Flying with an Infant, Toddler, or Child: Tips for Flying with Kids

Make Flying With Children A Breeze

Anyone who has ever flown with children, or plans to do so in the future, worries about the experience.

Having flown on multiple occasions with multiple children, I've compiled some helpful tips and ideas that will answer your questions about how to make the experience easier.

Flying with infants, toddlers and young children can seem daunting, but the following information can help you be prepared, know what to expect, and avoid too much stress:


Seating

Some of the online booking websites won't let you book a child under two in his or her own seat, and automatically make them "lap" babies. If you do want a seat for your child, contact an airline agent. Ask them to match the price of the ticket/s you've already purchased online. Often, they will let you buy the additional seat from them.

Families flying with two adults can book two seats in front and back of each other. This is a good idea when the plane doesn't have four seats across. This way, the most active child can sit behind an adult family member, or baby in a car seat and not kick the seat of a stranger.

Sitting in the back can be a good idea, because it places you close to the lavatories, and children's noises are not as likely to bother others. When you have a fussy infant that wants to be held standing up, being able to stand in the back by the galley is nice. You may not want to sit in the back of the airplane if your child tends to get air sick, because the back can make for a bumpier ride.

Finally, it's usually more convenient for nursing mothers, or adults with infants to sit on the aisle. Think about trying to get over two people with a diaper bag and a wailing baby who's got a blowout diaper.


What to Pack

If you are flying with more than one adult and more than one child, you may want to separate supplies for each child in case you end up sitting apart. If you have two diapered children, this is especially important.

Depending on how long the flight is, the number of children with you on the flight, and how many supplies you need, try to carry on a backpack with toys, changes of clothes, books, snacks, and a diaper bag. Bring plastic bags to put soiled diapers in, so the smell will be contained. Your purse can also fit into the backpack along with new-never-seen toys, and a camera with recent pictures in case a child gets lost.

Liquids have to be under 3 oz. with the exception of baby formula, milk, water, and some other liquids if you are flying with a child. Bring sippy cups with water, and on board, ask attendants to fill the sippy cups with water instead of allowing the open cups that are served.

Take snacks and don't worry about security confiscating them, but do avoid bringing snacks with peanuts even if your child isn't allergic. Airlines are eliminating them and people with allergies to peanuts can have reactions just by having them nearby. Finger food snacks are best: goldfish crackers, cheerios, fruit snacks, raisins, etc.


Baby Carriers

One of the best tips for an easier flight experience is to have a good baby carrier. A good carrier should work up to age 2 or 3. If yours is a lap child do NOT have him or her attached to you while in flight. They will be safer not strapped to you.

Sometimes you can use your baby carrier through security, and sometimes they will ask you to remove your child. It usually depends on the age of the child, and if they are asleep.

The two models below are great examples:


Strollers

Bring the stroller you need for the whole trip, not just for the flight. Be sure to remove all the "extras" from your stroller before hand. (i.e. cupholders, sunshades, toys.)

Double strollers are generally allowed. Find your stroller's dimensions and look on your airline's website to make sure. If it's a tad over it will likely still work.

As with car seats, the stroller does not usually count against your baggage allowance but ask to be sure. Check the airline's website first. Email the airline with these kids of specific questions rather than call, so you will have the printout of an email to show anyone at the airport who tells you otherwise. Also, check out the link to the TSA website posted at the end of this article for rules, regulations, and help.

Usually, strollers are "gate checked." You will be given a tag at check-in but you can keep the stroller with you until you get to the door of the aircraft. Be sure to put the tag somewhere it won't be ruined or hidden when the stroller is folded up at the gate. You will leave your stroller at the door right before stepping onto the plane.


Car seats

A child in a car seat is less likely to bother others. Infants, toddlers, and young children can be reassured by the familiar, and more comfortable seat. They are especially helpful in restraining active children who would like to jump out of their seats and run around when your plane is trying to take off or land. It is easier to concentrate on comforting, talking to, and soothing unhappy strapped-in children than chasing them down aisles or holding them in place as they squirm in their seats or your lap.

If you are concerned about your car seat fitting, measure the widest part on the bottom and check with the airline. Booster seats for older children are NOT allowed, so don't try to bring one.

Usually, car seats won't count against the number of bags you are allowed, but be sure to ask, especially if flying in a very small aircraft and/or a low-cost company.

While baby car seats can easily get through security attached to a stroller, "convertible" car seats that go to 40lbs or heavier are more complicated. One idea is to attach the car seat to the stroller using bungee cords. Other ideas are fitting the car seat into the seat of the stroller or even putting a folded car seat in the basket underneath the stroller.


Checking In

If you are flying without an adult partner, you would ideally bring someone to the airport and have them stick around to help you watch the children while you check in. Parking is expensive, but this may not be the time to be frugal. Have your helper watch the children while you wait in line. Make sure they rejoin you when it's your turn so the flight agent can verify your travel documents.

If you are alone and flying with your little ones and don't have help coming with you to check in, accept help when help is offered. Most people sincerely want to help. Obviously, use discretion, and never let a stranger alone with your children. Ask them to help carry bags, or do something that doesn't involve caring for your children.

Go early. Shoot for 20-30 minutes before the recommended time. Most people show up right when they've been told. You may finish checking in to see a huge line forming behind me.

When you check in, ask if they can 'block' the seat next to you. Bring the carseat for a lap child to the plane. The carseat can always be gate-checked if they have to fill the seat.


Boarding the Airplane

Try to feed and change any babies and visit the bathroom between security and boarding.

If you are flying with more than one adult, split up getting on the plane. One adult can board with the bags, car seat/s, with the majority of the other boarding passengers. On board, they can install the seat/s, and put away the bags. The children can arrive with the other adult at the end of boarding with everything in order, and just take their seats. An added bonus is if there is a seating problem, the adult who boarded first can sort it out before the rest of the family arrives.

Do not board last if you are flying solo with your children. If there's a problem with your seats, it might be too late to fix if you wait to board at the end. Also, you will need the extra time to get organized and settle your children.


Bringing Electronic Entertainment

Very young children may not be good about wearing headphones. This can be the biggest hurdle if you decide to bring electronic entertainment. Very young children, especially, have a hard time with ear buds. Find headphones that your child won't gripe about. If they simply won't wear headphones, you may play DVDs or let them play electronic games with the sound turned off. Be sure batteries are fully charged before your flight.

Consider bringing a DVD they've never seen. It can be borrowed from a friend if you don't want to buy a new one.

Here are some good options for headphones and portable DVD players:


Ears and Altitude

It is not a fact that children need something to suck on for take-off and landing to avoid uncomfortable pressure. It's actually pretty rare. Many parents are so worried about this that they'll wake their baby or young children who have dozed off and shove bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, or anything else into their mouths.

Just keep them asleep! If they wake up because the pressure is uncomfortable, crying is actually the best way they can clear their ears.

If you are concerned about your little one's ears and feel that they need something to suck on to avoid discomfort, know that the most pressure-changing time is actually not during take-off or landing but at the beginning of the plane's descent, which is 40-60 minuets before landing happens.


Baby Food

Baby food is allowed through security. Keep the food in the original containers until you get past security. Feeding can be messy when you get on the plane.

Disposable bibs and spoons are convenient, but not necessary. I bring a plastic ziplock bag to put used utensils and dirty bibs in after they've been used.


Toys and Activities

Only bring silent toys. No remote controlled toys are allowed. The toy itself can be brought onboard without the remote. Avoid bringing anything fragile and/or valuable.

Think about bringing a new toy as a present to be opened on board. Small toy cars, or plastic animals action figures or polly pocket type toys are great.

Activity books, coloring books, and story books are great. Bring some washable crayons or markers. Keep it simple.

Infants love photos. Bring some photos in an inexpensive photo album (you can usually find them for a couple dollars). They also love mirrors, and playing interactive games with you: peekaboo, playing piggies with their toes, etc.

One idea I've used for toddlers and young children is to pack several small surprises for them. Then, I told them if they would behave for a specific amount of time, they could have a surprise. After the time was up, I gave them the surprise, and committed them to be good for another amount of time, at which point I gave them another surprise. I continued this for the duration of the flight.


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Calming Crying

Nearly everyone worries about this. Just know: babies are likely to cry during boarding. So, just plan on it. Don't stress out. Once the plane is taxiing and preparing to take off, the hum of the engine will help soothe him or her, and you will be in a better position to soothe and comfort.

A good tip is to take crying babies into the lavatory so the sounds will be muted. Obviously this won't work when the lavatory is in use, but when they are open, go for it!

Walking around the cabin can also quiet a baby. Both of my children loved me to hold them while I stood up. This was also true on the plane when they became fussy. A baby carrier can be very helpful with this. You can walk up and down aisle, save your arms, and have your hands free.


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Comments 4 comments

tritrain profile image

tritrain 5 years ago from United States

Very nice job!


Andrea Nelsworth profile image

Andrea Nelsworth 5 years ago Author

Thanks, tritrain. I remember how much I wished I had a better idea of what to expect, and what to do the first time I flew with my daughter. Hopefully, others will find it helpful.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

Wow, you have really covered all of the bases here! Traveling with kids is tricky and this is great read for anyone planning on it. Voted up and useful.


Andrea Nelsworth profile image

Andrea Nelsworth 5 years ago Author

Thanks, Tracy!

I spent a lot of time on this. Flying with kids used to stress me out, but just thinking things through and making a mental plan (even if it doesn't go like I hope) before I even set foot in the airport helps ME out tremendously. I hope it can help others too. :)

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