Whether you’re traveling with a toddler or a child in grade schooler who turns into your worse nightmare when he or she is bored flying with kids can be challenging. I am going to show you how to tackle traveling with children and I will provide you with a printable for flying with a toddler checklist to make sure your toddler doesn’t have a meltdown on their first plane ride.
While I travel a great deal for both my blog and the day job, I usually travel alone and I understand the in’s and out’s of airports and I’ve got traveling down to a science. I know which line is always the shortest departing from the Nashville Airport to the TSA Precheck so I don’t have to take off my shoes and remove my computer from my bag.
But this week, my best friend was getting married in Houston and my daughter was going to be the flower girl so guess who was going on her first flight? Madison was so excited but I was worried because I’ve heard the horror stories about flying with kids so I started doing my homework to make sure Madison didn’t have a meltdown. I didn’t want to end up jail for drop kicking my kid for acting crazy in public.
Toddler Travel Essentials
So instead of rolling into the airport with one carry-on, I now had to worry about multiple pieces of luggage, along with electronics, headphones, snacks including making sure the flower girl dress made it safely. Thank Gawd for small miracles in that my daughter is too old for a car seat and I couldn’t imagine having to lug three suitcases and car seats through the airport.
Traveling with kids can be extremely exhausting and frustrating whether it’s a road trip or a flight. While I am a parent I don’t want to hear your screaming child while I am flying so I am very sensitive to the needs of the other passengers because I do not want to go viral for not being able to control my child while flying.
This guide will provide you with the tools to have a stress-free flight for your child’s first plane ride:
- How to schedule your flight and which seats to pick
- How to prepare yourself and your child for the trip
- Flying etiquette for kids and parents
- What to pack
15 Strategies For Flying With a Toddler
1. Talk to your child and tell them what to expect
Talk to your child in age-appropriate terms about what to expect when he/she arrives at the airport, going through the security checkpoint, boarding and especially air pressure and turbulence. This is a good time to talk to your child about personal responsibility no matter their age and allow them to be responsible for packing their luggage and making sure they everything that is needed for the trip.
I prepared Madison for going through security checkpoints so she wouldn’t be scared by the machines or wondered why her bags had to go through the x-ray machine. I also explained that she had to wear a seat belt, just like she does in the car and most importantly not kick the seat in front of her. (Parents please teach your children not to kick the seat in front of them. (It’s so annoying)
PRO TIP: Don’t eat greasy meals as they cause indigestion and will make your kid uncomfortable during the flight. Go for energy-packed and protein-rich foods.
2. Fly as early as possible.
I suggest booking an early morning flight and the earlier the better. I know you don’t want to get up at 4 am but this is your best chance of avoiding delays and hopefully, you will be on a flight that is not too crowded.
3. Skip the fancy clothes and sneakers.
If you are traveling to a destination where the weather will be drastically different make sure you dress appropriately. The last thing you want is to get off of your flight and it’s freezing and there is not a jacket in sight. I suggest you dress your kids in comfortable layers and leave the buttons and zippers at home or in your luggage.
The same principle applies to shoes and it doesn’t matter if you have a toddler or preteen. Avoid sneakers with laces and opt for slip-on shoes because I can’t tell you how many times my daughter trips over her shoe strings or ask me can I tie her shoes. (Insert eye-roll!)
4. Planes are disgusting.
Please! Please wipe down everything especially the table tray and do not allow your kids to go to the bathroom without their shoes. The floors on a plane are a Petri dish of disgustingness.
I am sure you have heard kids screaming during take off and the landing so while you are waiting to board your flight make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. Your little ones should be drinking water right after takeoff and then make sure they drink some more water about 30 to 45 minutes prior to landing.
8. Don’t lose your cool.
There will be those passengers that just hate flying with kids and I will not lie I am one of those people but hey it’s a free world and you have every right to fly with your kids. I think most people understand as long as you are trying to control your child. We have all been there whether it’s flying with kids or in the grocery store and meltdown of all meltdowns begin. Most passengers complain about those parents who allow their kids to kick the back of the seat, run toys up and down their head and ignore the fact someone is seated in front of them.
I suggest families with kids sit at the back of the plane because you are closer to the bathrooms. This makes trips to the bathroom easier and you won’t bother other passengers plus the flight attendants hang out at the back of the plane and they will make your needs are met.
10. Pack a small bag for necessities.
In a small and easy-to-carry backpack you should have all of your Important documents – like passports, printed itinerary, transportation details, and tickets – belong to this bag.
You also want to include your drivers’ license, credit cards, cash, iPhone charger, headphones, and prescription medication. Don’t forget to bring an iPad loaded with fun apps to keep the kiddos entertained while flying.
11. Getting your mind ready
Most of your preparations will focus on ensuring you have everything you need for your child but don’t forget about self-care. Set realistic expectations and if things do not go as planned oh well! Don’t think you are going to board your flight and both you and the kid will immediately fall asleep and you will wake up at your destination. Try a little meditation before your flight and practice breathing exercises.
12. What not to do while flying with your kids
Allowing your kids to cause havoc and exhibit unacceptable behavior while flying is not the correct thing to do. Families traveling together have a bad rap for a reason and below are just a few things you DO NOT need to do if you don’t want to anger 100 plus people on a plane. :
- Parents changing stinky diapers on the tray
- Allowing young ones to kick other passengers or pull their hair
- Treating flight attendants like babysitters
- Letting kids play and run around the cabin
13. Figure Out What Documentation you will need for your child
All flights will require your child to have a boarding pass but TSA doesn’t require kids under 18 to have photo identification for domestic flights. Airlines, however, often do require proof of age, such as a birth certificate, for children who are traveling for free or at a discounted price.
14. Will they have their Own Seat
Children under 2 fly for free as long as they stay in your lap the entire flight. Three years and above they are required to have their own seat. The FAA suggests parents put children in a government-approved car seat while flying. The last thing you want is to be holding a small child if your flight encounters turbulence.
15. Utilize early family boarding
Most airlines board families with young kids first. This will allow you to get to your seat without bumping into people, kids screaming, and any last minute issues that may arise like I need to go to the bathroom after you literally just asked and they said no. Please take advantage of early boarding.
Flying With a Toddler CheckList
- 1 small toy: Toy or something that give them comfort no matter the age.
- Head pillow: Just in case a miracle occurs and they do fall asleep
- Sanitizer: Wipe down everything because the last thing you need is a sick kid!
- Smartphone or Ipad: Movies and games. Make sure you get a headphone splitter.
- Art supplies: Crayons (and blank paper
- Plastic bag: Trash
- Water: Purchase water after you make through security
- Snacks: Pretzels, nuts, and granola bars are my “go to” options.
Madison’s First Flight
Madison and I got up extra early on the morning of her first flight to ensure everything was packed and we had not forgotten anything and proceeded to take the 45 min drive to Nashville Airport. Once we made it to the airport we made our way to the ticketing area where we checked our bags and headed to security.
Next, we made our way to through security checkpoint which was a breeze because I have TSA Precheck which is a lifesaver and if you travel often it is something you should think about purchasing. Once we passed through security with ease Madison and I found our way to the Delta Sky Lounge to grab a bite to eat before boarding.
Once we arrived at the gate she was excited to see all the airplanes in person. I explained to Madison that she’ll go through what I described as a tunnel to where we would actually board the plane. Once the flight attendants found out it was her first flight they allowed her to meet the Captain and the Co-Captain. She also had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit!! It was so awesome.
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Once the cockpit adventure was over we made our way to our designated seats and buckled up for the ride to Houston for her tee tee’s upcoming nuptials. I explained the taking off and landing process which was eventless but Madison was excited to be taking her first flight so she nervously grabbed my hand and kissed me.
I kept her entertained with her Ipad, e-reader, and personal music players. but be sure to take headphones because the people sitting next to you does not want to listen to your child’s music or games. I also made sure I had snacks, wet wipes, a sweater or sweatshirt, along with Madison’s sinus medication.
Flying for the first time will be an exciting experience for your little one, preteen, or even someone who is elderly flying for the first time. Regardless of where you’re going flying for the first time is a big milestone no matter the age. What measures have you taken to ensure your child’s first plane ride was a success?
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