Many parents I speak with stress about a first time flying with kids. Will they be scared? Will they cause trouble? How long is too long of a flight? Have no fear, air travel (in my opinion) is one hundred times better than a long car trip any day.
My daughters have been flying since they were 3 years old, at the age of 10 my oldest daughter experienced her first trans-atlantic flight. The girls are now 8 & 17, to say my kids are not newbies when it comes to air travel is an understatement. With many miles under their wings all of our flights have gone off without a hitch. Hopefully my experience will help you feel less stressed about flying with your kids.
Here are a few tips if you are stressing out about your first time flight with the kids in tow. I promise, it's not that bad.
- Know what you can and cannot take past security checkpoints. The last thing you want is your child having a fit because they are tired of waiting while the TSA takes the time for a longer check. Always double-check the kids bags before you go through as well, my little one has tried to sneak juice boxes past security before. I have seen family lanes at some airports, double-check with any employee at security to see if your airport has one. The rules are pretty strict for liquids. Medically necessary liquids and gels, including medications, baby formula, baby food, breast milk and juice are exempt from the rules. These items are not required to be in a zip top bag. Always check with TSA website to ensure you know exactly what the rules are, as they do change.
- Arrive on time, or even earlier than need be for your flight check-in. At times airport security can get backed up and this could make for a hectic situation that can cause a meltdown (for Mom & Dad). Running late can mean a missed bathroom break, or time for a snack/meal before you board. It is always better to be early to the airport!
- Many guests go inside to check bags and ask questions, this makes for crazy lines. You can usually check your bags curbside with your airline. Then you won’t have to carry the luggage past the front door with the kids in tow. You may also check strollers, car seats and other items curbside as well.
- If you are flying more than four hours with little ones, think about a red-eye flight (late night into the next day), this way your kids will sleep for a good bit of the flight and you need not entertain them. Again, this depends on the age of your child. My 16-year-old would do fine on a long flight, my youngest daughter would grow weary of being cooped up after 4 hours. You know best what your kids can handle.
- Let kids be kids in the airport. Airports are mass chaos for the most part and kids running and playing won't be a huge bother if done respectfully. This will help wear them out so they are ready for a little "quiet time" on your flight. My youngest likes to play on the people movers at the airport and run back and forth. If the airport isn’t crowded I let her get all the wiggles out and have a little fun before the flight.
- Dress the kids comfortably, no child wants to be confined in a stuffy airplane (or adult for that matter) in a stuffy outfit. My kids fly in sweat pants and t-shirts most of the time as we are early morning and late night flyers. Also makes for easy trips to the bathroom, and no meltdowns if they get messy.
- Make sure you board during family boarding if your airline offers this, it will ensure less of crowd and access to overhead bins early to store everything you need in flight. Southwest allows for Family Boarding for ages 5 & under.
- Pack a bag of lollipops or something the kids can suck on to help with cabin pressure especially during landing. If your child can have gum that is usually best. It helps to pop those eardrums and they never feel the intense pressure that can sometimes lead to tears.
- Lastly, pack each child a "special" bag of distractions that is just for them to carry on the plane. When my girls were younger their carry-on was a back pack filled with everything they loved from coloring books, game consoles and books including their favorite buddy from bedtime. When kids have their own things with them in an unknown place it's comforting. My youngest still buckles Mr. Bear in with her during take-off and landing. Don't forget a few special snacks as well, those pretzels only go so far on a flight.
I can't promise it will be perfect, because flying can be as uncertain as a child’s behavior.
Hopefully these tips will help make your child’s first flight a little easier! Do you have any tips to share?