Ok, so you’ve got a family vacation coming up. And you get to fly to your destination! Are you excited? A little nervous? Or maybe a lot nervous? Well read on for tips to calm your nerves and keep your sanity when flying with kids.
You’re looking forward to getting on that plane to finally BE ON vacation, but that little voice in the back of your mind is reminding you of all that could possibly happen. Will they run off and get captured by a stranger? Unlikely. Will they fall and break their arm while running around the swimming pool, even though you’ve told them 100 times not to? Probably not. Will they have an allergic reaction while eating shell fish for the first time? Well, we’ll hope not. Will they fall off the dock while petting the dolphins and get stung by a sting ray? Seriously, what are the odds of that?
Vacations are for memories
You will make memories that last a lifetime, and stories to tell for years. You will probably take a gazillion pictures, and friend, you might even get a great one of the whole family smiling at the camera. You’ll show your children that life can be different than their normal, everyday routine, and that new places can be a lot of fun. You will feel stressed at times, but overjoyed at others. Vacations are all about the experience, and flying with kids is part of it!
So before I get to the best tips for flying with kids, let me tell you, fifteen years ago I never thought I’d be writing an article about flying tips! I used to be an anxious wreck, who often times got motion sick when flying. But each flight it gets a little easier and today I can hop on a plane with very little anxiety. And I’ve got some motion sickness tips, too, which I will share in a separate blog post another time. Ok, so let’s dive in.
Here’s how I (and my husband) manage to keep our sanity when flying with kids:
1. Set some rules before you go
Talk to your kids about listening while on the plane and in the airport, why it’s important, and what will happen if they don’t. This obviously works depending on the age of your child, but even for little toddlers it’s important to remind them over and over again.
2. Keep your hand-held items minimal
This allows you to have your hands available for young kids. Take a back-pack or cross-body purse as a carry-on for a flight. This way you’re not carrying a purse, suitcase or bag that requires a hand. Use those shoulders! Make sure your important items (phone, passport, ticket, wallet) are within an easy to reach pocket.
3. Bring snacks. Snacks. SNACKS! And more snacks.
Try to pack (and hand out) healthy snacks first like apples, bananas or trail mix. Next I’d recommend items that take a long time to eat, like suckers and mints. You may also want some crackers or other foods for fillers in case of delays. Tip: if you’re traveling internationally, make sure you bring everything in the original package, so buy snack portions.
4. Bring a water bottle for you AND one for your child.
Pack your own empty extra. This is a staple for flying with kids! You can seriously save so much money by refilling your own cup. After you get through security, fill it up before you get on the plane. Bonus: you won’t have to wait for your in-flight drink and snack.
There comes a time in life when you just need to get out of town. You’ve been there, right? Whether you’re tired of the same old routine every day, or want something big on your calendar to look forward to, a vacation can pull you out of a funk.
5. Prepare for motion sickness
If your kids have ever complained about being car sick, or don’t like amusement park rides, you’d better think about what to do if they get sick on the plane. I definitely can’t give medical advice, but ginger, mints and essential oils are a great place to start for little tummies.
6. Pick a window seat for your child
If it’s the first time you’re flying with kids, it can be great entertainment for them to watch out the window. A window seat can also help with motion sickness, too.
7. Pack activities for your kids in their own backpack
As a general rule, let them bring only activities that will fit in their backpacks, that they can carry. And think seriously about letting them bring their favorite well-loved toy, unless they are at an age where they understand the consequences of leaving it behind.
8. New activities and things to do
It’s really fun for young kids to present them with new little toys and games throughout the flight to keep boredom from creeping in. Also think about clever, interactive games like Eye Spy. It works in the car, so why not the airport? There’s so much to see between people-watching, shops and restaurants.
9. Don’t bring rolling toys or activities on a plane!
No cars, markers, balls, etc. I learned this early on when traveling with my toddler years ago! Because coloring is a great way to pass the time, I do recommend taking some supplies with you, like these triangle-shaped crayons.
10. Tablets or hand-held electronics are a life saver
Be sure to sync content before you go! You won’t have WiFi on the plane, or at least not enough to download content, and the last thing you want is to be stressed out at the airport while you’re trying to download favorite shows. Also don’t forget headphones for your kids. Planes are very noisy and your kids will need them.
11. Sync kids games to your phone
You just never know when a battery will die! This is all about being prepared, friends!
12. Bring a small blanket for the airport
I’ve seen another (genius) mom do this at the airport during a layover. She basically set up a tablet for her little ones to watch and told them they could lay down and hang out to relax as they were watching the movie as long as they stayed on the blanket.
13. Bring layers
The temperature in planes can be extreme, so be prepared by packing layers in your carry-on. You’ll want to leave space in your child’s backpack for activities and toys.
14. Have your kids potty several times before getting on the plane
This is also an area that you could talk to your kids about in advance. Reiterate the importance of going potty as many times as you ask them to, so they’ll just accept it at the airport. Then make sure you go after security. I’d recommend about ten minutes before boarding begins, if possible. Keep in mind that lines at airports and during the flight can be long so try to manage it ahead of time. As much as you can prepare, just know that when nature calls, there’s not much you can do about it except to be understanding.
15. Plan plenty of time
This one is SUPER important! We all know, everything takes longer with children. When you’re planning your trip, if you have multiple flight options, always go for the one with the longer layover. So if you’re given the option of one hour or two, choose two. This allows time for potty breaks, snacks, and getting from one terminal to the next. Likewise, plan to arrive at the airport extra early on your way to vacation and back home. Everyone is less stressed out when you have ample time at the airport.
16. Bring your patience
Traveling can be stressful on parents and children. Remember that the airport might be a new place for your children, so they could want to explore and ask lots of questions. Meanwhile, all you want to do is to get to the gate. Make a commitment ahead of time to bring your patience during the flight and all the connections.
Some things will go great when you’re flying with kids, and you may have something unexpected happen at the airport or during your flights. But you know what? That’s ok. You will get to your destination, and I’m 99% sure you will have a great vacation. You will create experiences that you can cherish, and maybe a few you can learn from!
Flying with kids can be fun, if you approach it with the right mindset. It’s time to assume the best and have a great trip!
Before you start packing, comment below with your greatest take-away from this article. Happy flying! 🙂