Whether you’re flying with a toddler or you child is in grade school flying with a child can turn into your worse nightmare.
Flying with little ones can be harrowing—but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve gathered some of my top travel tips and I am going to show you how to tackle traveling with children and I will provide you with a checklist to make sure your toddler doesn’t have a meltdown on their first plane ride.
While I travel a great deal for both my blog and the day job, I usually travel alone and I understand the in’s and out’s of airports and I’ve got traveling down to a science.
This guide will help you gear up for air travel with kids. A few of the stress-relieving and practical tips you’ll learn here are as follows:
- How to schedule your flight and which seats to pick to reduce inconvenience
- How to prepare yourself and your child for the trip
- Flying etiquette for kids and parents
- Which airlines are family- and kid-friendly
My best friend was getting married in Houston and my daughter Madison was going to be the flower girl I immediately started researching flying with kids, FAA approved car seats, and the best time to fly with a child.
While Madison was excited about taking her first flight I was worried about Madison acting like a damn fool because I’ve heard the horror stories about flying with kids.
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Tips for Flying with Kids
Whether you’re flying with a toddler prone to running at the drop of dime or a grade schooler who turns into the kid from hell I am going to show you how you can tackle the most common challenges of flying with kids.
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Toddler Travel Essentials
So instead of rolling into the airport with one carry-on, I now had to worry about multiple pieces of luggage, along with electronics, headphones, snacks including making sure the flower girl dress made it safely.
Thank Gawd for small miracles in that my daughter is too old for a car seat because I couldn’t imagine having to lug three suitcases and car seats through the airport.
Traveling with kids can be extremely exhausting and frustrating whether it’s a road trip or a flight.
While I am a parent I don’t want to hear screaming babies while I am flying so I am very sensitive to the needs of the other passengers because I do not want to go viral for not being able to control my child while flying.
15 Strategies For Flying With a Toddler
1. Talk to your child and tell him/her what to expect
Talk to your child in age-appropriate terms about what to expect when he/she arrives at the airport, going through the security checkpoint, boarding and especially air pressure and turbulence.
This is a good time to talk to your child about personal responsibility no matter their age and allow them to be responsible for packing their luggage and making sure they everything that is needed for the trip.
I prepared Madison for going through security checkpoints so she wouldn’t be scared by the machines or wondered why her bags had to go through the x-ray machine.
I also explained that she had to wear a seat belt, just like she does in the car and most importantly not kick the seat in front of her. (Parents please teach your children not to kick the seat in front of them. (It’s so annoying)
PRO TIP: Don’t eat greasy meals as they cause indigestion and will make your kid uncomfortable during the flight. Go for energy-packed and protein-rich foods.
2. Fly as early as possible.
I suggest booking an early morning flight and the earlier the better. I know you don’t want to get up at 4 am but this is your best chance of avoiding delays and hopefully, you will be on a flight that is not too crowded.
3. Skip the fancy clothes and sneakers.
If you are traveling to a destination where the weather will be drastically different make sure you dress appropriately.
The last thing you want is to get off of your flight and it’s freezing and there is not a jacket in sight. I suggest you dress your kids in comfortable layers and leave the buttons and zippers at home or in your luggage.
The same principle applies to shoes and it doesn’t matter if you have a toddler or preteen. Avoid sneakers with laces and opt for slip-on shoes because I can’t tell you how many times my daughter trips over her shoe strings or ask me can I tie her shoes. (Insert eye-roll!)
4. Planes are disgusting.
Please! Please wipe down everything especially the table tray and do not allow your kids to go to the bathroom without their shoes. The floors on a plane are a Petri dish of disgustingness.
5. Air pressure.
I am sure you have heard kids screaming during take off and the landing so while you are waiting to board your flight make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. Your little ones should be drinking water right after takeoff and then make sure they drink some more water about 30 to 45 minutes prior to landing.
8. Don’t lose your cool.
There will be those passengers that just hate flying with kids and I will not lie I am one of those people but hey it’s a free world and you have every right to fly with your kids.
I think most people understand as long as you are trying to control your child. We have all been there whether it’s flying with kids or in the grocery store and meltdown of all meltdowns begin.
Most passengers complain about those parents who allow their kids to kick the back of the seat, run toys up and down their head and ignore the fact someone is seated in front of them.
9. Picking seats.
I suggest families with kids sit at the back of the plane because you are closer to the bathrooms.
This makes trips to the bathroom easier and you won’t bother other passengers plus the flight attendants hang out at the back of the plane and they will make your needs are met.
10. Pack a small bag for necessities.
In a small and easy-to-carry backpack you should have all of your Important documents – like passports, printed itinerary, transportation details, and tickets – belong to this bag.
You also want to include your drivers’ license, credit cards, cash, iPhone charger, headphones, and prescription medication.
Don’t forget to bring an iPad loaded with fun apps to keep the kiddos entertained while flying.
11. Getting your mind ready
Most of your preparations will focus on ensuring you have everything you need for your child but don’t forget about self-care.
Set realistic expectations and if things do not go as planned oh well! Don’t think you are going to board your flight and both you and the kid will immediately fall asleep and you will wake up at your destination.
Try a little meditation before your flight and practice breathing exercises.
12. What not to do while flying with your kids
Allowing your kids to cause havoc and exhibit unacceptable behavior while flying is not the correct thing to do.
Families traveling together have a bad rap for a reason and below are just a few things you DO NOT need to do if you don’t want to anger 100 plus people on a plane. :
- Parents changing stinky diapers on the tray
- Allowing young ones to kick other passengers or pull their hair
- Treating flight attendants like babysitters
- Letting kids play and run around the cabin
13. Figure Out What Documentation you will need for your child
All flights will require your child to have a boarding pass but TSA doesn’t require kids under 18 to have photo identification for domestic flights.
Airlines, however, often do require proof of age, such as a birth certificate, for children who are traveling for free or at a discounted price.
14. Will they have their Own Seat
Children under 2 fly for free as long as they stay in your lap the entire flight. Three years and above they are required to have their own seat.
The FAA suggests parents put children in a government-approved car seat while flying. The last thing you want is to be holding a small child if your flight encounters turbulence.
15. Utilize early family boarding
Most airlines board families with young kids first. This will allow you to get to your seat without bumping into people, kids screaming, and any last minute issues that may arise.
Kids will ask to go to the bathroom after you just asked them if they needed to go and they said no. Please take advantage of early boarding.
Packing Checklist for Flying Traveling With Toddlers
I completely understand it’s tough flying with toddlers or preteens. It can be a headache getting your kids to behave at home let alone while flying, cranky, hungry and bored.
Your children deserves to see the world just as much as anyone else and I am here to help you devise and execute a plan for making sure your toddler and tween feel safe, comfortable on their next trip.
Use this list as a base for deciding what to take on your next flight with your children and here are a few of my suggestions on what to pack when traveling with toddlers:
Toddler Travel Essentials
These are the items that are important to bring when traveling with toddlers no matter the destination, whether you’re headed away for the weekend trip or headed to Turks and Caicos for the ultimate family vacation at the all inclusive Beaches Resorts.
- Diapers, diaper cream, wipes and changing pad
- Potty seat (If toilet-trained)
- Easy-on, easy-off outfits (The fewer the buttons, the better) and PJs
- At least two pair of shoes (They’re known to go missing…)
- Umbrella stroller (But you can pick up a cheap one — and even donate it afterward — to conserve space).
- Backpack carrier
- Car seat (Although a rental car company may be able to provide one for an added cost)
- Pack-and-play and travel crib (Unless your destination provides one) and sheets
- Bed rail (If your toddler has moved out of a crib)
- Baby monitor and batteries
- Your passport (if traveling overseas) and child’s passport or birth certificate
- Consent letter from other parent if you’re traveling solo
- Extra grocery store-sized bags (For all the reasons you can think of. And some you can’t…)
Health and Safety
Traveling with toddlers and tweens means you need to make your home away from home as safe as possible to prevent unwanted accidents.
- First-aid kit (with thermometer)
- Kids’ medications for gas relief, pain, bug bites and cuts
- Toddler toothbrush and toothpaste
- Baby shampoo/wash
- Toddler-sized nail clippers
- Sunscreen and sunhat
- Outlet plugs, doorknob covers, toilet locks and other toddler-proofing devices
- Any required prescription medicine
Mealtime For Traveling With Kids
Maybe you’re fortunate to have an adventurous eater, and your toddler eats what you eat. Or you’re like the rest of us, which means you may have to pack more food to keep your picky eater happy.
- Spill-proof cups
- Toddler-size utensils and mat
- Snacks, such as cereal, puffs, crackers and fruit (Keeping in mind TSA regulations, if flying)
- Small cooler with ice packs
It’s tough to play during a long car ride or plane trip, but by packing a few favorite distractions and planning in plenty of play breaks, you can keep your toddler happy. And if that doesn’t work, you can always find something bright, shiny and new from the truck stop or airport gift shop.
- Books and small toys
- Crayons, washable markers and paper
- Favorite stuffed animal or blanket
- Phone apps for toddlers
- Tablet and children’s headphones
Essentials for Beach and Cruise Vacations with Toddlers
Traveling with toddlers on the high seas or in a beachfront rental high rise can require a few extra items. But it’s a small price to pay for fun in the sun with your favorite people
- Swim suits and sun suits
- Swim diapers (A toddler who’s not potty-trained won’t be allowed in most pools on a cruise ship, even in swim diapers.)
- Wading pool and beach toys. (Easy items to grab at a beach shop for under $30 all together — and donate to another family before you leave.)
- Personal Floating Device for safety in pools or on boats
- Inflatable bathtub (This is a must-have on cruise ships for toddlers who won’t take showers.)
- Baby powder
- Beach tent or shelter (To keep the sun’s rays to a minimum)
Madison’s First Flight
Madison and I got up extra early on the morning of her first flight to ensure everything was packed and we had not forgotten anything and proceeded to take the 45 min drive to Nashville Airport.
Once we made it to the airport we made our way to the ticketing area where we checked our bags and headed to security.
Next, we made our way to through security checkpoint which was a breeze because I have TSA Precheck which is a lifesaver and if you travel often it is something you should think about purchasing.
Once we passed through security with ease Madison and I found our way to the Delta Sky Lounge to grab a bite to eat before boarding.
Once we arrived at the gate she was excited to see all the airplanes in person. I explained to Madison that she’ll go through what I described as a tunnel to where we would actually board the plane.
Once the flight attendants found out it was her first flight they allowed her to meet the Captain and the Co-Captain. She also had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit!! It was so awesome.
Once the cockpit adventure was over we made our way to our designated seats and buckled up for the ride to Houston for her tee tee’s upcoming nuptials.
I explained the taking off and landing process which was eventless but Madison was excited to be taking her first flight so she nervously grabbed my hand and kissed me.
I also made sure I had snacks, wet wipes, a sweater or sweatshirt, along with Madison’s sinus medication.
Airline Rules For Flying with Kids
- One child over 14 days and under two (2) years of age, not occupying a seat, may be carried free of charge when traveling with an adult (12 years of age or older).
- Although a boarding pass is not required for the infant, you will need a Boarding Verification Document.
- Affordable Infant fares are also available allowing a Customer to reserve a seat for an infant and use his/her FAA-approved car seat. Online checkin is available if the infant is traveling on an Infant fare and is age verified.
- A copy of the child’s birth certificate is required to validate the age of all infants under two.
- A medical release for travel is required for any infant under 14 days old.
- Accompanied children ages two through 11 may purchase the applicable Child Fare for the flight (does not apply to unaccompanied children ages five through 11).
- Proof of age will be required at the time of travel.
- Online checkin is available if the child is traveling on a Child Fare and is age verified.
Minors under the age of 18 are not permitted to fly unaccompanied on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight.
If a minor is traveling with an adult over the age of 18, they must be listed on the same flight itinerary.
Online Checkin for Child and Infant Fares
If your child is traveling on an Infant or Child Fare and is age verified, you may request his/her boarding pass.
If your child is traveling on an Infant or Child Fare and is not age verified, you must provide valid proof of age at the airport when exchanging the confirmation number for a boarding pass. Your child will not be able to check in online.
- Age Verification Process:
- If your child is traveling on an Infant or Child Fare and does not have a Rapid Rewards or Southwest account, you must create one for him/her in order to check in online.
- You must present a valid Government-issued I.D. providing age (child) or a birth certificate (infant) to the Customer Service Agent at the airport when you check in for your flight.
- At that time, the date of birth listed in your child’s account will be updated to indicate that age has been verified.
- If you prefer, you may mail a copy of the child’s valid Government-issued I.D. proving age (for children) or the birth certificate (infants) to the perferred airline.
- The date of birth field in your child’s account will be updated to reflect that he/she is age-verified. Please allow two weeks for processing.
- If you submit your request in writing, you will receive a confirmation letter in the mail once the date of birth has been verified.
- Once the date of birth has been verified, you may check in online and request a boarding pass as long as your child’s account number is present in the reservation for which you are checking in.
Conclusion of Flying With Kids
Flying for the first time will be an exciting experience for your little one, preteen, or even someone who is elderly flying for the first time.
There’s not much we can do about the passenger who complains the moment your child takes a breath or even laughes in excitement a little to loud.
As long as you’re trying to keep your child calm most passengers will understand so dont worry about the few assholes who will find a reason to complain about the clouds being to bright.
Regardless of where you’re going flying for the first time is a big milestone no matter the age. What measures have you taken to ensure your child’s first plane ride was a success?
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