Travel Tips for People Flying With Kids

A little prep can eliminate a lot of stress


Traveling with kids can be an exciting, fun experience for the whole family. Or you might feel so frazzled that you actually wind up looking like your passport photo. Yikes!

Want to avoid feeling like you need a vacation from your family vacation? Travel bloggers Alan and Kerri of Ritz-Rosé-Repeat are here to help. They’ve been traveling internationally for years with their kids. As part of their travels, they have a goal to see all seven wonders of the modern world. And they’re almost there.

Inspired? Here are some hard-earned tips for kids of all ages they’ve learned while traveling as a family. 

For All Ages

First, here are some ideas that apply to everyone—both kids and adults. These suggestions can help from initial planning to takeoff to touchdown. 

  1. Ward off jet lag. If your travel involves multiple time zones, tackle the inevitable before you leave. Start adjusting everyone’s routine a few days in advance. By the time you land, your body will be much better prepared to cope with the new schedule.
  2. Earlier is better. Schedule extra time—lots of extra time. Every family is different, but plan on getting to the airport two to three hours early to get everyone (and all assorted carry-ons) through security.
  3. Full bellies = happy travelers! Pack plenty of snacks and light meals to keep everyone’s stress levels down. Most food can be taken through security and is fine with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Consider packing both healthy options as well as sweets for a fun distraction when needed. 
  4. Layer it up. Since temps will vary throughout your trip, have clothing options. For example, if you’re leaving New York in December for the Caribbean, you’ll need to be prepared to peel some things off along the way.
  5. Check it. Check whatever luggage you can. Kids can be a lot to keep up with, and the fewer bags you have to carry, the better. Consider consolidating your kids’ extra items in your bag, if possible. You’ll appreciate having free hands!
  6. Remember, life is messy. Drinks will spill, snacks will scatter, and kids will get airsick. Not to worry, though—bring an extra set of clothes just in case. 
  7. Make friends. Talk to your seat neighbors as everyone is getting settled in. Introduce yourself and your child. If you can establish a conversation early on, you can gain an ally (and maybe even a helping hand) during your flight!

Infants

With babies, even a quick trip to the store for milk can turn into an adventure. Think about your child's last public meltdown. Now picture that at 10,000 feet. When it comes to infants, having a plan in place goes a long way toward making traveling easier.

  1. Bring baby’s first book. Even newborns need passports. There are more steps involved though, so make sure you review all the requirements before you apply.
  2. Be mindful of tiny ears. Altitude changes when flying are especially tough on babies. Giving them a bottle or breast-feeding during takeoff and descent can help.
  3. Seriously—check it. For the most part, airlines won’t charge you to check a stroller at the gate. Which means one less thing for you to keep track of during your flight.
  4. Carry it on. Things like diaper bags are usually not counted as a carry-on. Double check with your airline to be sure, though—you’ll want to bring those extra pacifiers and wipes! Especially since wipes can double to clean nearby surfaces. Child safety seats usually aren’t counted, either. And speaking of which...
  5. Buckle up. Most airlines allow children 24 months and younger to sit on their parents’ laps for no extra charge. But unexpected turbulence can cause injuries. After all, if everything else on the plane is legally required to be secured, you probably want to buckle up your most precious cargo! Your safest bet is to call the airline to ensure your baby has their own seat, and use an FAA-approved car seat. Most airlines offer up to a 50% discount on tickets for infants.

Toddler–Pre-K

This age group might be the most challenging to travel with. They’re moving at breakneck speeds—both physically and mentally. It’s a lot to keep up with at home, and even more so in brand new environments. Here are some tips to positively focus all that energy and curiosity.

  1. Keep little hands busy. Bringing new toys is a great way to keep kids engaged. Consider hitting the dollar store for less expensive options that won’t cause regret if they get lost. Things like coloring books, crayons and felt boards are great ways to keep their hands and minds occupied. Or even consider paint with water books—no actual paint required, just a bit of water to bring colors to life!
  2. Celebrate independence. Make a big deal about them having their own seat. And remind them that while their seat is their very own, the seat in front of them belongs to someone else—so no kicking!
  3. Bring a snuggle buddy. A favorite stuffed animal or doll will come in handy for naps. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it—losing a favorite companion could be heartbreaking for your child.
  4. Chew, chew, chew. Pack some gummy candy or gum to help children’s ears pop as altitude changes. Teaching them to yawn on purpose can help as well.
  5. Better safe than sorry. Pull-up diapers can be a lifesaver. Even if your child has grown out of them, they can help prevent accidents if there’s a line at the bathroom.

Elementary School

Your grade-schooler is likely already learning polite behavior. And has started to grasp that some situations require patience. A little prep work can get them comfortable and settled in for a day of travel—hopefully with a limited amount of “are we there yet?”

  1. Practice makes perfect. Talk about what they’ll be doing as they go through security and board the plane. Yes, amazing views, tray tables and peanuts are all fun parts of flying. But waiting can also be a big part of the trip, so setting expectations will help on the day of travel.
  2. Plug in. Electronic devices stocked with downloaded movies and shows are great for passing the time faster. Just be sure to bring chargers and earphones, as well as backups in case anything gets broken or lost!
  3. Unplug. If your child enjoys reading, pack a few new books as a surprise. Or come prepared with game ideas. I Spy, 20 Questions, Would You Rather and 6 Degrees of Separation are fun challenges the whole family can get in on.
  4. Pop! For this age, a solid nose pinch while keeping their mouth closed and trying to exhale can help regulate ear pressure.
  5. Potty training 2.0. Help your child understand the restrooms. It may sound silly at first, but plane lavatories can be tricky. They’re small, you’re only allowed to go at certain times and the toilets are startlingly loud. Your child reaching bathroom independence pays off, since helping them in a tiny lavatory can be a comedy of errors.

The Most Important Tip

Enjoy the journey! Leave plenty of time, pack thoughtfully and embrace the unexpected. Ultimately, everything will be OK, and you’ll all make memories that will last a lifetime.


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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