As part of my Traveling With Small Children series, here are my tips/thoughts on flying with little ones. I debated whether or not to include it because once our oldest daughter turned two and we would need to pay for a seat for her, we stopped flying and started driving everywhere. So we haven’t flown in a while. But I learned a lot during the times that we did fly and decided to go ahead and include this post.
FREE LAP CHILD. Children can sit in an adult’s lap for free until they turn 2, when they are required to have their own seat. If you have a really squirmy toddler, you might hate yourself for being cheap and choosing to do this 😉 But if you’re like us, it’s the only way you can afford to fly!
DIRECT FLIGHTS. We found that flying with our small child would get more difficult the more planes we had to be on. Because we live in a small town, our favorite option was to fly Alegiant (allegiantair.com) because it was a cheap airline that flew out of our town and got us closest to our destination without having to change flights. Sometimes that means having family pick us up a couple hours away, but driving a couple extra hours is easier than having to switch planes. Kids can scream, sleep, play loudly, or be entertained in the car without bothering other passengers, which was a huge stress relief for us. So we were able to get really close really quickly with one flight and drive the rest of the way. Not as ideal as one direct flight to our exact destination but better than switching planes a bunch.
LONGER LAYOVERS ARE YOUR FRIEND. During the few times that it was not cheaper to fly Alegiant and we had to go on two or three different planes, we discovered that it was a little easier to have some time to move around rather than to jump right onto another plane. It gives the kids a chance to run around, be a bit more loud, watch airplanes out the window, talk to other kids, etc….stuff kids need to do but can’t do on an airplane without frustrating everyone around them.
BABY CARRIERS ROCK. I’ve raved about our Ergo baby carrier before. This is one of those times where some sort of baby carrier can come in super handy. It’s nice because it takes up next to no space- just roll it up and throw it in a bag or even keep it on your back like a backpack or if you have a sling you can keep it over your shoulder. You never know when it might come in handy. Especially with really small children.
USE YOUR STROLLER AND CHECK IT FOR FREE AT THE GATE. Even if our daughter did not want to ride in the stroller, it functioned fantastically as a bag carrier!! When you are traveling with kids you need more stuff and it’s not fun to lug it all around. The stroller was incredibly handy for this. You simply use the stroller right up until you get on the plane, and you fold your stroller up and leave it with all the other strollers (wheel chairs, etc.) Make sure to get a tag for it from an employee at the gate before you line up to board the plane.
CARSEATS CHECK FOR FREE. If you are paying for a seat for your child, you will probably want to bring the carseat onto the plane so your child can sit in it. But if you have a free lapchild, you can check your carseat with your bags for free. That way you can have your own carseat when you get to your destination.
NURSE DURING TAKE-OFF AND LANDING. I have heard that in order to help little ones deal with the pressure in their ears during take off and landing, you should nurse them or encourage them to suck on something like a pacifier. This has worked super well for us.
FOOD. Baby food, bottles, stuff like that can all go through security as long as it’s well labeled even though it’s a liquid- read up on the requirements for this so you’re not surprised. And don’t forget snacks…for your kids and yourself too! I sometimes forget that it’s ok to bring food. Airport food is expensive. Bring sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, muffins, etc. (Anything not liquid!) Also bring empty water bottles and sippy cups and fill them at the drinking fountain.
THINGS TO DO ON A PLANE. Of course you don’t want to have a million toys to keep track of or carry around with you. So choose wisely. What do your kids love? What will keep them occupied for the longest period of time? For us it was books, a magnadoodle, a baby doll and the ipod. We downloaded toddler games on the ipod like with farm animals and drawing. And we also bought a few shows off of itunes. Elmo and Blues Clues…her favorite at the time.
How about YOU, do you have any good tips for flying with kids on planes? I haven’t flown with multiple children or children over the age of two. Let me know what kinds of things you do to make traveling easier with your family.
Thanks for reading! Happy traveling 🙂
TIPS FROM READERS! I asked and you delivered. Here are some tips from other moms who travel often:
The CARES harness. You can use it to turn an airplane seatbelt into a harness. It’s great for when you’re going places where you are going to have a car seat provided and don’t want to bring yours along.
Security check points generally have a special line for people traveling with children. They’re almost always shorter than the general security line.
Small regional jets and discount airline planes frequently do not have changing tables in their bathrooms. Something to be aware of when traveling with infants.
On most airlines, you can get water for free from the flight attendants that you can use if you need to mix formula while on a plane. It’s a much better deal than buying water in the terminal, and easier than getting it through security. Check to see what’s complimentary on your airline before your trip.
Wear your baby/toddler through security! TSA will not make you take your child out of a carrier. You will be flagged through a metal detector, and then will have your hands swabbed. This also has the upside of getting you out of having to go through the full body scanner.
Bring some snacks that they don’t get often, and emergency suckers. Suckers can help with the ear pressure during take off/landing.