Air Travel with Kids: My Tried and True Tips

Monday, September 17, 2012
I've been flying with my kids for almost 10 years. By the time Emma turned one, she had flown 3 times. Now, 9 years later, we've completely lost track of the number of legs she's logged on flights back and forth to various destinations.

For many of the flights, I've flown solo with the kids. Many of our trips have been to see my sister in Tampa and subsequently to Orlando.

From the very beginning of my motherhood days, I've been accustomed to flying alone with the kids. It hasn't always been a trip {pun intended!}, but it's always been worth it. Next week, I'll be doing it again when the girls and I head to Tampa and Orlando and again in April when we head to Phoenix for spring break.

I've learned a thing or two (or three) in my countless hours on an airplane with little ones. Whether you're going it alone or you've got a spouse to help you cover the bases, you'll want to check out my tips for making air travel smoother for kids (yes, even when there is turbulence!).

1. Pack a small backpack of BRAND NEW play things.
You will need distractions once you are on the plane, and brand new items make for perfect distractions. A few days prior to your trip, shop for a few favorite, but brand new items including small toys, books, crayons, and a small coloring book. Better yet, surprise your children with them by packing them at the last moment. When they get on the plane, surprise them with the new goodies! The smaller the backpack the better. Little backs tire easily, and if you end up being the one holding it, you don't want to carry a backpack that is large, heavy, and overloaded.

2. Dress your children in easy on/off shoes and zip-up hoodies.
Minimize the stress of and time through security by being prepared. Slip-on shoes that can easily be taken off and put on are best. You don't want to be fumbling with shoelaces, straps and buckles as the person behind you subtly grunts into your ear. Hoodies that zip are perfect for going through security. Plus, airplanes can be very cold. Another good tip: if you have girls, make sure they ditch the fancy jewelry for the flight. It's been my experience that jewelry has a way of getting lost on the plane, and it's a hassle to remove when passing through security. Stow it in the suitcase until you've reached your destination.

3. Pack snacks!!!
Most airlines no longer serve meals, and would you really want the stuff they're serving anyway? Pack small bags or containers of snacks, such as nuts, crackers, pretzels, popcorn, granola bars, apples, and carrot and celery sticks. Unfortunately, you'll have to buy water once you've gotten through security. Depending on the duration of your flight and number of children, you'll want at least 2 or 3 bottles.

4. Bring in-flight electronic entertainment.
Not all flights are equipped with in-flight entertainment, and if it is available, it can be costly depending on the number of children you have. Bring a portable DVD player or an iPad or iPod Touch with educational apps to keep little minds and hands busy for long flights.

5. Bring a small blanket such as a baby's blanket to use as a pillow.
We usually book early morning flights so that we arrive at our destination early enough to get a full day in. Those early morning flights mean early wake up calls. By the time we are mid-air, eyelids start to get heavy and at least one of us dozes off. Airlines have become very stingy with their blankets, and would you really want to use a public blanket anyway? Roll the blanket up, stick it down the side of the inside of the backpack and once on the plane, pull it out and use it as a pillow.

6. Allow plenty of time.
If there is one thing that I've learned as a mother it's doing ANYTHING with children takes three times as long as it does without them in tow. Give yourself more than enough time to get anywhere and everywhere. You know they'll have to stop at least 5 times in the airport for bathroom breaks. They'll need to have their shoes tied. They'll be tired of walking. They'll need a drink. You know the drill. Build in plenty of extra time to get from point A to B. I'm talking an extra hour here. Trust me.

Have you got a tip to add to the list? Please leave it in the comments. I'm always looking for ways to streamline travelling with the kiddos.

Happy trails to you!

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