASSENGERS
This might be the piece of advice that keeps you sanest of all: ignore other passengers on the plane. Babies cry; toddlers fuss. If someone has a problem with it, do your best to ignore them and focus on your child. As nugget collective member Jana Tingom says, “Most parents have been there themselves and have just forgotten what it’s like to travel with little ones. Do what you can to keep your child occupied and calm. You’ve got this!” You’re doing your best to get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible — and you’re doing great!
Looking for more travel tips? Check out our contributors’ best tips on hiking with a baby.