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Traveling on an airplane with kids can be one of the most stressful parts of parenting, and flying with kids during the COVID-19 pandemic has not made things any easier.
There is a reason some parents have been known to make goodie bags for their baby’s fellow passengers (I’m not a fan but I understand the thinking).
The best tips for flying with kids will depend on whether you have a young child, toddlers, a baby, older kids or a mixture of both.
As a father of six, I have gone through nearly all of the stages of flying with kids, so I will share a few of my tips — hopefully they will help you whether you are taking a long-haul flight, flying with a young kid or trying to navigate how to install a car seat on a plane.
Talk to Your Kids About What to Expect When Flying
One of the best things you can do to help your kids have good in-flight behavior is to make a bit of a plan beforehand about what to expect. Even kids as young as toddlers can benefit from setting some expectations. The TSA actually has a video talking about what to expect when you see a TSA officer and go through screening. I found that helpful when my kids were younger and not as familiar with the airport boarding process. There used to be a hilarious parody of that TSA kids video, but alas it appears to have been taken down.
Getting TSA Precheck (for free!) for the adults in your family is another big benefit, as kids under 16 usually get Precheck if all the adults in their party have it. If you’re going on an international flight, talk with your kids about how immigration and customs will work both at your point of origin as well as your destination.
You can also spend some time role-playing what will happen as you go through the airport and on an airplane. One thing that we did a long time ago (that my kids still remember) was before our first long-distance train trip. We would spend a few minutes a day practicing “train manners.” This includes things like sitting still, reading a book, not bothering other people, etc. — your basic checklist for how kids should act when they’re in a public place arounds lots of other people.
You can also mention which airline they should look for in the airport and watch a video on how to buckle an airline seat belt. If you have seat assignments, you can talk about that and explain whether they will be in an aisle seat, window seat or middle. Talk about what a pilot or flight attendant does and how they should act around their fellow passengers.
(SEE ALSO: Well, how would YOU arrange 6 kids on a plane?)
What to Pack for Your Flight With Kids
Before your flight, it’s a good idea to review your packing list and make sure you have everything packed. And it’s usually smart to look at the baggage allowance for your flight and also think about which items should be packed in checked luggage vs. the items that should go in your carryons or personal items. Make sure you have your diaper bag packed with snacks and other necessities for a toddler or baby. Separate out liquids including any breast milk that you’re bringing to go through security.
If you have little ones, you can help them pack a small backpack that has snacks, books and other forms of entertainment. If you have older kids who you would think could pack their own bags, you should double check them. You never know when one of your kids will try to bring a knife through airport security, like mine did…
Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, especially with young kids. Family flying can already be a stressful experience, so there’s no need to make it even more stressful by having to run through the airport, Home Alone-style.
What Your Kids Will Need During the Flight
During the flight, the two big things you’ll want to make sure you have enough of are snacks and batteries for screen time. While I am generally pretty tight on setting screen time limits, when you’re traveling, those rules go out the window.
If your child is in a car seat or booster seat, make sure that it is FAA-approved so that you can use it during the flight. If you have a child under 2 and are bringing them as a lap child, make sure that you know your airline’s regulations and policies about that. Personally, while I know it can cost extra, I would encourage you to consider paying for an extra seat for a “lap toddler” who is close to 2. That’s the reason we get all these miles and points — so we can use them to make our lives easier!
Tips for Taking Your Kids on an Airplane
Air travel can be an amazing experience and can keep friends and family connected. I hope that these tips for taking your kids on an airplane help put your mind at ease if you’re looking to take your first flight with your young kids. Despite the repeated calls for “no child” flights (usually from people who have never had kids), I’ve long thought that kids act more age-appropriate than many adults do. Yes, there may be situations where a baby is crying or a toddler or young kid occasionally gets into your personal space or kicks your seat. As long as the parents are making an effort and not ignoring the behavior of their small child while they play on their phone, I can deal with that. Give me a kid on a plane all day over Spring Break partiers or people who don’t want to follow mask or other rules.
What are your best tips for flying with kids? Leave them in the comments!
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