One of the best parts about having children is the opportunity to visit new places and show your children the world. However, many parents run and hide at the mere thought of navigating an airport and flying with young children. Traveling with children can be very overwhelming, but with focused planning, direction and a little bit of experience, flying with young ones will seem much more manageable. Although there is no way to say you won’t have any turbulence ahead, these tips will hopefully help you to avoid a mile-high meltdown.
Choose Your Flight Time Wisely
One of the easiest and most helpful travel tips for families is to thoughtfully choose your flights based on your children’s needs. If possible, plan to fly around your little one’s nap time—Ideally, they would stick to their schedule and then sleep while on the flight. Also if there is a direct flight option, take it. By avoiding layovers it will simplify the entire travel process for you, require less planning on your end, and eliminates the stress of rushing to catch your connection.
Prepare Your Supply Bag
It is easy to overpack a diaper bag, or carry-on suitcase with who knows what, but when traveling with children it is essential to pack the right supplies for in-flight needs. The supply bag includes diapers and wipes, and two changes of clothes in case of an accident. Also be sure to bring hand sanitizer and wipes to avoid germs that live on planes. Bring any medications your child may need in your supply bag rather than checking it in case the luggage gets lost. Bring lots of mess-free snacks like crackers, and a spill-proof cup for each child. It is better to be over-prepared with supplies than at 30,000 feet without a clean diaper for your little one, so keep the length of the flight and total time to your final destination after the flight in mind when determining your supply quantities.
You may feel the need to pack your children’s entire playroom for a plane flight, but if you strategically plan and select toys and entertainment for the kids, you will be just fine. The key is to entertain and engage your child. Bring wrapped surprises for each child, such as a new toy car or mini doll. When you board the plane, ask the flight attendant for some plastic cups that the kids can stack and play with. Choose toys that last a while like coloring books, stickers, lace-up toys, etc. If your child is old enough, ask them to pack their own backpack with their toy choices for the flight. Be sure to load up any tablets with lots of videos for longer flights. And finally, use your children to entertain each other. Ask older children to help with their younger siblings—this will keep both busy and occupied with each other.
Depending on how many children you have, you may have your hands full without even carrying any actual baggage. Now add all the carry-on luggage, car seats, strollers, and maybe an infant in there and you probably won’t even be able to get from the car to the check-in desk without falling over yourself. With that said, it is best to check anything and everything that you can so that you can be as hands-free as possible. Most airlines allow you to check up to one stroller and one car seat per child at no additional cost. If your child is small enough, use an ergonomic carrier or wrap to hold your child. They even allow you to “wear” your babies through security which is a huge plus. If you opt for the stroller route for younger kids, swap out your heavy-duty wheels for a smaller, travel-friendly stroller that can be easily gate-checked. Your most important responsibility is getting your children from point A to point B, and that is much easier accomplished by only bringing the necessities.
You’ve Got This
No matter how hard you try to prepare for flying with children, things still happen. A baby may cry, drinks might get spilled all over the seats, and the iPad might die mid-flight. Take a deep breath, and keep your cool because it is all ok. Let’s be honest, crying from babies is toddlers is pretty much inevitable, and although you may think the passengers around you would throw you out mid-flight because your little one is upset, they won’t. Most people have been there before and get it. As long as you are doing your best to console, and diffuse the situation, the majority will understand.
Having children shouldn’t limit your travel opportunities, it should encourage them. They always say the hardest part is just getting there, but that doesn’t mean getting there has to be so hard. If you plan ahead, thoughtfully pack, and prep for the journey ahead, traveling with young children will be stress-free and enjoyable for the whole family.