After almost 12 years of flying with kids, here’s my “how to fly with kids and not lose your mind” list.
Give each child a backpack as their personal bag. I believe in this so much I dedicated a post to the beauty of using backpacks as a child’s carryon. Backpacks are easy to carry, can hold a few necessities and it leaves plenty of room for boredom busters. Be sure to add chewing gum, which is handy during takeoff and landing, and a small copy of your travel itinerary along with contact numbers… just in case something happens.
Entertainment, also known as a boredom buster, is necessary. Sure, some flights have movies, but this is not a guarantee. Pack headphones, a tablet/phone/iPod, and/or a good book. My girls also travel with a notebook/activity pad and markers/pencils. They stay busy and they’re not looking at a screen the entire flight.
Prep them. If your kids are old enough, explain to them what is going to happen. You can also watch a movie with an airport scene (think Home Alone) and practice going through security at home.
Start with logistics. When looking at possible flights, try to fly at night or during naptime. Also, check in online before you get to the airport as soon as it’s available and choose your seats. At the gate, take advantage of pre-boarding!
If you’re traveling with another adult, sandwich the kids through security, while walking through the airport and in the jet bridge. One adult goes first, then kids, then other adult. It’s the best way to assist and protect them.
Check one big bag with everyone’s things. It’s tempting to have everyone use a backpack and a carry-on to avoid baggage fees, but I have found the headache attached to kids managing both is not worth it. Add keeping up with boarding passes, passports, etc., and it can be very cumbersome. One less bag a person helps a lot!
Have each kid wear a jacket/coat. Temperatures are unpredictable. They can always take it off, but it’s better to have it and not need it.
Let kids play before they fly. You can find an empty gate area once you’re through security or let them play before you leave home. Also, we eat dinner at the airport. By the time we’re on the plane they are full and tired.
Keep extra snacks in your bag and back-up entertainment. Extra toys, books, and activity pads will come in handy if there are delays.
For smaller kids, carry extra supplies in your diaper bag to cover delays (extra outfit, diapers, wipes, formulas, extra pacifier, etc.) Also, check strollers at the gate, not before.
Bonus Tip For Flying With Kids:
Try to remain calm and leave plenty of time for security and getting settled. Oftentimes, kids can pick up on our mood. If we are calm, patient and organized, kids can sense everything should be fine and may respond the same. At a minimum, you’ll be in a better space to handle any unforeseen situations.
Enjoy your flight!