In the past year we have completed three cross-country flights with our kids and flying with kids is not easy! I thought I would share some tips for flying with kids and how to keep kids entertained on an airplane.
Tips for Flying With Kids
We recently returned from Disney World, where I attended the Disney Social Media Moms conference, and then we turned around and flew back to Washington DC to visit family. Both trips were amazing, but I also learned a thing or two about flying with kids and how to keep kids entertained on an airplane during a cross-country flight. Our flights were definitely not very fun but luckily I was prepared with entertainment and snacks that helped to keep my children happy.
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What to Pack When Flying With Kids
1-Pack a Backpack for each child
My #1 tip is to have each child bring their own backpack that they are in charge of for the trip. Then they can keep their items separate and have easy access to them since they can be stored under the seat in front of them. Even my 3-year-old carried a small backpack with essentials that he might need. Then I knew right where to find items instead of having to dig through my larger bags. Include an extra plastic bag, plenty of wet wipes/sanitizer and any required medicine, as well as Children’s Dramamine, just in case they get motion sick. If you can, include a small blanket and definitely a jacket. Airplane’s can get chilly, even if you leave Las Vegas in 115 degree heat! 😉
2-Individual Snack Bags
Depending on which airline you fly, you may or may not get a snack with your flight. (Or at least not a complimentary snack!). I knew that my kids would get hungry or “Hangry” if they didn’t have snacks so I put together snack bags before hand that they each stored in their back pack. I included crackers, fruit snacks, jerky, some candy for sucking and chewing during takeoff, and granola bars. Since they each had their own bag, there was no fighting over the snacks and I didn’t have to keep digging in to my bag each time they got hungry.
3-Pack Empty Water Bottles
Bring empty water bottles to the airport and fill them in drinking fountains or water filling stations after you go through security. Most flights do provide water but sometimes it takes awhile for flight attendants to get to you and when a 3-year-old is thirsty, they want water now! We found some great Disney Water Bottles for our trip to Disney World and surprised the boys with them before we left.
4-Bring Electronics that don’t require Internet
Hand-held electronics will need to be set to airplane mode during flight so make sure that if you are bringing electronics, have games, apps and movies downloaded before you board the plane. And make sure to bring child-sized headphones that will fit your child’s ears because a young child will get frustrated if they keep falling off. You may also want to bring a Portable Charger and chords in case the battery gets low.
5-Purchase New Books/Activity books
I definitely don’t want my kids looking at electronics the entire flight, so I always pick up some new books. For our last flight I bought the Where’s Waldo? Travel Collection for my older boys and it was awesome! They also loved Mad Libs. Both brought me back to my childhood. My younger boys loved some simpler Look and Find Books as well as Color by Numbers and other activity books. Just the fact that they were new made them exciting.
The Day of Your Flight
1-Arrive EARLY but Be Prepared to Wait
I personally like to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before our flight, especially if we need to check baggage. When you are flying with kids, it is much better to be early than late! We had one flight that was supposed to be delayed according to the computer updates, but when we arrived at the airport, it was on time and we had to run with our 4 kids through the airport. It was complete chaos and we won’t do that again! But we have also had flights that were very delayed. We were prepared with some card games, snacks and books to pass the time.
2- Know Your Airline’s Policy for Flying with Kids
All airlines have a policy for families flying with kids. We like to fly Southwest because if you fly with a child under the age of 5 you can all board together after the A group, which increases your chances of sitting together. We have never had a problem. But, one time we flew with all of our boys, except the youngest and didn’t have a traveler under 5. In that case, I purchased an early boarding pass because it was important to me that we got to be with the kids. I have seen some stories in the news recently of travelers upset about not getting a seat next to their older child. If you plan in advance, and know the policy of the airline you are flying, even if you don’t agree with it, it will save you a lot of headache in the end.
3- Check Your Stroller at the Gate
If you are flying with kids, there is a chance you will be bringing a stroller to the airport. You can check your stroller at the gate, instead of with your luggage. It makes it a lot nicer than having to try and keep track of a toddler or young child in the airport and as you go through security. When you get to your gate, talk to the person at the counter and they will give you a tag for your stroller. Then you can take it right up to the door of the airplane before leaving it to be stored underneath. The other great thing about this, is it will be available for you when you get off the plane.
4- Bathroom Break!
Make sure to take your kids to the bathroom about 40 minutes before your flight is supposed to leave. Most airlines start boarding 30 minutes before departure so allow yourself plenty of time to get to the bathroom and back. And look for family restrooms if you are taking your kids. There is typically not a wait and it is so much easier to help young children when you have some space around you. There is a good chance that you will still have to take a young child to the lavatory on the plane, but if you can avoid it, do it! They are TINY and after a long flight, pretty yucky!
5- Patience, Patience, Patience
I know how hard it is for me to sit on a long flight, so imagine how much harder it is for a child to sit that long in a confined space. Expect a meltdown or two, but if you are prepared with snacks and entertainment, hopefully it won’t be too bad. Prepare your child in advance for what it will be like on an airplane, and maybe have special gifts for them for good behavior. We got lucky and my youngest slept most of the way. And remember, you won’t be flying forever!
What tips for flying with kids can you add?
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