Tips for Traveling on an Airplane with Kids

April 6, 2014

So you are going on an airplane with your kids? Let’s be real, traveling with kids is like a 2 out of 10 on the scale of fun things in life – and the only reason its a 2 instead of a 1 is because typically there is a sunny destination (and a strong drink) at the end of the trip that makes it all worth it. Despite my husband’s thoughts that you can just throw some clothes in a bag and go, traveling with kids takes a LOT of planning and preparation. I have flown with my kids at all ages: 8 weeks, 11 months, 4 years…. and 7 months pregnant with a 20 month old lap child (what the heck was I thinking???). I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Here are my tips for traveling on an airplane with kids:

traveling with kids


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Tips for traveling with an infant:

What to Pack in your Carry on:

1. Calculate how much your baby will need to eat for the estimated duration of your trip….. and then TRIPLE it. You do not want to run out of food/formula in the event of delays. If you are nursing, don’t forget your boobs. Oh that’s right. You are a package deal.

2. If you are formula feeding, pre-fill bottles with water in case you don’t have access to any on the plane when you need it – like when you are taking off and your baby is screaming his head off. Or, consider buying the pre-mixed formula. The airline security people will need to wave a test strip over any liquids you bring, but you are allowed to do this.

3. Bring more diapers and wipes than you think you need…. and make sure you have at least one extra outfit in your carry on. If you forget the extra outfit, your child will have an epic blow out. Murphy’s Law. Oh, and your changing pad too. There are about to be a lot of public bathrooms in your near future.

4. Sanitizing Wipes. A lot of them.

5. A lightweight blanket….. these aden + anais  blankets are my favorites. Great for temperature changes on plane, for a nursing cover, to block out light so your baby can sleep, a sneeze guard to protect your baby from the blubbering man sitting next to you etc.

6. A few small toys or Chewbeads to keep your baby entertained in the unfortunate circumstances that they don’t sleep. But we can still hope they just sleep.

7. Tylenol. Because what mom goes anywhere without a little Tylenol?

8. Xanax. Kidding. Not really. No, really, seriously kidding. But if you are taking me seriously, this is for you, not baby.

9. Buy a water bottle for yourself after you get through security. (See Flying High # 4 for details)

Getting on the plane:

1. You can bring your stroller and/or infant carseat to the gate to gate check….Yes, you can even gate check the double BOB. Consider bringing a baby carrier too so you can free up your hands for carry-on items when boarding the plane.

2. When you board the plane and approach your seat take a deep breath. You are about to get a serious eye roll from the person sitting in your row when they see your baby. When people see babies on planes they automatically stop liking all babies. Even me. I wouldn’t want to sit next to a baby on a plane and I love babies. Smile at them nicely, tell them you will do your best to make sure your baby doesn’t spit up on their Chanel bag, and remind yourself that you will never see this person again in your life (hopefully).

3. Once you get settled, begin to sanitize everything within your reach.  Ignore crazy stares.

Flying High: 

1. Nurse/feed/pacify baby on take off and landing – this will prevent screaming, which could in turn result in stares, more eye rolls, and requests for seat changes.

2. Pray your baby doesn’t poop on the plane. Really. I have no advice for what to do if this happens except to plan your flight around their poop schedule. Seriously. Changing a diaper in a jolting chamber of disgustingness is something you want to avoid at all costs.

3. Make sure your baby’s nails are clipped short. If your baby is an older infant (8 months and up) they will likely spend the majority of the trip mauling your face. Fun!

4. When the stewardess comes by to offer you a drink, politely decline. Does it look like you have hands for that right now? Pull out the water bottle that you purchased in the terminal and air-cheers the lady sitting next to you who just ordered a vodka. Good. Maybe she will pass out and that will be one less thing you have to worry about.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Preschoolers:

What to Pack in your carry on:

1. Candy. Okay so you don’t believe in giving your kids candy. I get it. After 30 seconds of a tantrum on an airplane, you suddenly believe in giving your kids candy. Get lots of it. Preferably candy that takes a long time to eat – think lollipops.

2. Sanitizing Wipes. Did you see my post on Disgusting Things My Kids Did in the Airport?

3. iPad and Headphones  – fully charged and stocked with pre-downloaded movies and games

4. Change of clothes. Again, Murphy’s Law.

5. Empty sippy cup – you know, so your kids can get in on the “complimentary” beverage action without spilling it.

6. Goody Bag – for bribing purposes. I like to include a small new toy to keep them occupied. But if you are giving them exclusive rights to the iPad, lets be honest….toy schmoy.

traveling with kids

Getting on the Plane:

1. First, make your kids do sprints in the terminal to get out all excess energy. They are about to get a LOT of candy and a LOT of screen time. Realistically, the chances of your kid falling asleep on the plane are slim. If they do, they will fall asleep when the plane is landing. Happens every time.

traveling with kids

2. If you are not bringing a stroller with you, this works too:

traveling with kids

…or you can BYOC (bring your own carseat) and cart the kids around the airport in one of these:

BRICA Roll ‘n Go Car Seat Transporter

3. Make sure they use the bathroom before you get on the plane. At least 2 times.

4. They allow families with children to board first. Why in God’s name would families with kids want to sit on the airplane any longer than they have to? We like to board laaaaaast. But that’s just us.

5. When you get seated, sanitize everything – especially the little tray clip knob, guarantee that is the first thing your kid touches. Again, ignore crazy stares.

Flying High:

1. When in doubt, give out that candy. Mini-tantrum=1 piece. Kicking the person’s seat in front of them = 2 pieces. People are starting to complain = pass them entire bag. (Then you can spend the next 7 days on vacation explaining how you were really not rewarding their negative behavior, just trying to get them to shut the BLEEP up!)

2. Rule of thumb for airplane travel: There is no such thing as too much time on the iPad.

….and that’s pretty much it. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best….. and a drink waiting at your final destination doesn’t hurt either. Trust me, you’ll need it.


  • Brandi
    April 7, 2014 at 11:36 am

    This is actually the best post I’ve read on flying with little kids! VERY realistic! It doesn’t have to be terrible, especially if you just get your mind right ahead of time. But, yes, please politely decline the drink. There is no way you are putting that tray table down!

    • Sisters to Sons
      April 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      What a great compliment! Thanks, Brandi! Lol… I’ve almost warned the person sitting next to me not to get a drink either… you never know!

  • Carrie
    April 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    EXACTLY. Everything you said. YES.

  • Sherry
    April 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I traveled alot when my son was little once every 2 month he dad a frequent flyer card there are great pointers.

  • Gina B
    April 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    We have a 3 hour flight time limit. I’m terrified to take a child with autism on a 4+ hour flight!! 🙂 That said, they have behaved the BEST when I’ve expected it the least. Go with the flow and do NOT stress. Kids have a huge 6th sense about that stuff. If you stress, they WILL BE OBNOXIOUS.

  • Trina
    April 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    These are great tips. We had a car seat that turned into a stroller that we would take with us while traveling. It was perfect, there was one time that my son didn’t get out of that seat from the time we arrived at the airport until we landed at our detestation. We are traveling with our boys to FL in May, all I have to say is THANK GOD for their electronics! LOL

  • Lauryn
    April 7, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Oh my gosh, I am SO with you on many of these but definitely the sanatizing wipes! Wipe those armrests down to decrease the anxiety of them touching EVERY.SINGLE.CREVICE {cringe}! Great post!

  • Rachel
    April 8, 2014 at 7:11 am

    We’ve never flown with our kids, but it might be happening this year (2 and 1 year old), so this is perfect advice! Reminds me of going out in public anywhere with an infant: hope for the best and prepare for the worst!)

  • Jhanis
    April 8, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Great and hilarious tips! LOL The last time I found the courage to travel with my kids was Christmas 2 years ago. NEVER AGAIN. I will wait until they are old enough to understand that licking the all the handrails they see is not sanitary. Eeeek!

  • Tamara
    April 8, 2014 at 11:51 am

    This is such a great post loaded w/ information. Thanks for sharing.
    Pinning. Thanks for linking up at the Bloggers Brags Weekly Pinterest Party

  • claudia krusch
    April 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I’ve travelled to Brazil with my son when he was 18months, I wish I had read your tips then! Will be sharing your post, love it!

  • Rachel G
    April 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    I’m the oldest of 7 kids, and we did a LOT of flying with infants and toddlers and kindergarteners… Having treats and snacks for them is definitely an awesome plan of attack! My baby sister took her first flight at two weeks old–my Mom thought that was a lot easier than with 1-2 year olds!

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