Traveling with children is no walk in the park. It takes some serious planning and work. It feels like ages ago when I got on a flight and was able to actually read my book. This post is going to tell you how to fly with kids.
We’ve been flying with our daughter since she was six months old and have flown a few different airlines. While they all have been good experiences, Delta has hands down been the best to fly with for children.
Last week, I discussed How To Avoid A Meltdown On A Plane. This week is all about the logistics of booking the flight to getting to the airport and on the airplane.
It sometimes feels like you’re planning a mini wedding when flying with kids, there’s so much planning that goes into it. The only difference is a wedding is fun, flying with kids is work 😉
I mean, where’s the private jet?! One day…
We’ve been traveling with our two kids for quite a few years now, we’ve now added a third to the mix. This post was originally written when we didn’t have our third.
Here’s how you can have a smooth and organized trip when flying with kids:
Having the right baby and toddler gear is essential for any trip. We had two strollers, a large one and a small one (umbrella). When we moved, we got rid of the umbrella stroller for a few reasons:
- We didn’t use it, ever. We’ve had it since our oldest was born (almost 6 six years) and used it maybe a handful of times. When you’re traveling with a baby, you can’t use it because they can’t sit up well with it. Plus, there’s not enough storage space below for your bags.
- It was broken. Obviously, when something is broken, you don’t use it. However, this only had become broken recently.
I used a baby carrier for the baby and consolidated the baby bag and my personal bag to one big bag because I also had a breast pump to carry.
Having a baby carrier keeps your hands free and when you are traveling you need your hands as much as possible.
The one thing I would make sure to have when traveling is a backpack for all of your baby stuff. You don’t necessarily have to have a backpack that is a baby backpack, however its helpful because they usually have all of the necessary compartments.
Consolidating bags meant I was only going to have to carry two instead of three.
If you’ve never flown with a baby, you are basically allowed three items on the plane:
- Your personal item
- Your carry-on item
- Baby item
Booking Flight Time
When booking your flight, try to book it around your child’s sleep schedule.
For example, when we flew our flight was at 3:15 pm in the afternoon (this trip was a few years ago). While that is normally nap time for our daughter, I knew she wouldn’t be taking a nap on the plane but would likely sleep on the way to the airport, which was over an hour drive.
Ideally, it would’ve been great for her to have a two-hour nap but the forty-five minutes she got was enough to keep her from absolutely losing it on the plane. For our son, he’s so young and still sleeping pretty frequently, his schedule really wasn’t a factor.
We recently took a trip with our flight being at 2:30 in the afternoon. I thought for sure our son (who is now three) wouldn’t nap because it was a shorter flight (two hours) and he slept almost an hour.
Red-eyes are a great time to fly. Depending on when the flight leaves can be a bit challenging but once that plane is up in the air, it usually doesn’t take long.
Since having kids, we’ve used curbside check-in which has saved us quite a bit of time and also prevents us from having to stand in line inside waiting to check our bags. It’s worth tipping them to keep the process moving quickly.
The lines inside the airport can be long depending on when you travel and standing in line with young children is hard.
With this particular trip, my husband dropped us off. I immediately went to check-in and he started taking the luggage out of the trunk.
Once they were ready for the baggage tags, I grabbed the suitcases.
Next, I grabbed the stroller and baby carrier. We put our toddler in the stroller and the baby in the carrier.
Once both kids were loaded up, my husband took out the car seats and checked them in. We were ready to head to security.
Traveling with young children usually (not always) gets you to a quicker lane to get through security. We were able to get to the shorter line but still had to wait. One thing that has been key for use when traveling with our toddler is she’s not allowed to get out of the stroller until we get through security.
We use every motivation we can to keep her in there, whether it’s a snack or getting a balloon, we pull it all out. Once we get up to where we have to unload our gear, we unload all the bags while she stays in the stroller. The baby is in the baby carrier this whole time. After all of the gear is unloaded, our toddler gets out of the stroller and I break it down to go through security.
Once that is done, the baby comes out of the carrier so it can go through security and I walk through the metal detector holding the baby and our toddler in hand. After we get through security, I put the baby in the baby carrier and get the stroller together. She gets in the stroller and I grab the bags.
You can travel with pre made bottles, I recommend having them together so it’s easier for TSA to check them because they do have to do a special test.
Medela has a black carrying case that allows you to carry four pumped bottles in them. I’d keep this case in the pump bag for easy access.
Since I last wrote this post, we became Pre-TSA and that has been an absolute lifesaver. We would always get to security and tell ourselves we need to do Pre-TSA but would always forget until our next trip and it was super frustrating.
We finally bit the bullet and just did it immediately after one of our trips. There’s never going to be a good time to do it, just get it done.
It’s $85 for five years for each adult. You don’t have to do it yet for your kids, they’re able to go through security with you.
So many perks about being Pre-TSA but one of my favorites is not having to remove your shoes.
Use the restroom with your kids before getting on the plane. Make them go even if they say they don’t have to. There’s not much room in the bathroom plane for an adult, let alone another person.
Plus once you get up with them to go to the bathroom, they’ll claim they have to go again. Our daughter did this one time and we didn’t really know at first if she had to go again until we got back in the bathroom. That’s when I realized this was a game to her.
She got pretty savvy and started saying “I have to go badly.”
If you are traveling with more than one child especially by yourself, use the flight attendants to help you out while you take your child to the bathroom.
Delta allows you to pre-board with young children before First Class which is a huge bonus because standing in line to board with young children is torture and we’ve had to do it with other airline carriers.
The gate agent will give you a tag for your stroller because it will need to be gate checked. If you get it before you board, it’s one less thing that needs to happen.
Plus you won’t feel rushed or bad that people behind you have to wait.
At the end of the jetway, our toddler comes out of the stroller and puts on her travel backpack and I break down the stroller. We grab our bags and head to our seats. The flight attendants helped with our bags which was really helpful.
If the airline you are traveling doesn’t allow you to pre-board, be the last people to board. Wait until everyone is on the plane. Being the last ones to board gives your kids more time to play.
Waiting in line on the plane or jetway is not fun because kids don’t like waiting in line.
We put our toddler in the window seat so she can look out and see all the planes which she thoroughly enjoys now. I wait until the last second to buckle her in because she doesn’t want to sit down.
She has her own travel backpack for the trip that has her iPad, coloring books, stickers (removable), small toys, and her favorite snacks.
We usually have a few new movies and shows on the iPad to get her excited to watch it. She doesn’t always want to watch her iPad so it’s a mix of keeping her entertained with the lights on the plane to have her draw a picture.
I also tell her how I need her to be my helper with the baby which she really likes too. The baby in the meantime is on my lap either eating or sleeping.
Having your child in the window seat helps block them from getting up and wanting to roam the plane.
When we first flew with daughter as a baby, many people told us to nurse or feed her when the flight takes off to help with ear popping.
We did this and it really didn’t make much of a difference for us. There were times, she was crying and waiting for the plane to take off was taking too long. I fed her and she was fine during take-off.
We always had a binky ready just in case.
Nursing can be a little challenging because there isn’t much space to move around on the plane. Getting yourself set-up with a nursing cover can be a little annoying. If you are able to bring a bottle, that is much easier to do.
Babies like warm milk and warming up a bottle when traveling can be a little challenging, however, we’ve found a few ways you can get a bottle warm:
- Ask a restaurant for hot water in a cup. Warm up the bottle at the restaurant if you have time (you don’t want to be walking with hot water). Get the bottle as hot as you can, I say hot because you’ll be going to be walking to your gate some more and depending on when you board it will have time to cool down.
- Ask the flight attendant for hot water. This scenario you will be warming up the bottle on the plane. You’ll have to do this in the back by the flight attendant. You can leave it back there as it warms up or wait for it.
De-boarding The Plane
During this trip, we were in the middle of the plane and she was antsy to get off it, normally we would wait until everyone has gotten off the plane.
I gathered all of our personal items once the descent process started. Once the seatbelt sign turned off, I got up and put on the baby carrier and put the baby in it. I gathered the bag we had in the overhead bin and the one on the plane.
It’s easier to stand up once the seatbelt sign goes off so you are ready to go when it’s your turn.
Once it was our turn, our daughter walked out in front of me and we got off the plane.
By the time we got off, our stroller was waiting for us which helped. I put the stroller together, she went in it and our bags went underneath it.
We had family at baggage claim when we arrived. They watched the kids while I grabbed the suitcases and car seats.
Since we were back in the Midwest for this trip, it was cold! So I put the car seats in first while the kids waited inside, then the luggage went in, and then finally the kids.
And just like that, it was over! 😉
Most of the time we fly non-stop. If there is a layover, you really are repeating the same process from going to the bathroom on (as long as you have enough time to get to your gate).
Flying with kids is like running a marathon, it’s something that doesn’t happen quickly. There’s planning and preparation that goes into every trip. However, when you plan well it helps makes the trip run a little bit smoother.
Keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed, the trips not going to be perfect and chances are something will come up.
In conclusion, here are the steps to take when flying with children:
- Book flights during or around naptime or bedtime.
- Use a large stroller and a baby carrier and/or a double stroller if you don’t have a baby.
- Use one large big bag for your items and baby items.
- Have plenty of activities for the flight.
- Bring enough snacks.
- Pre-board if possible.
- Minimize layovers and use non-stop flights if possible.
Have you ever flown with young children on your own? How did you do it?