29 Random tips for flying with children
Flying with children can be a lot of fun. No seriously it can. It can also be stressful and filled with drama.
There are loads of travel with kids tips out there that will give you the basics. I’ve written about them myself, most recently in Parent’s guide to flying with a baby. However, these tips don’t always cover those random situations you come across, or the tip that you wish you had known before you left. Yes, some are common sense and others you might have read before, but whether it’s as simple as packing a bendy straw for that milk your kid wants to drink out of the carton, or booking the best seats for your family (it’s not where you think), we have you covered.
It’s all about attitude
1. Have a little faith. Trust that you CAN do this; you can hop in the car or on a plane to find adventure and explore new places as a family.
2. Getting out the door is the hardest step. Once you have the kids fed and dressed with their shoes on (why are the shoes the hardest part!?) you can go anywhere.
3. Try new things! Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of what you think you can do with your kids just a little bit. They may surprise you!
4. You are a parent no matter where you go. Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you stop being a mom or dad. You have that job for life. Now it is up to you to decide what the backdrop of parenthood will be. Will you sit at home, or will you explore the Olympic peninsula and Eiffel Tower while enjoying cuddles and fending off tantrums? Personally I’d pick the latter.
6. Back up your photos. No seriously. Go do it right now. Save them on an external hard drive, cloud or somewhere other than your computer so you have an extra set. If your computer is lost or stolen while you are traveling, you will be very sad to see those images lost forever.
7. Make copies of your passport and credit cards before you travel. Leave one set in a safe place at home and take the other set with you. Don’t forget to stash the extra set you take with you in a different spot than the originals.
8. Let your credit card company and bank know you are traveling overseas before you head out so they don’t place a fraud alert on your account (Trust me. This just happened to us… again)
9. Get your passport and/or Nexus card. It may sound simple, but less than a third of Americans have a passport, which greatly limits where you can go and what deals you can take advantage of, especially those just north of the border in Canada.
10. If you love collecting local art, bring a flat medium size mailing box or a cardboard tube with you to transport your treasures home.
11. Pack at least one bendy straw when traveling with babies and toddlers to enjoy drinks on the go.
12. The 3-3-1 rule for liquids does not include medications, so that bottle of cough syrup or fever reducer for your little ones is fine in your carry-on bag. Just remember to take it out with your other liquids when going through security and check restrictions on countries you may be flying in and out of.
13. Don’t toss your packing list after your trip. Save a bit of time and stress by keeping an electronic version of your packing lists for next year’s vacation and make minor revisions as needed.
14. Keep small bills in your pocket. While a lot of luggage carrier stations accept credit cards, sometimes the card readers are out of order and you need a few bucks to get a cart, or to tip the curbside assistance service attendant. It’s worth it to avoid the stress of lugging your bags all over a large airport while keeping tabs on your family and the departure time.
15. Pack at least one book your child can stare at for hours, like a kid-friendly comic book.
16. Practice collapsing your stroller. If your stroller has remained in its open position since you bought it three years ago, it may be time for a refresher course on collapsing it. Better at home in the garage instead of in the security line at the airport.
17. Consider clipping a small blanket to each of your kids’ backpacks. Sometimes airplanes are as close to freezing as they can get and somehow your row is the only one without a blanket. Or, on shorter flights, not offered at all.
18. Wear a watch when you fly. Sometimes, with your arms full of kids and snacks and distractions for those kids, you just can’t search a bag for your cell phone, or the battery has died from hours of Angry Birds. And sometimes clocks aren’t visible around the airport.
19. Check to see if the flight you’d like to purchase offers the ability to make changes. Some airlines’ least expensive flights have no possibility to reschedule your flight, even for a fee. So if you need to make a change, for any reason, you have to buy new tickets.
20. Don’t forget the phone. Everyone’s booking airline tickets online, but if you want extra help sifting through options, don’t forget you can call a customer service rep. For example, bulkhead seats fill up fast, so if you want a seat there to take advantage of the bassinets, call the airline and have them check which flights have them available.
21. Bulkhead armrests are fixed, not movable. So if you are hoping to have seats where everyone can stretch out together, book a different row.
At the airport and on the plane
22. Give yourself a little extra time at the airport to account for diaper changes, lines (not every airport has a family line and even if they do, they may take just as long as the regular line), searching bags to make sure the lovies are in the carry-ons, and delays while bags are searched or your hands need to be swabbed (something that is happening to more parents who walk through standard metal detectors with their children, especially if the baby is in a carrier).
23. Some large airports have massive, fully stocked family rooms complete with changing tables, wipes, toys, rides, private rooms for nursing mothers with pillows, and baby food. Be sure to check out your airport web site in advance for any family amenities.
24. Airlines typically allow you to check car seats and strollers at no extra cost. You can do this either at baggage drop or at the gate as you board, if you think you’d like to continue using your stroller through the airport. Check your airline.
25. Considering buying a car seat bag or stroller bag to protect your gear while in transit from dirt, and hopefully a little extra wear and tear. Some airports do offer plastic bags for such items, but not all.
26. Most airlines will offer almost no assistance to passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled due to weather — even passengers traveling with small children. If you lower your expectations in advance, you will be (slightly) less stressed if you find yourself in this situation.
27. Traveling with a lap child? Aircraft often have extra oxygen masks on only one side, so you may have to move seats once on board so that you and your lap child are on the side with extra masks.
28. Child restraints: Even if you purchase the CARES child restraint system, you may not get to use it. Some airlines may not let you use them. Depending on the seat types, they may not fit. And some seats, with concave backs, may create an uncomfortable position for your child’s head.
29. Children’s luggage requirements may be different than the accompanying adult. Make sure you read your airline’s policies or call customer service.
What tips do you have for flying with (or even without) kids? Share in the comments below.