My husband and I travel with our kids all the time, but when our firstborn was a baby, the thought of taking him on an airplane made me nervous.
I was worried he would miss his nap and cry the entire flight. I never thought I could fit all his things in my carry-on. I mean, the list goes on. Nowadays, as a seasoned mom of three, with nine years of nonstop travel under our belts, flying with children is much easier than you think.
Let me take you through a few of my traveling tips for children of different ages.
We didn’t have the nerve to fly when our oldest was an infant, but when our second came around, we flew with her at only 4 months old. At first, I was petrified, but this age proved to be the easiest. Whether you are nursing or bottle feeding, it helps to feed an infant during take off and landings, to keep his or her ears from popping due to changes in altitude.
We all know how expensive airlines tickets have become, so parents should be very excited to know that children under 2 years of age fly free, as long as they ride on a parent or guardian’s lap. If your child is extra fussy, you may choose to purchase an additional seat. This may be appealing to parents who want to carry on their car seat so their child has a place to sleep, giving their lap a rest.
The Toddler Stage
This, you guys, is the hardest time to fly with children. Adults get antsy in airline seats, so think of what it’s like for little ones who don’t understand they need to stay put with their seat belts fastened. In this digital age, iPads and tablets come in handy. I usually load up their devices with some new games or movies so they don’t get bored. I know some of us want to limit screen time, but try a six-hour flight with a 4-year-old and tell me what you think! Don’t forget snacks, snacks and more snacks. I pack some old reliable treats, and some unusual options, to keep it exciting. An emergency lollipop comes in handy, just in case they have ear-popping issues like the babies.
More Tips for Flying with Kids
My first trip to California with the three kids was solo, sans hubby. At the time, my children were ages 2, 4 and 7. I think I panicked for two weeks straight before the trip. In addition to our snacks and tablets, I stocked up on little dollar store trinkets for them to play with during the trip. I wrapped each item in tissue paper and each hour on the hour I busted a new one out for each of them. The idea of these rewards kept them on their best behavior. Some of the best items were Play-Doh, a deck of cards (for the older one), coloring books, pens, crayons and little games that you would find in a party goodie bag.
At the airport, I always see parents lugging half their living room through the terminal. This is mistake No. 1. Learn how to pack lightly. It’s the only way to keep your sanity with little ones in tow. Leave your $1,500 stroller at home and pick up a small umbrella-type stroller. For smaller babies, the car seat over the stroller is perfect and works best for when traveling after the flight. A baby carrier is another alternative. They come in handy at destinations like theme parks that require lots of walking.
Upon arrival at your destination, most resorts will provide a pack and play or crib. If you have particular standards for your children, be sure to ask your hotel staff what they offer prior to making arrangements. Some hotels can recommend local businesses that specialize in renting strollers, cribs and baby gear to tourists and travelers, which can usually be delivered to your location.
Once you get that first flight with your kid(s) under your belt, you’ll feel like you can accomplish anything. Now that my children are well-seasoned travelers, they know what to expect and what is expected of them. They pack their own carry-ons, understand going through security and mind their manners while sitting in their seats. Traveling has certainly become enjoyable for us and it will for you too.
Do you have more tips for flying with kids that you want to share with other parents? Write them in the comments.