Tried and Tested Tips for Air Travel With Young Kids

by ParentCo. September 19, 2017

Happy positive young boy smiling with his arms spread out

By the time the summer is done, my family and I will have flown close to 20,000 miles. With our extended family in India, flying across the world has always been part of our summer routine. My seven-year-old munchkin got her first passport when she was barely a month old and flew internationally before she could say her first word.  That didn't mean air travel came easy. I remember, for instance, the 8,000-mile odyssey we undertook when my son was under two years old, my daughter barely three months old, and my sanity under serious attack. With a double stroller, an arsenal of pacifiers, and enough Goldfish crackers to feed a small army, I thought I had it covered. Except I didn't account for the fact that my three-month-old would scream bloody murder through every takeoff and descent. I didn't account for the fact that pushing a double stroller through the security scanner was like trying to fit into your prom dress after you’ve had a baby or two. I didn't account for the fact that a very rude flight attendant would order me to stop nursing my baby during takeoff. I didn’t account for the fact that everything that could go south would go south. And I’m not talking about the direction the plane was headed. Thankfully, it’s been a few years since that nightmare plane ride that spanned 24 hours and added a year’s worth of gray hair. We've learned some stuff along the way about air travel with babies and toddlers.

Ask questions

Be that annoying customer who calls up the airline with a bunch of queries. It’s worth it. Airline policies change often, so it’s best to speak with an agent and figure out the details of traveling with small children. This may seem obvious, but get your seats assigned. When we traveled internationally, we always booked the bulkhead seats where the airline’s baby bassinet could be latched. Find out about any documentation that may be required, especially in the case of international travel. You may be surprised to learn that babies need visas in some countries. Order the kid’s meal for your toddler, if that’s an option. Even if they balk at the yogurt-covered raisins, you’ll want to treat yourself after a couple of cabin-bound hours.

Parent Co. partnered with Kickee Pants because we believe babies are the beginning of your life’s most exciting adventure.

Carry extras of everything

Here’s the thing: You can buy yourself a diamond bracelet at the airport but you’ll be hard pressed to find diapers or formula at any terminal the world over. Yup, I learned that the hard way. When I had a nursing emergency during one flight, I was that mom who went to the store that sold tabloids and Eclipse gum to ask if they stocked formula. Not fun, believe me. Pack extra pacifiers with the attachment or they – all six of them - will roll under the seat in front of you. Yes, that little fact also comes courtesy of past experience. Carry extra clothes for the kids and yourself. Because, you know, children. 

Say yes to sippy cups

Most airport security will allow for milk or juice, despite the “no liquids under 3 ounces rule,” but even empty sippy cups are a lifesaver. When you’re in turbulence with a minuscule tray table serving, sippy cups come in handy. Yes, there’ll still be spills. But there won’t be as many.

Carry a goody bag

I always made a pit stop at the Dollar Store before every trip. Kids love opening new toys and treats – and they’re not too discerning about which store it comes from. If you happen to lose a trinket or two, no big deal. Remember to pack a goody bag of surprises for the flight back, too.

Suspend rules for screen time

Yeah, I know how much screen time the AAP allows for toddlers. But unless they’re willing to get on board that plane and entertain yours, I say that you suspend screen time rules for plane rides. If a tablet is going to keep them entertained – and quiet – then so be it.

Nix the backpacks

I know you really want that picture of your toddler trotting through the terminal with that cutesy backpack you bought from Pottery Barn. From experience I know that Dada is going to be the one toting the pink owl bag – and possibly a child or two – in a couple of hours.

Dial up the safety precautions

Airports are busy and crowded. If you can keep your child in a stroller, then that’s your best bet. If not, divide and conquer between dad and mom. Put the kids in a bright-colored clothes. If you choose to be that parent with a child on a (backpack) leash, ignore the stares and run with your plan. I always attached my contact information to my kids’ clothes, just in case of an emergency. I’d rather take the flak for being a helicopter parent than losing a child – even temporarily – at a busy terminal. Traveling with babies doesn’t have to be a nightmare. There’s light at the end of the tunnel – my little people can now figure out their in-flight entertainment and order their own mimosas. Okay, orange juice. The mimosas are for their mommy. Even after 10 years of air travel with her progeny, she still needs them.

Parent Co. partnered with Kickee Pants because we believe babies are the beginning of your life’s most exciting adventure.



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