Our oldest has been on 21 planes thus far in his short little 3.5 year life (not counting small plane rides with Daddy, of which there have been several). Between hubby being a pilot (a flight instructor, currently), living a four-hour plane ride away from family, and traveling once a year for our mission organization, you’d think we have the whole traveling thing down to a science.
It is never quite that predictable, but there are definitely some tips that we can share that we’ve learned along the way. Here are our top 10 tips for braving commercial air travel with small kiddos in tow:
Bring lots of snacks.
Bring a large variety. As I type this (on a four-hour flight!), we have one of the kids’ backpacks stuffed with rice cakes, rice crackers, raisins, gluten-free instant oatmeal packets (hot water from the flight attendants), dill pickles, tuna on sprouted grain bagels, cucumber slices, and grapes. Most (if not all!) of it will be gone by the time we get home.
Don’t board until the last minute,
even though they give you the opportunity to board first (but make sure you are waiting at your gate!). The less time you have to confine your wiggly kiddos to a small enclosed space, the better. We wait until pretty much everyone else has boarded, then go on.
Consider what time of day is best
for your toddler. For us, the middle of the day is best. We want to get a full night of sleep the night before, and we attempt to get the kids home to bed by bedtime. We can just make it with a four-hour flight plus a two-hour time difference.
Even if you don’t normally allow your kids to watch TV, you may want to consider letting your preschooler veg out with some in-flight cartoons (our 18-month-old doesn’t have the attention span for TV, which requires more creativity on our part!). Four hours is a long time to ask a 3.5-year-old sit still, let alone an 18-month-old, which brings me to number five…
Bring a baby carrier
like an Ergo if you think you’ll be able to get her to sleep. We’ve done lots of swaying and shhh’ing in the aisles of planes to get our little ones to sleep. The bonus is that they are contained and quiet while sleeping!
Pack a few special toys and activities, but don’t overdo it.
Avoid small parts, and noisy toys. This time around we brought a special coloring book with magic markers that our 3.5-year-old got for Christmas and hadn’t played with yet, some paper and crayons, a favourite book and a brand new book, a mini magna-doodle that was in his stocking, and a favourite train. The sheets of hundreds of mini stickers entertained our 18-month-old for quite a while as she stuck them one at a time to anyone and anything that would let her (the flight attendants were awesome, and everyone thought she was adorable!).
Be sure to tuck bibs into your carry-on,
just in case. Then, remember to actually use them! (We’ve forgotten more times than I can count until after the fact).
Pack at least one extra outfit per kid,
if not two. Last time we flew, our toddler had a diaper blowout, which she hasn’t done since babyhood, but of course it happened on the airplane. We only had one spare outfit, and thankfully that’s all we ended up needing! I was kind of nervous though, and this time we brought two. Some advice says to pack an extra outfit for the parents as well, but we find that too much to carry, and we’re ok with risking it.
Know that you are allowed to bring liquids if you are traveling with an infant (up to two years old).
We brought a couple of frozen 100% juice boxes to keep our tuna sandwiches fresh, and kept them as a back-up treat for wiggly kids (they don’t usually drink juice, so it was a novelty).
If your kiddo is lucky enough to still be breastfeeding then be sure to nurse lots, especially on take-off and landing. The air pressure changes can be painful on little ears, and nursing will help.
Each time we fly, we tweak our system just a little bit more. This past Christmas was our best yet, and it was refreshingly “easy” (as far as traveling with small kids can be). Hopefully these tips will help you on your next flight.
Beth is a natural redhead, wife to a pilot husband and mama to (almost) 3 little ones. She is passionate about missions, motherhood, and finding the beauty in everyday life. She blogs from the Canadian prairies about the art and soul of audacious homemaking at Red & Honey.
4 comments to 10 Tips for Airplane Travel with Young Children
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I traveled across the United States with an almost two year old last year. Some of these I did but several I thought, “Now, why didn’t I think of that!” Thanks for the list!
We pretty much have the traveling with two small ones down…they are easy travelers. However, this summer we will be flying with three AND I am flying from BC to Nova Scotia with all three, by MYSELF. That is 12-13 hours including a couple of hours for a layover. I am crazy. And I am definitely going to need some tips for that.
I love the frozen juice box idea, I will definitely be doing that!
A couple of things that I think are important are making sure that the kidlets (and yourself) keep hydrated and that they are wearing comfortable clothing with a couple of layers that are easy to take on and off depending on the temperature. Also lots of airports have a play place that are great for layovers, I just always make sure that that I clean their hands after.