We love traveling with our children! Sure it’s a lot more work, but the memories we have made are so worth it!
We have flown with our young children (9 and under) to Australia, New Zealand, Maui, Chile, Georgia, and Kauai, so we have quite a few flights behind us. And we’ve definitely have learned how to make flying with kids less stressful.
Here’s all our best tips. We hope these help you!
1. Have low expectations.
The very first thing we try to remember when flying with kids is to have low expectations.
That means low expectations for you and low expectations for the kids. We don’t expect to get any sleep or get a book read on the flight like we normally we would if we were traveling sans kids. If we happen to catch a few zzzs or have some personal time, it’s a bonus!
As for the kids, we expect them to be ornery and tired and to not sleep on the flight. Any behavior above this is a bonus.
We also expect to get stares and eye rolls if our kids are loud or crying. There’s a 99.9% chance you won’t see anyone from your flight again, so don’t worry about what they think. Most people who have children are understanding and those who aren’t, you won’t see again.
2. Give yourself plenty of time.
Checking in, getting to your gate, taking bathroom stops and boarding with kids take you more time than normal. Save yourself the stress by giving yourself lots of extra time. It’s better to be waiting at the gate than having to run through the airport with your kids and carry-ons.
We accidently left some of our stuff at security, but because we got there early, my husband had time to run back and get it before our plane took off.
3. Take advantage of early boarding.
Most airlines give priority boarding to anyone traveling with little kids, even if you aren’t in one of the first boarding zones. So take advantage! We usually get close to the line so that as soon as they start boarding, we have the luggage and stroller up by the gate so we are ready to take advantage of getting on with lots of time to spare.
Not only does this give you more time to get settled on your flight, but you don’t have to worry about going slow and holding up the line.
4. Pack lots of snacks.
I’m not sure what it is about flights, but everyone always seems to be extra hungry when flying. Pack tons of snacks. And then a few more.
We try to pack a variety of snacks. like granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit leather, peanut butter pretzels, applesauce pouches, and apples or clementines.
Something that also works really well for us is to make everyone their own snack bag at home before we go. Our kids know that once their snacks are gone, they don’t get more. This helps them from asking you a million times if they can have a snack.
5. Let go of screen time rules.
No matter what your screen time rules are at home, throw them out the airplane window. You won’t be a bad mom if your kids watch hours and hours of screen time on your travel day.
6. Bring new activities.
If your kids are like ours, they will love watching movies and getting extra screen time they don’t usually get. But it’s always a good idea to pack some new activities, too.
Play dough, stickers, window clings, small dollar store toys, and coloring books are some of our kid’s favorites things do on a plane.
You can wrap them up in tin foil to kill even more time as they open them up.
7. Check bags.
We use our Cotopaxi carry-on bags whenever my husband or I are traveling alone, but when we go with kids, we always check bags. Dropping them off at the ticket counter makes walking through the airport much easier and quicker.
8. Flying with a baby
Airlines will let you take baby formula or milk through security, just make sure you tell them beforehand so they can set it aside.
Take a good baby carrier like an Ergo or sling so you don’t have to hold your baby the entire flight.
Be sure to pack an extra outfit for spit ups and blowouts, plenty of diapers and wipes, and binki.
9. Best travel gear
We have a large suitcase with wheels that we check with most of our gear, and then we use our Cotopaxi carry-on bags for other stuff.
Stroller. We have the Phil & Ted’s double stroller and cannot recommend it enough. This stroller has traveled with us to Australia, NZ, Chile, Maui and Kauai and is still going strong.
We love this stroller so much because it’s a double stroller when needed for tired kids, but it doesn’t take up any more space than a single stroller. The back seat pops off. We take that part on the airplane with us and gate check the larger part. When our kids want to walk, having the extra seat in the back is a great spot for extra bags and luggage that you don’t want to carry.
Daypack. I got this backpack on Amazon for under $25 and has been worth every penny! It’s lightweight, easy to pack (it has it’s own carry bag) and holds a ton! There is also a separate water proof pocket to keep phone, wallet or anything else separate from the rest of the bag.
IPads. For longer flights, most airplanes have TVs and free entertainment at each seat. For shorter flights, having an Ipad is a great thing to have. Flying is about survival in our opinion, so we don’t feel bad about our kids using screens as much as they want on a flight.
Kid’s headphones. We take these kid’s headphones on all our flights. They stay on so much better than the little ones the airlines gives you. They also fold up and pack well.
10. TSA Pre-Check
We have lucked out by getting to bump to the front of security line when we travel with children, but it’s not a guarantee.
Sign up for TSA Pre-check so that you can bypass long security lines. You also don’t have to take off your shoes or removed laptops when you have Pre-check, making security less work for you and your family.
11. Wear Comfy Clothes
No matter what time you are traveling, put everyone in comfy clothes to fly in. It’s hard enough for kids to be contained in their seat, so put them in clothes they can easily move around in.
It also doesn’t hurt for you to wear comfy clothes that you can easily bend over in for dropped toys and snacks. 🙂
Other Travel Tips For Families
I hope these tips for flying with kids help you on your next adventure! You’ve got this!