Tips for Flying with Children

Flying with children may be one of the most stressful parts of parenting. Walking into the airport is like rolling the dice – a crapshoot of potential behaving, screaming or even puking. No one actually knows what lies ahead. Flying with kids is no joke.

So, I’ve compiled some helpful tips to make your life easier in the world of air travel and parenting. Not tips on how to make your kid behave because let’s be honest, what “fun airplane activity” {insert eye-roll} can make one kid happy, may make another jet-lagged child furious. Instead, I’m talking logistical tips to make what is already a stressful excursion easier. My mom always says, “control what you can, let go of what you can’t.” Air travel and children are ground zero for that theory. 

  1. Luggage + Clothing For the Day – Put all packed suitcases in the car the night before {if early morning} or by the front door. You will not remember the bag on the dining room table, TRUST ME. If there are any items you need to add last minute, leave a list ON your suitcase or by the car keys. Also, lay out all clothing for the travel down to the socks and shoes for children in advance. There is nothing worse than a 6am scramble looking for something.  

2. The Backpack – Ditch the diaper bag and the purse {if you’re dead set on a purse, jam it in your suitcase and get it when you get there}, just use the backpack. It gives you two hands to wrangle the children. It’s also not hanging from your hip walking into bathrooms or when guiding them on the airplane. Include any chargers, a set of spare clothes for all children, bottles, sippy cups, and any must-need items. Keep your wallet with ID/passport and {if possible} phone with boarding passes in an easily accessible pouch for check-in and security. Which leads me to check-in…

3. Baby Items – I was never one of those people brave enough to rent a car seat, so if you’re like me, invest in a protective bag for the car seat(s). I found this great one on Amazon, the 15$ was well worth it when after the first flight, I checked it and it came back covered in grease and scuff marks. I’d rather buy another bag than another car seat. Car seats and strollers DO NOT count as a checked bag and will fly free on most airlines. Also, if you’re gate-checking your stroller or any other car seats, invest in a protective bag as well (see # 6). 

4. TSA Pre-Check – This one has an asterisk because I only advise this if you plan on flying more than a few times in the next couple years. Getting TSA Precheck Verified requires you to fill out an online questionnaire, and within 45 days of online enrollment, you must make an appointment to visit a local enrollment center where you will be fingerprinted and required to provide valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation. TSA PreCheck allows you to enter security in a separate line and NOT remove shoes. You also do not have to pull liquids and electronics out of your carry-ons. This is a bonus if you are flying with kids under the age of 12 because they automatically get grouped with you. The first time going through makes it TOTALLY worth it. The entire process costs a non-refundable application processing fee of $85 per person which is good for 5 years of TSA Precheck.  

5. Accidents – They’ll happen. A blowout will happen mid-flight, or if you’re like me, your child will puke all over you while boarding or all over themselves in the middle of the layover when you forgot their suitcase at home and have no spare clothes {hence the trust me in #1}. Always do a diaper change just before boarding and make sure wipes {and diapers} are easily accessible mid-ride. In other words, do not pack them at the bottom. Bring a plastic bag for your backpack. See my tips are going full circle here… Put the soiled items in the bag to prevent getting on other items. If it’s really bad, just pitch the clothes. They’re all replaceable. Laundering chunky milk barf covered pants is no way to start or end a vacation. 

6. Gate-Check – If your kid is not big enough to sprint through an airport, put them in a stroller or a baby carrier.  Have you witnessed parents dragging children and baggage through an airport? Does it look like a good time? You can gate check your stroller, which means you literally wheel your kid right to the airplane door, fold it up, leave it, and when you get to where you are going, you wait right outside the plane where they will bring your stroller {and car seat if you have a travel system} right to you. Strap your kid in {because you have two hands from wearing a backpack} and wheel to where you need to be. You get a special tag for gate-check so be sure to visit the counter ahead of boarding as to not cause a hold up in line.

7. Don’t Freak Out – Easier said than done, but the most important tip of all. You forgot your luggage at home, and your kid just puked about a gallon of whole milk all over himself between flights, you semi want to kill your husband, {because he just read his book while your kid screamed the entire flight}but honestly, what are you going to do? It’s flying. You’re stuck and you have limited items. However, you will never see 99% of these people ever again. So breathe, take it in stride, and remember, soon you’ll be on vacation – which just means tending to your children in a different place other than home!

What’s the most helpful advice you’ve gotten when it comes to flying? Share below!

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