As a father of two, I know how stressful flying with kids can be – between the ear-popping, the constant bathroom use, their boundless energy when it’s time to calm down, or their exhaustion from that missed nap when you’re rushing to a connecting flight. If you’re not prepared, it could all end in tears (and I’m not just talking about the kids anymore).
Below you will find a comprehensive guide for everything you need to know about flying with kids. The tips are broken into three sections so you are prepared every step of the way. This includes:
- Know the documentation you’ll need:
- Children under 18 do not need to present a photo I.D. when flying domestically.
- All children, including infants, require a passport to fly internationally.
- Many airlines including Southwest and Delta allow an infant to fly free if they are under two years old and sitting in your lap. Be sure to consider each airline’s policies and pricing before booking your flight.
- Nothing is more important than your child’s safety. The FAA recommends a child restraint system or a child harness device.
- As far as flight times are concerned, it is important to take your child’s napping/sleep schedule into consideration. If possible, try to leave after a child’s nap and arrive before their normal bedtime.
- If you have the option, opt for a non-stop flight instead of connecting flights.
- Navigating through a crowded airport with children can be difficult. Be sure to dress them in brightly colored clothing so it’s easier to keep an eye on them.
- Consider ditching the hand-luggage in favor of a backpack so you have both hands free.
- Don’t forget to purchase a travel protection plan. Travelex’s Travel Select plan covers kids under 18 at no additional cost.
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has great information on what to expect when moving through security with your children. This includes:
- What to do if you have a child with medical conditions, disabilities, or mobility aids
- The rules and regulations around formula, breast milk, and juice
- What is entailed in the screening of your children and children’s items
- The screening technology being used
- If you have extra time before boarding your flight, allow your children to run, jump and skip around the terminal to burn off some energy.
- If you’re at a connecting airport, be sure to find a charging station so those precious tablets/gaming-devices are fully charged for your next flight. An entertained child is a happy child.
- Allow your child to browse and buy something from the airport’s magazine/bookshop. My parents always gave me a little bit of money to buy a few magazines and a piece of candy to keep me occupied during the flight.
- If you’re facing a layover, visit our Fun Things to Do During an Airport Layover post for some ideas.
- Don’t sit children in the aisle seat. This is to keep those little active arms and hands safe from the passing drink cart. Also, looking out the plane window can be wondrous for a child.
- If possible, try and sit at the back of the plane. This will provide easy access to the lavatory for those “potty” emergencies.
- Bring surprises for your child, if they’re wrapped, even better. This will keep a child excited and in a good mood.
- Now is the time to bring out everything you brought for entertainment purposes; tablets, games, portable DVD players, snacks, etc…
- Make up games to play. Try finding animals or other shapes in the clouds, or see how many swimming pools or baseball fields you can count below.
- To combat the air pressure and help them pop their ears, have a child suck on a pacifier or a hard piece of candy. It can also help to drink water right after takeoff and again 45 minutes before landing.
Flying with kids will always have its challenges, but if you plan ahead and are prepared, there’s no reason it can’t go smoothly. In fact, one of the highlights of parenthood for me was my children’s first flight. They had so much fun looking at the airplanes from the terminal, the look on their faces while feeling the power and rumbling of take-off, and their wondrous eyes seeing the world from above for the first time. I’m actually looking forward to the next flight with my kids.
Travel Insurance is underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, NAIC # 22276. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy.