Most of us have experienced that awful plane ride where a kid was anything but happy and we all had to deal with it for the entire flight. You can’t predict how your kid will behave on a flight, but the more prepared and streamlined you are for traveling with your family, the more likely you are to keep your cool if a tough situation arises. When flying with kids, try to plan your flight for a time that allows you to get to the airport as rested as possible, including your kids. Arriving at the airport at your kid’s lunch time is going to make for a grumpy traveler. By having a list of your necessary items, simplified packing, and avoiding bringing items that could cost you time at TSA, you’ll get through your flight with your kids relatively unscathed.
5. Ditch your Purse for a Backpack
Few things are as frustrating as having everything in your purse come toppling out when your kid pulls on your bag as you’re boarding the plane. Using a backpack for traveling through the airport in place of your purse or diaper bag can help you avoid losing important items. Pack your essentials, like your identification, cash, boarding passes, cell phone and charger, and other necessary carry on items in your backpack. Leave your empty purse in your checked luggage to use at your destination. A backpack generally will give you more room to store your kid’s must have toy and can easily be stored beneath the seat in front of you during takeoff/arrival. Having all your on board necessities stored away in a backpack means you’ll have an easier time getting through the airport with your little ones.
4. Empty Cups
Whenever possible, bring your kid’s bottles, sippy cups, and other drink holders to the airport empty. Why? Because you’re allowed you to bring 3.4 oz/100 milliliters with you in checked baggage. The TSA website notes there is an exception for formula, breastmilk and juice for flying with kids, but it’s easiest to avoid liquids when you can. Once you’re past security, you can buy a drink (split one juice bottle between two kids) or simply use a water fountain. For pumping moms who are traveling with your expressed breast milk, just have your pumped milk ready for inspection. It’s been a few years since I flew with pumped milk (my daughter didn’t like nursing on planes at first), the “inspection” of my milk took all of two minutes (and no one should touch your milk). For formula fed babies, bring the formula in powder form with proper labels. If you can’t avoid brining liquids, just have them prepared and expect a slightly longer time at the security.
3. Bring Entertainment for Your Kids
Bringing entertainment when flying with kids is a must. While kids one and younger are most likely going to sleep through the flight (LET THEM!), awake kids need something to pass the time. For the sake of everyone else on board, try to bring quiet toys for your kids to play with that don’t have small pieces or come apart. Magna doodle boards, board books, and action figures are ideal. If you bring a tablet, make sure it’s fully charged the night before and bring kid friendly headphones for them to wear while they watch a movie or play a game. If you’re desperate, you can make a toy out of a cup with a lid and some snacks (like pretzels) for your baby to use like rattle (this generally isn’t too noisy). The big trick with packing toys is to rotate them out carefully. Don’t give your kids all the toys at once. Let them use one thing, get bored, then switch to something else.
2. Simple Kids Snacks
Keeping your kids occupied with food isn’t always the most ideal way to keep them happy, but on a flight, snacks that aren’t messy and will keep them happy are more than welcome. Pretzels, crackers, cereal and other dry, non liquid snack choices are best. Prepackage them in snack bags or buy prepackaged items before you go to the airport and have them ready in your backpack to hand out when your kid gets hungry. Older kids can have mints or something similar to suck on if their ears are sensitive to takeoff/landing.
1. Bathrooms and Cleanup
At some point, flying with kids means you’re going to have to change your baby’s diaper or take your potty training toddler to the bathroom. The best way to stay organized here is to be proactive. Before boarding the plane, have everyone use the bathroom (or get a diaper change if they’re not bone dry). This way your kid won’t be tempted to declare “I have to go potty!” just as you’re taking off and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned on. Sit as far back or as far forward in the plane as you can so you’re always near a bathroom if you’re flying on an airline where open seating is available. This allows you to quickly and easily get to the bathroom when needed. Keep a plastic shopping bag or a wet bag (I still use ours from Planet Wise) on hand to throw dirty clothes in just in case. A small package of baby wipes also goes a long way to keep clean during your flight.
Carseats During Flight
It sounds like a royal pain, but if you’re buying a seat for your child (currently required for ages 2 and up with most U.S. airlines), consider using their carseat on the plane. It installs the same way the seat installs in the car with a seatbelt and makes for safer and easier flying time for everyone. Your kid would go wild if they were able to roam freely in the car on a three hour drive, so why should they have wiggle room on a plane? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a great installation video and information about how to know if your child’s carseat is FAA approved for flying. In the most likely reality that you do not have a convenient way to transport your carseats (like a luggage cart) to the gate, talk to the agent at the check in desk for assistance. Most airlines are willing to help those with small children get to their gate as easily as possible. Having your kid safely and securely fastened in their seat during flight will help you avoid them spilling everything on the floor and risking losing important travel items.
When it comes to flying with kids, the most important thing is to not stress about it. Most people you meet while traveling will be sympathetic to the extra responsibility and stress you have from traveling with your kids. If your kid screams throughout the flight or you forget your charger for your tablet, remind yourself that it’s only a short part of your day that you’ll be traveling. If you have a layover, you can buy anything you might need right away, and the downtime will let your kids burn off some energy. Staying organized while flying with kids is more about preparation and saying calm than the luck of your child’s mood during flight.