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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

Best Tips for Flying with Young Kids Under 5

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This post is long overdue. Honestly, it’s a little bit because our trip ended in a scary way, and I don’t like to think about that part. (Everyone is doing better, thanks.)

But inquiring minds want to know! How do you survive flying with young kids? Our family of four flew across the country in January. And surprisingly, even though the after events were tough, our travel went very smoothly.

Here are my best tips for traveling with young kids under 5.

A 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, to be more precise. (You can also view my tips for flying with a baby, if you have a younger one along with you.)

Check all the bags.

I’m usually very against checking bags, because I like being able to access them easily. And until the night before the flight, I had every intention of carrying them on.

I am SO GLAD my husband made me change my mind. Because getting through security is tough enough, on anybody.

Also, and you might find you have this problem too – I only have two hands. I like to have them free for kid wrangling, especially in busy airports.

Security makes it easy on you.

Always check to be sure what your airport’s security rules are. And if you don’t know, ask.

But our kids didn’t have to take off their shoes. And we were able to walk with them through a metal detector, rather than the big scary circular machine.

In your carry-ons, keep a few crucial things handy.

Make sure the following are easy access: your license or ID and plane tickets; any electronics and a phone charger; pacifiers and comfort items like blankets; snacks; and diapers, baby wipes, and sanitizing wipes.

I like to use large ziplock bags to separate items like these, and make them easy to grab.

Have ID – in some circumstances.
  • Have ID if: your child is under two and flying for free as a lap infant; if their flight is discounted; if you are flying internationally
  • Don’t need ID if: you are flying domestic (in the US)

Find out when you can board.

With Southwest (oh how we love them), families with young kids board just after priority seating. Most airlines have some kind of policy for this. Taking advantage of it meant we all had seats together.

Consider a whole bag full of snacks and food.

I was so glad that one of my carry-ons was solely food. We had sandwiches, crackers, fig bars, granola bars, gummies, almonds, peanuts, and a protein bar for me. The gummies were excellent bribes. We also had Pirate’s Booty, which my kids love, but it’s low on my list of recommendations for travel – super messy.

This ensured that we didn’t have to buy expensive food in the airport the whole trip. And we had no liquids, so no trouble getting through security. (They looked at the snacks, but that was it.)

Exercise at every opportunity.

Take advantage of your time in the airport to walk around, stretch your legs, stare out the windows at airplanes. Being on a plane means limited mobility, so we took it where we could.

Don’t rush the entertainment.

This was huge for me. We packed all kinds of activities for them. But the first thirty minutes or so were just spent taking in the fact that we were on a plane!! They loved the looking at everything out the windows, seeing us take off, flipping through the magazines, all of the above.

You don’t have to rush to entertain them. Most of them will just be happy to be there for a while.

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