Flying with Kids: Tips & tricks for success!

Phee is a well-traveled child. We don't live near any family so she has had many flights in her short life. And almost none have been direct, so the number of planes we've been on is quite ridiculous.

If you've traveled with kids before, you've undoubtedly had some less than pleasant experiences. If you haven't traveled yet, I'm sure you've heard all the horror stories. For the most part, we've had nothing but good experiences, though. It's all about your attitude going into the trip.

We knew when we first started traveling that there would be challenges and bad trips. Children are unpredictable and so are planes. Don't start off dreading the trip, though, or you will indeed have a miserable time.

Instead, do your research, plan and pack well, and then go with the flow. Don't stress! Kids pick up on those stressful, irritated vibes and will most definitely act out, push buttons, and generally be unhappy themselves. Look at your trip as an adventure and get your whole family excited about each step of the trip.

Tips for flying with children

Packing Your Carry On Bag
I've packed both a diaper bag and a backpack for the plane. I've found the backpack to be much more manageable and useful. The backpack stays on your body easily, unlike the diaper bag. Plus, it leaves your hands free which is a no-brainer, especially if you're traveling alone with a child. And, if you've got an umbrella stroller (which I highly recommend once your kiddo is old enough), you can't hang anything on it without unbalancing it anyway, so you might as well throw that bag on your back.

I chose a sturdy backpack with a lot of zippered compartments. I've packed it many times now and have found this order to work out best of all:
  • back pocket has changing pad, diapers, wipes
  • largest pocket has books/toys
  • third pocket has snacks
  • smallest front pocket has my wallet, phone, Kindle
  • two drink pockets on the sides have a whatever drinks/cups/water bottles we need 
Diapers and clothes
Count out the number of diapers you will need for your flight and layover, including a change before you get on the plane and then a change as soon as you get to your destination. Then add 4-6 diapers depending on your layover and length of flight. Get a 70 or 80 count wipe pack. If you have an infant, bring one full change of clothes for the baby and one shirt for you. And a few burp cloths.

Toys and books
When you have a lap baby, you need small toys. If you have an infant, you don't need much- a couple toys that your baby really likes and you're all set. If you have an older lap baby, you're going to need lots of distractions. Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper are a godsend. Buy them now. I Spy books are entertaining, too, and you can make your own. We also have some of Phee's favorite shows on our phones and tablets, plus she has a LeapPad which she loves.

Your kid's schedule is going to be totally out of whack. For an older kid, everything is fun and new and interesting and they aren't going to sleep as much as you think. Snacks keep them entertained for a bit and a full tummy keeps them from getting cranky. We pack a snack cup and lots of extra snacks.  Pretzels, snack mix, raisins, animal crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, and yogurt bites are all favorites. Make sure you throw a couple granola bars in there for yourself!

You'll want a water bottle or sippy cup. And a water bottle for you, too. It never seems to work out that you get to have a drink or snack on the plane when they're coming down the aisle handing them out. It's that exact moment when your baby falls asleep/needs to nurse/poops. And toddlers, movable trays, and open cups really do not mix.

Your stuff
Bring your wallet, phone, baby's ID or birth certificate, headphones (I rarely use mine!), book or e-reader, and any other little essentials you need.

  • Bring a blanket, too, in case the plane is cold or you need to lay baby on the floor during a layover/delayed flight or if baby has leaked through down to the last onesie and has no pants left.
  • Bring every pacifier you own. You'll lose at least one and two will probably hit the floor.
  • A pen. You never know. Plus, for a toddler, that and a magazine/receipt/napkin are instant entertainment.
  • Infant Tylenol. When Phee was little, we gave her a does before we got on the plane to help stave off any ear pain. It helped immensely, as did making sure she had a bottle or pacifier for every takeoff.
When your child is small, you're going to have a very full backpack. As they get older, you need less diapers and clothes. Once Phee was potty training and after, we stopped bringing the extra clothes. She also carries her own little backpack with some toys and books. The bigger things, like coloring books, stay in the big backpack, but she gets a chance to be independent with her own bag. And we're not lugging 20 pounds around on our backs anymore which is quite nice.

It really isn't hard to travel with a young child. It just takes planning and patience. For us, it's gotten easier as Phee has gotten older. And we've enjoyed every trip, even when there were short stints of infant screaming. Just take a deep breath, be gracious and patient and try to head off problems as they appear on the horizon. And most of all, relax and have fun.

Tips for flying with a child
{first time flying with her own seat on the plane}

Tips and tricks for flying with young children - www.lifeinrandombits.com
{a seasoned flier!}
What have I left out?  What's your must-have item for flying with a kiddo?

Linked up at Texas Women Bloggers.

The original version of this post appeared on an old blog I used to write with a friend, Bottles & Briefcases.
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