Flying with the Kids? It's Easier than You Think

Many young families rely on the airlines to whisk them to faraway places, but getting there is rarely fun. Here's how to cope.

By FamilyTime


If you tremble with anxiety at just the thought of arriving at the airport with the kids, luggage, and car seats, you are not alone. Navigating busy airports and crowded planes with young children can be daunting. But it does not have to be.

Plan Ahead
As with so many things involving little ones, it pays to plan ahead.

Book your seats early and request bulkhead seats. These allow more room for the kids and their stuff. If you have older children, try to get them seats nearby -- behind you or across the aisle.

If you have a very young baby, check with the airline about age restrictions. Most have none but a few do.

Although most domestic airlines permit children under two to travel free, buy a seat for them, if you can. Bring their car seat and strap it into the plane's seat. Not only is this safer, but children are accustomed to sitting still and even sleeping in car seats.

Call ahead and order kids' meals for your children. These days, many airlines don't offer food, so plan to bring along snacks that your kids like. Be mindful of getting through security with the food. Pack it in appropriately sized containers.

Finally, mail a box of extra diapers, clothes, and other supplies to your destination. If the airline loses your bags, at least you will have some the basics at the other end.

Prepare for the Airport
Plan to take as large a carry-on as you can and pack it with toys, simple games, coloring books and crayons, and plenty of snacks. A loaded iPad works wonders keeping youngsters engaged.

For long trips, many parents wrap little toys for their kids and pass them out at regular intervals -- one an hour, for example. The wrapping makes them special.

Let children carry on a favorite stuffed animal or "blankie."

At the Airport
Arrive early. Leave plenty of time to park the car, check luggage (carry on only what you will need for the children), navigate security, and get to the gate.

Buy the kids healthful snacks and beverages in the airport so that they don't board hungry and thirsty. Use bathrooms and change diapers before boarding.

Count heads frequently, but don't insist that the children sit still at the gate. Let them burn off some energy on the ground, as long as they are not annoying anyone.

If possible, one adult should board early and stow all the bags and other supplies. Bring the kids on the plane as late as you can.

On the Plane
Encourage kids to color, play cards, read, and listen to iPods or similar devices the plane. Little ones will want to walk up and down the aisles with you. Do this only when there is no other aisle traffic.

Babies should nurse or take bottles during landing and take-off to keep their ears from popping.

Stay Relaxed
Let flight attendants and other passengers help you. The more relaxed you are and the more time you allow for even simple tasks, the easier the flight will be. Time, planning, and patience are your friends when it comes to air travel with your children.