Many of us may have experienced that “look” from people as you board a flight with a little one; one of my worst fears is ticking off those fellow passengers with low tolerance for toddlers/babies. In the first 18 months or so of our first son’s life we took 11 trips, most of which required plane rides. My husband grew up traveling so it has become an integral part of our lives. We are not perfect at it and we have had some less than pleasant trips, but I have learned my fair share about what makes life a bit smoother when traveling with the littles!
TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH KIDS:
- The first thing you should know is that when it comes to airline travel there is a lot that most people don’t know. First of all, make sure you let the airline know if you are not purchasing your ticket that you will have an “infant in arms” while on board. You can check just about any baby items on most airlines without those things “counting” toward checked baggage which includes but is not limited to a pack n’ play, car seats, and strollers.
- To make navigating the airport a little easier, I usually bring a stroller with us through the airport, which you can gate-check when you board your flight. It makes for an easy place to feed baby if they are eating solids and allows you to have hands free to get around the airport more easily. If you have an even smaller baby that is still in a car seat, the same goes for a travel system. You will have to send it through the machines at security if it fits, or they will walk it through the metal detectors for you. You can gate-check the car seat as well or take it on the plane if there are empty seats or you have purchased a seat for baby. (*Note about checking items: I was hesitant our first time checking car seats and strollers because I was worried about them getting damaged. You can wrap those things in garbage bags or even buy the packing, industrial, Saran wrap to protect them. One thing airlines have been good about is compensating us when anything has been damaged. If there is a baggage office in the airport and you have time, it is an easier process to stop immediately and show them the damage and file a report. If that isn’t an option, take pictures as soon as possible and file a report online. We have been compensated every time.)
- Security is very forgiving when it comes to baby items (and by the way, we have never been asked for identification for babies on domestic flights, but I do hear it depends on the airline and gate agent. To be safe, bring a birth certificate). Any baby products that are sealed TSA doesn't have a problem with, like baby food, pre-made bottles etc. If you have additional items with you that are liquid but not sealed, again I have not had a problem with them being over the 3 oz size, but they will normally check it, so things like medicine, diaper rash cream, or bottles/sippy cups with water or milk. They wipe them and test them which takes a little time. If you are going to be cutting it close, ditch those items. It will make the process quicker through security if you have all liquids in a separate bag that can be quickly investigated by security rather than having to rifle through a diaper bag and all its’ other contents.
- Airlines will allow travelers who need more time for the boarding process to board first so you can get on and get settled. I like to be the very last person on to minimize the time in that gloriously small and confined space with that little one. Usually I book an aisle seat anyway so I can get up more easily if need be, so it makes more sense to be the last one on so I’m not having to get up to allow other passengers to get by me. I also wait until the last-minute so I can change diapers in the airport restrooms where there is a changing table. Very few flights that I have been on have changing tables in the lavatories and on more than one occasion I have had to change a poopy diaper on the lid of a toilet seat with a kid far larger than the allotted space. One time poop even toppled out of the diaper on the floor and then I not only had to clean the kid up, but the floor in the bathroom. Oh the joys!
- To survive the flight, most flight attendants are very kind and I end up spending a decent amount of time standing in their areas or walking up and down the aisles; that can kill some good time. Pray for kind people would be my last bit of advice. On a particular flight, one flight attendant moved me to where I would have a row to myself with my son, and when snacks came around she noticed he was sleeping and opened my snacks for me. On another flight, there was the sweetest couple on the aisle across from us and noticed one of our boys was getting pretty antsy. They offered us a granola bar they had, and even to hold our baby so we could focus on the older one. Bless them. People like that can make a stressful situation, suddenly doable.
- When it comes to a sleep schedule, I have usually adjusted my kids to whatever time zone we are in. Usually that means just keeping them up a little longer at night. From there, they sleep in a little later to adjust to the new schedule.
- FOR BABIES: I highly recommend a Pacific Baby Thermal Bottle. It keeps the milk cold, hot, room temperature, whatever temp it is at when you pour it into the bottle. This saved us in Hawaii! Not only could I pack bottles for hikes, but I also took an extra bottle with some water to keep my baby from getting dehydrated. And if you are breastfeeding, remember that breast pumps fly free as an extra carry on.
At home with the kids? Instantly access any of these printable activity bundles to keep them learning!
Items I recommend having with you for flights:
- For younger babies who may struggle with the altitude and pressure in their ears, bring a pacifier, or bottle or whatever you will need to nurse, or sippy cup. It especially helps to plan to feed them right during take off and/or landing to help with the change in pressure. Our boys have never really had problems with it, and some kids don’t, but I have tried to err on the side of caution and get them sucking on something anyway.
- Make sure you bring headphones! Airlines won't let you play your devices without headphones, and even if you bought some from the airline, they don't fit in kid's ears very well. This is a good brand and also affordable. We bought a cheaper brand from Walmart for all our kids once, and they only lasted one trip before they broke.
- Have an extra outfit. There will inevitably be a blow out when you are in a small, confined space with nowhere to run or hide! I would rather have an extra outfit for that or some other mess, and carry a little extra, rather than not and deal with the consequences. Plastic bag for stinky diaper or messy clothes is nice too if something does happen.
- Bring your kiddos' favorite snacks. Our oldest LOVES yogurt melts but he can easily down an entire package in one sitting so he doesn’t get them very often at home. It is our go-to snack for the plane because I know it will stop him in his tracks if he starts to whine.
- Bring any pain medication you might need,
- a nasal aspirator (nothing worse than a stuffed up kid that can’t breathe on a plane; it can really set them over the edge).
- Bring more food than you think you will need (extra formula if you aren’t nursing, baby food, but bring EXTRA).
- Bring socks if they don’t already have them on, and sweatshirt or jacket. Planes can get a little chilly. It may even be helpful if it is around bedtime to bring pajamas and change them on the plane to signal sleep time for them to create a little more normalcy.
- Bring their go-to comforts whether that is a particular blanket, stuffed animal or toy.
- Bring videos/games/apps if they are old enough to be entertained by that and make sure you download those on iTunes or some other program so you won’t need an internet connection.
- You can also use photos/videos that are already on your phone; that entertains our boys for quite some time.
- Books, puzzles, and toys for entertainment. Photo books have been very helpful for us as well. We use chatbooks and that way have lots of pictures of family in a nice consolidated way. We love the Melissa and Doug Puzzle Books/Boxes because they are small and easy to bring on a plane. This one as well is a favorite in our house.
- Have PLENTY of diapers and wipes, more than you think you will need just to be safe and if you have 2 kids in diapers make sure you have both sizes. We made the mistake of not looking very closely one time and having to put our 18-month old in a size one diaper because we had neglected to bring the bigger sized diapers.
Safe travels and good luck! What tips and tricks do YOU have for traveling with little ones??