You finally booked that family trip you’ve been dreaming about but now you’re wondering how the flight will go...with the kids. Will the baby scream? Will my kids annoy the passengers around them? What should I carry-on verse check-in? It’s true flying with kids, especially for the first time, can feel overwhelming. So here are our top tips to help your family have an easy and smooth ride to your next destination!
BEFORE THE FLIGHT
1. Schedule flight times during naps times
Choose midday flights during nap time hours as this may increase your chances that they’ll sleep for a good portion of your flight. Afternoon flights also give you ample time to get to the airport on time, leaving you more relaxed. We don’t recommend red eye flights because the kids may sleep but there’s a good chance this will backfire and you’ll be left with cranky kids and very tired parents.
*Tip: Book direct flights to minimize stopovers.
2. Reserve your seat
If you get a chance to pick your seat, pick seats closest to the wing where there will be a lot more white noise from the engine. We often found the noisier hum helps kids fall asleep easier. For small babies, pick a seat closer to the bathrooms and changing rooms, which will help you with frequent diaper changes and standing space to rock the baby.
3. Set expectations leading up to the flight
Talk to your child in the days leading up to the flight about what they can expect at the airport, what they’ll see and hear, what you expect of them and what they can expect of you. Set clear reasonable expectations for them at the airport, going through security, boarding and while flying inside the airplane. Show them pictures of the airport to help them visualize the space. For younger kids, tell them stories about the magical rocket that will take them somewhere exciting. This can be an exciting journey for new adventurers!
4. Pack a change of clothes
Lets just say, it's a long flight with lots of drinks and snacks (and possibly air sickness) involved and the last thing you’d want is a miserable wet toddler at 30,000 ft and 2 hours of flight time to go. For peace of mind, consider pull-ups for toddlers.
*Tip: bring extra hand wipes for yourself in case of mishaps.
5. Pack Snacks
I’m sure this is a given if you have kids! I mean, I’m sure you have a snack drawer in your purse right now, am I right? But when traveling keep in mind which snacks “travel” better than others. Things that melt, are overly sticky or crumbly may not be the best items to bring. Keep in mind, you are allowed to bring milk, formula or juice through security for any child under the age of two. Although we all strive for healthy snacks, this may be the time to relax a little to make it fun!
Bring snacks that will:
Take a while to eat
Maintain good energy (avoid high surgery snacks that may cause a crash later)
Snacks they know and love!!
*Tip: bring an empty sippy cup (or water bottle) and fill it up with water once you’re through security.
6. Prepare electronic devices the night before
Most kids are highly engaged using an electronic device and this can be a saving grace during a long flight. Although some flights have personal tv’s we always make sure to bring a personal device for the kids just in case. If possible, bring a backup battery or external charger for devices, especially for long haul flights. And remember to charge and download all your shows the night before. Purchase comfortable headphones that won't bother their ears after long usage.
Items to download:
The airline’s app (usually this app is required to watch movies in flight)
internet-free games (in case there is no Wifi onboard)
movies/shows from your favorite streaming service
7. Pack an airplane bag for each kid
Pack a little backpack for each kid to carry on the airplane themselves. Individual backpacks help the kids (and you) keep each person's items organized, and are easy to stow under each seat for easy access during the flight. Let your kids help pack their favorite couple of items to bring onto the airplane. For older kids, you can include their water bottles and electronics. Not only will this help lighten your bag but will help give confidence with task to do while at the airport. Inside the bags include a variety of activities they can pull out themselves to play with during the flight.
Coloring book with crayons (always a great option)
Window gel clings
Stickers (we love this one!)
Easy card games such as old maid, go fish, uno
Start with hands on activities first, then bring out electronic devices later to keep them engaged. For younger kids, give them a new activity every 30 minutes to space out the excitement of each item.
*Tip: gift wrap activities for an extra element of fun.
8. Pack Light
I used to make this mistake, I packed the whole house just in case the baby “may” need it. But packing heavy just means more for you to carry around. Don't you have enough to deal with chasing kids through an airport and managing flight times? Pack only essentials into a backpack to keep your hands free such as ...you’ll need them to hold hands around a busy airport.
*Tip: Bring the stroller! It’ll help you move around the airport easier and you can check strollers/car seats in directly at the gate!
9. Reserve kid meals in advance
By booking meals in advance these specialized meals will be served before everyone else. This will give you time to help your kids with their meals before yours arrives.
AT THE AIRPORT
10. Get out the wiggles
Plan to get to the airport early, not only because everything takes a little longer with kids but also to give you extra time to walk around and stretch those legs before a long flight. Take advantage of the airport play areas or walk through the stores. Save electronics for the airplane after boarding to keep it from losing its excitement.
*Tip: At the airport, play classic car ride games such as I-Spy, the Alphabet game or 20 questions.
11. Visit the bathroom before boarding
You know kids, they always have to go right at the most inopportune times! Have them use the bathroom before boarding and 30 minutes before landing so that you don’t need to stop at a bathroom after your arms are full of luggage from the baggage claim.
12. Take advantage of early boarding
Most airlines allow you to board early with family boarding usually right after first class/elite passengers. Boarding earlier gives flight attendants more time to assist your family, more time to get your kids settled in their seats and more opportunity to obtain overhead bin space directly over your seats. Win Win.
DURING THE FLIGHT
13. Teach them to equalize their ears
Oftentimes babies and younger children will have a hard time relieving pressure that builds up in their ears during take off and landing. This can also happen if your child has a head cold, so it's always helpful to bring something for them to suck on such as gum or a lollipop. Drinking water can also help by swallowing. You can teach your kids how to equalize “pop” their ears, yawn, or wiggle their jaw to relieve pressure. For babies, you can bring a binkie, teething toy, nurse them or give them a bottle, basically anything that will cause them to suck and swallow.
14. Don't stow too much
Stow items that you’ll need more often under the seat instead of in the overhead bin. This will make things easier to access during the flight.
*Tip: If traveling with another adult, don’t be afraid to ask for help and take turns.
15. Take a walk
It can be a challenge to keep little ones sitting down for long periods of time (actually it's challenging adults to sit that long too). Don’t be afraid to take a walk. Yes, you're limited to a small runway but sometimes a quick visit to the bathroom area is enough to reset your kids for another hour of fun.
*Tip: The best time to go for a walk is after the flight attendants have finished their rounds with the service carts.
16. Relax and have fun
Keep in mind, this trip is worth doing together and have fun! Don’t worry about what the other passengers will think and relax. Children feed off of your energy so if you’re having a better time, so will they! Focus on your child and the new wonderful land you’re heading towards together. Soon you’ll be at your destination before you know it.
Airplanes can be an exciting adventure for kids. It can spark a love for travel and bring families closer on their new journey together. We hope these tips give you the confidence you need for your next flight!
Aloha and happy travels,