Check-ins, airport security, boarding – these are stressful enough without children tagging along.
But if you’re planning a family vacation, don’t start panicking just yet, as flying with your children (no matter whether they are a toddler or babies) can be a stress-free, and even enjoyable, experience!
The best thing you can do is to plan and prepare well in advance.
Good planning and preparation ensure you’re fully equipped and ready for any situation, especially if it’s your child’s first time flying or if your child hasn’t coped well with long journeys in the past.
And this guide is here to help.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to guarantee a stress-free flight with your children.
- Top Tips
There are several ways you can ensure a stress-free flight with kids, and the top of the list is planning a flight that keeps your child happy from take-off to landing.
Tantrums, accidents, crying – nobody wants that mid-flight, especially you, as their parent.
And this is what makes good planning an essential part of flying with kids.
So, for a stress-free flight (for you, your child, and everyone on board), here are all the ways that you can plan well in advance.
Eat Before You Board The Plane
Checking in your luggage, going through airport security, and organizing boarding passes comes with a million things to think about all at once.
So you’d be forgiven for forgetting to feed the kids – especially if you’re in a rush.
But that’s where making sure to leave enough time to eat, before boarding the plane, can be a massive lifesaver.
After all, kids can get funny when they’re hungry, and you never really know when the airline service trolley is going to come down the aisle.
So even if you’re not hungry, make sure to feed the kids.
You don’t even have to buy anything either (airport prices, am I right?); simply plan ahead and pack your favorite food in your carry-on bag.
Book A Flight That Fits Your Child’s Schedule
As a parent, you’ll know better than anyone how children can get when they’re tired.
This is even worse when you know they are tired, but they just won’t sleep.
Booking a flight that lines up with their sleep schedule can be the solution you didn’t know you needed.
Going through airports can also help to make your child more tired, which may even result in them falling asleep before the plane gets moving – a huge bonus if your child doesn’t like take-offs.
So, before booking a flight, it’s well worth thinking about your child’s usual nap time or bedtime.
As an example, a really good idea is to book a long-haul flight that departs when your child usually goes to bed in the evening.
Book Seats Together
Booking seats together might go without saying, but it’s always worth making sure – especially if you plan on booking through a third-party travel agency.
Because, sometimes, the unexpected can happen.
And the last thing you want is to find out that one of your seats is on a different aisle.
Thankfully, you can guarantee to get seats together by booking directly with the airline.
If you can call the airline to speak to a representative, even better.
Double-check your seats on the booking confirmation and, for added peace of mind, confirm your seats with the passenger check-in officer as soon as you arrive.
Book Direct Flights Together If Possible
Most will agree that direct flights are better than connecting flights, especially ones with long stopovers.
And this is especially true when flying with children, as stopovers can disrupt their sleep and leave them feeling agitated and overwhelmed.
For you, as a parent, stopovers also mean more things to think about, plus getting your child settled all over again.
So it’s best to book direct flights, if possible, for both your outboard and inbound flight.
It’s also worth booking both flights with the same airline, as a different airline might unsettle your child if the food, service, or take-off isn’t familiar.
Reserve Meals In Advance If Possible
It’s a fact: you just never know when the airline meal trolley will come down the aisle.
It varies depending on the airline and the flight itself, and this can be a problem if your child suddenly starts complaining that they’re hungry.
As a result, one of the best things you can do is try to reserve your child’s meal in advance.
Reserving airplane food is possible and becoming more popular among frequent flyers, so it’s worth researching and contacting different airlines before booking.
If you have already booked your flight, reserving meals in advance may be possible after you have boarded.
Simply talk to one of the flight attendants early on, let them know about your situation, and there will be a good chance they will be happy to accommodate you.
Choose An Airline With Child-Friendly Perks
Many airlines offer child-friendly perks, and these can definitely help to ensure a stress-free, enjoyable flight for children.
These perks can include free toys and activity books, airplane baby bassinet seats, additional baby supplies, and even in-flight nanny services.
Priority boarding for families is also possible, which will allow you to board early and get settled before everyone else gets on the plane.
So, before booking a flight, these are all great things to bear in mind and are worth researching and asking different airlines about.
Select Seats Near The Bathroom
Choosing a seat near the bathroom might not be the best thing in the world when you’re flying solo and don’t want to be disturbed every few minutes, but with children, it can be a lifesaver if your child needs to go at a crucial time.
For example, not being able to reach the bathroom quickly when the airline service trolley is serving food can result in your child wetting themselves (or worse).
So when booking a family flight, choosing seats next to, or near, the bathroom is your safest bet.
This will reduce the risk of your child having a bathroom accident, as well as help you to clean up any clothing spillages your child may cause.
Preparing all the right things in advance is another way you can make sure to have a stress-free flight with your child.
It might be hard to think about when you have your own packing to do, but it’s definitely well worth the effort.
This includes preparing what to take with you on your flight, as well as preparing your child for everything they need to expect. If it’s their first time flying, this is doubly important!
Bring Entertainment For Your Child
Most airlines have in-flight entertainment, which includes child-friendly movies, TV shows, and games.
But it’s still worth bringing their personal tablet along, in addition to other forms of entertainment, to ensure your child stays entertained both at the airport and on the airplane.
After all, kids get bored easily, and flight delays can happen.
So while packing, think about the things that often keep your child entertained, along with anything that gives your child a sense of comfort.
Whether it’s coloring books or a stuffed teddy bear, you never know when it might be the thing they ask for.
Explain The Flying Process To Your Child Beforehand
If it’s your child’s first time flying on an airplane, it’s important—vital, even—to give them a talk on what to expect.
Flying can be a nerve-racking experience for most adults, which makes it all the more important to prepare your child in advance.
They might not say it, but your child might be worried about things like safety, going fast, or even what using the bathroom will be like.
Due to this, make sure to open a conversation with them beforehand that ensures them that they have nothing to worry about.
Explain to them what take-off and landing feel like, how good pilots are at flying planes and anything else that might be a possible concern for them.
Be Positive About The Flight
Needless to say, kids are receptive.
If you’re stressed or irritated, then there’s a good chance that your child will be, too.
So it’s well worth remembering to keep a positive attitude – both before the flight and during the flight itself.
Similar to explaining the flight process beforehand, you can foster positive morale by reminding your child about the safety of flying, as well as showing them how excited you are to fly and get to your destination.
It might not seem like a big deal, but displaying positivity can work wonders for a child who’s nervous or overwhelmed, especially if something doesn’t go to plan – like an unexpected flight delay.
So keep that positive attitude going!
Make The Process Fun
For most children, even toddlers, flying can be a fun experience.
It might not seem like it—especially if you have been on countless flights in the past—but, for your child, it can feel like an exciting new adventure with lots that can spark their curiosity.
For that reason, it can be a great first-time experience for you too.
Make the process fun by showing your excitement before the flight and reminding your child about where you’re going and what you’re going to do on vacation.
Instead of switching off and enjoying your own entertainment, you can also get involved with any games or activities to keep the flight fun and lighthearted throughout.
Double Check All Your Bags The Night Before
Once you have put the kids to bed, it’s always a good idea to double-check all your bags the night before your flight.
Kids can be distracting, needless to say, so there could be a chance that you forgot to pack something earlier in the day.
This can save a great deal of time, and prevent a huge hassle, should you suddenly remember that you forgot something at the airport.
The same applies if you unpack at your destination and realize you left something at home!
What’s worse, the item you may forget to pack could be something your child needs.
So it’s definitely worth the effort to double-check your bags the night before, and even make a checklist of what you need before packing.
Show Your Child Videos Of Flying
Children learn and process things in different ways.
And one of the best ways you can prepare them for flying, especially if it’s their time, is to show them videos of flying.
These can be real-life videos of airports, what airplanes look like, from the inside, take-offs and landings, or even cartoons that demonstrate what flying in an airplane is like.
As a result, this will prepare your child by visually showing them what to expect.
It can make them less nervous and even help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed when going through the airport, boarding the airplane, or experiencing their first take-off.
Explain Ear Pain To Your Child
While it is rare, it’s still possible that your child might experience ear pain, also known as airplane ear, when flying for the first time.
This is important to take into account, as it can be easily overlooked if you’re someone who’s used to flying a lot in the past.
Due to this, it’s best to explain to your child what ear pain/discomfort might be like should they experience it during take-off or descent.
It might scare them, but preparing them in advance will also help to reduce the possible risk of an uncomfortable experience.
At the same time, give them tips on how to alleviate and prevent ear popping.
You can even run them through the experience right before take-off to make sure they feel comforted and prepared.
Arrive At Least 2 Hours Before Your Flight
Even if you have checked in online, it’s well worth arriving at least two hours before your flight if you’re flying with your children.
This doesn’t just ensure you have enough time to check-in your luggage, but also handle any issues should the unexpected happen.
Things like forgotten items, overweight luggage, hungry kids, and bathroom accidents can set you back and create a big inconvenience if you’re running late.
So to make sure you’re ready for absolutely anything, it’s important to arrive at the airport as early as possible.
By arriving early and checking in on time, you’ll also give yourself more time to work before your boarding call.
This time can be invaluable for getting everyone fed, buying flight supplies, changing diapers, and preparing your kids for what to expect.
Packing all the right essentials comes with good planning and preparation.
It’s not just about packing everything you need, however, but also making sure that your luggage goes through check-in and airport security without any issues!
For this reason alone, it’s always a good idea to contact your airline or visit their website to find out baggage rules, restrictions, and fees.
And since you’ll be flying with your children, it’s also super vital to make sure that you travel fully packed and prepared for whatever might happen.
Know The Airlines Dimensions And Weight
No one wants to get stopped during check-in due to an overweight or oversized bag.
It’s not just inconvenient and time-wasting, but expensive should you be forced to fork out for overweight baggage fees.
This can be a big problem at the airport with kids, especially if they happen to require your attention at the same time.
So it’s a situation that’s best avoided by checking your airline’s dimensions and weight requirements.
These can differ from airline to airline, so never go in blind.
You’ll want to know what the requirements are for both your check-in and carry-on luggage, which also means measuring and weighing them beforehand to make sure they’ll be accepted.
Always Take A Small Bag With Essentials
Sure, one bag that has everything your child needs inside it might be convenient to carry, but it isn’t convenient when you need to find one important item in a rush.
This is even more inconvenient when you need to pull it down from the overhead compartment!
What’s far better is to take a small bag containing all the essentials your child might need.
This can include snacks, a change of clothes, a blanket, a full baby bottle, toys, important medication, and more.
The best thing about taking a small bag is that you will know exactly where the essential items are.
You can store it underneath the seat in front of you for easy access, and it can be portable enough to take with you to the bathroom.
There are a lot of things you need to take on an airplane – let alone when flying with your child. But it’s still important to remember to travel as light as possible.
This will make it easier to find essential items in a rush, as well as cut down the weight you’ll be lugging around the airport.
Before flying, have a good think about what’s essential and what’s unnecessary.
This might mean leaving a few things behind for yourself (like a laptop or a spare pair of shoes, for example), but the lighter load will be a blessing when your child needs special attention.
In other words, it’s a good idea to prioritize what your child needs, above all else.
After all, kids need attention more often than not, so traveling light with all the essentials they’ll need is better than being underprepared or carrying too much unnecessary stuff.
Snacks are essential for flying with a child – not just during the flight itself, but in the airport both before and after the flight.
And since kids can be fussy (let’s face it, most of them are), it’s far better to be prepared with a few of their favorite snacks at the ready.
This can be a lifesaver when you’re busy with other things, like checking in, and can save the massive hassle of hunting and paying for snacks at the airport, especially when in a foreign country.
Knowing when the snacks and meals will get brought out during the flight is also anyone’s guess.
So to prevent hunger tantrums, always bring a few snacks!
Always Pack Medication For Emergencies
Even if your child doesn’t have any serious conditions, it’s well worth thinking about any medications and emergency supplies they might need during the flight.
This can include antihistamines, ibuprofen, bandaids, and more.
And if they do have a condition, definitely make sure to pack their medications – plus spares in a separate bag.
After all, the last thing you want is to find out you forgot your medication, or that you lost a bag that had your medications in while moving around the airport.
So carrying spare medication is important.
To be extra safe, it’s also worth taking any prescriptions should you need to buy extra medications at your destination.
Consider Packing A Smaller Stroller
Taking a smaller stroller is something that you’ll thank yourself for when you’re at the airport and on the plane.
You’ll have enough things to carry, so it’s a good idea to consider the smallest possible stroller you can take.
If you haven’t bought a travel stroller yet (or you’re considering grabbing a new one), the most important factors to consider include size, foldability, and weight.
These things won’t just make it easier to carry, but will also make it easier to fit in the overhead compartment.
Plus, the lighter and smaller the stroller is, the easier it will be to take around with you on vacation, particularly if you plan on doing multiple trips and family activities.
Take Spare Clothes For Your Child
You might never take spare clothes for yourself when flying, but when it comes to children, it’s a different matter.
It’s more than likely that their clothes will get dirty during the flight while eating or drinking, so taking spare clothes in a carry-on bag is essential.
Taking a spare pair of each clothing item should be enough in most cases, but it’s worth packing extra just to be sure.
This doesn’t just include clothes either, but diapers, bibs, pacifiers, mittens, and so on.
Include A Surprise For Your Child
To encourage excitement and good behavior before and during the flight, it’s definitely worth thinking about giving your child a surprise.
You can reward them before, during, or after the flight, depending on how you see fit, as long as it’s something that you think will help them enjoy the experience!
This might be their favorite candy, a new toy to enjoy during the flight, or even a fun trip or family activity that you’ve got planned for your vacation.
So if you often like to surprise your child or reward them for good behavior, this can be a great way to stir up excitement and even take their mind off their first flying experience.
Bring Activities For Your Child
One of the easiest ways to ensure a stress-free flight for you, your child, and everyone on board is to bring fun activities for them to do and stay occupied with.
Boredom can quickly lead to tantrums and restlessness, so keeping them occupied and entertained is paramount.
Taking their personal tablet on the airplane is perhaps the easiest way to keep them entertained.
And if they do use a personal tablet, make sure to take a suitable charger that can plug into the airplane’s USB sockets.
For another tip, it’s also worth installing new games on their tablet to make sure they don’t get bored too quickly!
Tablets aside, though, you can take coloring books, story books, and handheld toys.
And to make the experience more enjoyable, take time to play with your child and get involved with any drawing or reading activities.
You can never have enough tips when it comes to flying with children.
It can be a different experience every time, and you can bank on the unexpected happening at the worst possible moment!
So, below, here are the top tips you need to know before flying to ensure a stress-free flight with your children.
Give Your Child Enough Attention Before And During The Flight
There are a lot of things to do and think about both at the airport and while flying.
As a result, it can be easy to forget to give your child the attention they need.
This doesn’t just involve their basic needs, like food and diaper changing, but needs that might include reassuring them if they’re nervous and keeping them entertained.
Due to this, good preparation also includes making a mental note to provide your child with enough attention.
The thought alone can be exhausting, but it’s important both at the airport and while on the airplane.
Go With The Flow
There are a lot of things that can go wrong at the airport or on the plane, such as flight delays, forgotten items, accidental spillages, and more.
These can happen even when you’re super prepared.
But despite that, a good tip is to just go with the flow!
After all, some things can happen that are totally out of your control. So if the unexpected happens, it’s important to keep a calm head.
Your children will pick up on your mood too, so it’s always vital to keep a positive mindset.
Tire Your Children Out Before The Flight
Airports are tiring – everyone can agree with that.
Still, one of the best ways you can increase your chances of having a stress flight with kids is to make sure to tire them out before the flight.
Whether it’s putting off nap time or having a walk around the airport, tiring your children out before the flight is a good way to help them fall asleep faster when boarding time comes around.
This is a great tip if your child might not settle during take-off too, as tiring them out may even help them fall asleep before the plane starts moving!
Beware Of Germs
Not everyone thinks about it, but airplanes can get pretty dirty.
This includes the passenger areas, and especially airplane bathrooms.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to take a small bottle of hand sanitizer or a packet of sanitary wipes in your carry-on bag.
No one wants to get ill on vacation and the last thing you want, as a parent, is to be taking care of your child when your family should be having a good time.
Keep Your Composure
As a parent, you’re responsible for keeping up your child’s morale.
Kids are highly receptive, after all, so if you start to stress out, there’s a good chance your child will feel stressed as well.
Things like flight delays and in-flight accidents can make it easy to lose your composure.
It’s understandable, but it’s also important to remember that your child will take notice.
So whatever happens, always try to keep your cool!
Take Advantage Of Early Boarding
A perk that you can take advantage of with some airlines is early boarding for families.
There are two reasons for this: it can reduce your child’s boredom when waiting to board and also help you settle easily before everyone else gets on the plane.
Factors like your child’s age and the policies of the airline will come into account, but it’s still worth checking what each airline offers and whether they offer early family boarding.
Just remember that boarding early also means a longer wait on the airplane. So consider your child before all else and whether or not it will benefit them.
And that wraps up our ultimate guide to a stress flight with your children, which includes all the best tips you need to help you, and your children, have a better flight experience.
Still, don’t forget that you know your children better than anyone.
Take the above tips on board but remember to trust your parental instincts.
After all, you know exactly what your child needs, so just make sure to plan and prepare well in advance!