Don’t Leave Home Without Them: Tips for Surviving a Flight with Kids

published Jun 3, 2015
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(Image credit: Shifrah Combiths)

Traveling with kids isn’t always easy — for anyone, as the comments on Things to Remember When You’re the Parent of the Baby Crying on the Plane somewhat disturbingly illustrate. I’m of the camp that not traveling if you have kids is not the answer. From multiple plane trips with up to three children under six, sometimes on my own, here are the tips I have to offer.

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For children under two:

Gate check your stroller. This way you have the stroller while you’re walking through the airport, which is useful not only for transporting baby, but for transporting extra bags as well. Also, if you have more than one, bring your junky stroller. Trust me.

Breast- or bottle-feed during takeoff and landing. Swallowing helps the ears pressurize and can forestall a scream-fest.

3) If baby is eating solids,
bring novel snacks that take a long time to eat. Cheerios and raisins are my go-tos.
Note: My children’s dentist actually told me that raisins are anti-cavity.

Stickers, stickers, stickers. Again, if baby is old enough, she will love peeling stickers off of a sheet and sticking them somewhere. They don’t have to be fancy. Even dot stickers from the office supply store work well. Band-aids are also really fun for them, and they have the added interest of opening the package and peeling off the protective backing. Ikea sells boxes of fun Band-aids for a dollar in the family section.

Make use of the noisy parts of the plane. If your baby is upset, which most likely will happen, a walk up and down the aisles (if possible) might help distract her. If not, at least her cries will be masked by the engine roar. And a kind steward might notice and offer some special snacks. One time we got warm chocolate chip cookies.

Don’t overstimulate them (even more). A plane trip is already so exciting! While it might be tempting to ply an over-tired baby with more distraction and food (inevitably, a well-meaning passenger will offer candy), I prefer to let them have the short if vociferous cry on my lap that inevitably ends with a knocked out, sweaty-sleepy baby and the quiet that comes along with that.

For older children:

1) Each of my older (but still young) children,
brings his or her own backpack, which carries all the things they need: snacks, water bottle, books, workbooks, headphones, etc.

Fill the backpack with surprises. I usually make a trip to the Dollar Store and pick up some new coloring books, word search books, sticker books, and an art activity or two. I pack crayons in a small pouch or container. The kids love diving into their backpacks once we’re all settled on the plane and they keep themselves occupied really well.

Download movies or a series before you leave. The airplane is not the time to be stingy with screen time, in my opinion. It’s the time to say, “How awesome that we can load our own shows for the kids. Let’s hope they keep them occupied so we can read SkyMall” or tend to the squalling baby, whatever the case may be.

Remind them before you travel about how to be considerate of others. This means explicitly telling them to lower and lift their trays gently, not pull on the seat back in front of them, and never ever kick seats.