We’ve done it, mamas! We’ve survived the start of the school year. We’ve gotten into a routine. We’ve mastered the sports/homework/activities schedule. And now? We’re ready to shake it up and take a trip. You might be dreaming of a tropical vacation. Or planning your next family escape. Or starting to think about holiday travel (crazy, right? I hate to admit it, but the holidays are right around the corner). No matter what your reason for traveling (though let’s be serious…a leisurely trip to somewhere tropical seems like a fair reward for surviving September!), woes about navigating the airport with kiddos in tow just might be what’s keeping you from finalizing those plans. No worries! With these smart tips to master flying with kids, you are good to go!
Airports can be intimidating. They are crowded. And loud. And germy. And, frankly, totally overwhelming for most adults, let alone young children. So how do you handle it? The way I see it, you have two choices. You can opt to sit home and wish you were elsewhere. Or, you can take the bull by the horns and tackle airline travel head-on. Personally, I have opted for the second choice figuring that, at worst, I’ll be stressed (and possibly annoy a plane full of passengers) BUT end up in a place that will make us all happy. While no trip is perfect, I’ve found a few things to be helpful in making our flying with kids less stressful for all involved.
6 Tips to Master Flying with Kids
- Get there early! Seriously, friends. This is vital. Start with your flight time and work backwards, allowing time for travel to the airport, time to find parking, and time to walk/shuttle to the airport (and remember to add in the obligatory two hours before flight time to get through security!). And then? ADD ON THIRTY MINUTES. (I know…at this point, you are thinking it might take less time to drive all the way to your destination – even if it would require crossing an ocean.) But, a built in buffer will keep your stress down. Traffic. A diaper blow out. A missing sippy cup. A forgotten lovey. Something is bound to come up when flying with kids, so do yourself a favor, and build in some time to handle the inevitable crises.
- Be security-ready. For me, the most stressful part of maneuvering flying with kids is getting through security. Lines are long, people are cranky, and I’m always afraid I’ll do something the wrong way and hold people up (which will only lead to more crankiness). Take a few minutes before hopping in line to organize yourself and the kids. Have your IDs and plane tickets ready, your stroller collapsed, your shoes removed, etc., before you get to the head of the line. The more prepared you are, the quicker you will get through the lines and crowds–and the closer you will be to getting to your final destination. IMPORTANT TIP: Review the current TSA guidelines before you leave, as rules and regulations are updated often.
- Use a stroller. Even if your kiddo no longer regularly uses a stroller, you might want to consider taking one with you. Strollers are great for multiple reasons. They are fantastic for holding things. No matter how well you try to condense and take as little luggage as possible, you will end up with STUFF everywhere: bags, food, toys, etc. And it just seems to multiply as you make your way through the airport (that or your arms are just getting tired from lugging things!). So if your kiddos would rather be walking around and exploring, that stroller will make a great STUFF-mover. Another great use for the stroller is–ready for this one?–your kid! Even the biggest “I-am-too-big-for-the-stroller” kiddo often cave and want a place to rest at some point. Traveling is exhausting for even the most seasoned travelers; I can only imagine how exhausting it must be for kiddos!
- Pack the kiddos their own kid-friendly carry-on. Kids like acting like adults. They want to have what we have, so a little backpack or pull-behind suitcase is perfect. Equally as important as the bag itself (the more fun and kid-friendly, the better!), is what is IN the bag. I like to use Ziploc bags to organize things so that the kids can easily find what they are looking for. The possibilities are endless in terms of what to pack in there (and obviously vary according to age and interest). Among items such as lovies and games, I always make sure to include a bag of arts and crafts, a bag with a few healthy snacks, and a bag with a new little toy or treat. The more organized and well planned the carry-on is, the longer it is likely to keep the kiddos occupied!
- Have the snack bar stocked and ready for take-off. Literally. You’ll want to have some extra snacks when flying with kids for two reasons. The first is that eating/chewing during take-off will help your kiddos’ ears (if you are breastfeeding, this nursing the baby will also help with this). Also, snacking may help distract them if they are anxious about the flight. Second, for better or worse, kids love to snack. They snack when they are scared, when they are bored, and, occasionally, even when they are ACTUALLY hungry. For your own sake (and for the sake of all others on the plane), go ahead and let them go heavy on the snacks during the flight. Giving them a few in their own carry on and then packing more in your own bag allows you to not only give them freedom to choose, but also to monitor what/how much you give them.
- I’m not a huge proponent of buying kids toys just to buy toys, but I do think there are exceptions to every rule…and, this is one of them. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (think Dollar Store or Target Dollar Spot), but a little something new can go a long way in terms of keeping the kiddos entertained for hours on end in a confined aircraft. I always pack a surprise or two to break out when the going gets tough. Or, even better, if the going is awesome and it is time to reward them!
Most of all, don’t forget to pack the absolute most important item necessary for airport travel–your patience. And maybe a cocktail from an airport restaurant–seriously! Flying is stressful. Flying with kids is even more stressful. Scary? Yes. Do-able? Totally. Be prepared, manage your expectations, and pack your patience. It’s an exciting experience for kids, and the end result–the trip itself –is even more exciting. So plan that trip, mamas! You’ve earned it.
First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:98233280, copyright:FamVeldman
Second image credit: depositohotos.com, image ID:63740605, copyright:Yaruta
Third image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:9557639, copyright:andresr
Latest posts by Amy Waltermyer (see all)
- 5 Must-Know Tips to Tackle Disney in a Day - March 19, 2018
- 10 Snow Day Activities to Bust Boredom - February 7, 2018
- 11 Smart Tips to Ace Your Parent-Teacher Conference - September 25, 2017