I recently flew across the country with my two kids and when I told people I was going to do that they were all “…by yourself?!” and “omg, I could never do that” which seemed odd to me because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I’d travelled with my son quite a bit but this was my first time flying with both kids. Still, I trusted it would go fairly smooth. Is traveling with kids stressful? Yes. But you know, doing a lot of things with kids can be stressful and I think your own attitude makes a big difference. If I had gone into this trip feeling fearful and expecting the worst, that is probably what I would have gotten! But I didn’t and honestly, it DID go smoothly. Yes we had a delayed flight and our last 1 hour flight on the way home sucked (Beckett peed his pants and Finnley cried a lot!) but OVERALL it was a good experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. That said, I did learn a few things so I thought I would share…
5 Gentle Tips for Flying with Little Kids
1. Pack lots of snacks, in small amounts. I find my kids don’t eat big meals while traveling but they’ll ask for snacks a lot. Having a snack cup like this can help prevent spills and sticking to snacks they can hold in their hand easily. When we were stuck in the TSA line, I kept handing Finnley (age 1) veggie sticks and that helped keep her calm and quiet without too much mess. Pouches were also a hit with her; normally she isn’t a fan. On the plane, Beckett (age 3 1/2) loved using the seat tray but would easily bump it so we stuck to things that wouldn’t spill too easily! We love roasted chickpeas, hummus, organic fruit snacks, peanut butter crackers, pouches, vegan yogurt, popcorn, freeze dried fruit, chia fruit pouches, nut butter (sometimes I’ll grab a plain toasted bagel from Starbucks and use this on it!). Try to fit in protein, fiber and carbs to give them energy and avoid too much sugar and definitely no dyes. Both kids had water bottles and that was it for drinks (and I made sure Beckett went potty before getting on the plane but he still had to use the plane potty every time lol).
2. Don’t over pack toys. They probably won’t play with everything and you don’t need more stuff to lug around! Buy a small children’s or mini backpack and put the toys in there! That way you aren’t digging around in your bag for them and maybe your child can help carry them! It makes them feel important… and if it’s heavy it slows them down haha Beckett has this backpack and it was a great size. For toys we had a kindle with this case on it, toys that stick to windows, small figurines, soft books, airplane book, sticker book, Hot Wheels… Honestly they didn’t play with a ton of toys. The airplane book was definitely the biggest hit for our first flight but less so after that. Beckett used the Kindle a fair bit on our flight home. Finnley enjoyed her soft cloth books and her banana teether. I think for babies having something soft and something harder to chew on is great and for toddlers have an interactive book, electronic device and small toys. Mostly they were interested in what was going on around them so I talked to them a lot about what they were seeing and making games of “can you find ___?”.
3. Let them explore. An airport is a fascinating place for kids and they want to look around. When Beckett was under 2 I wore him in a carrier but always tried to give him a chance to look around. Now that he’s a bit older, I use a stroller (I used a double stroller when I flew with both kids this time) so that way the kids can still look around but they can’t run away from me. That said, during our layover I did make sure to let them out. Beckett did want to run so I let him and just followed behind with the stroller and my daughter. He NEEDED to get that energy out! Some airports have play areas which is great. But trust me, better to get that energy out in the busy airport than on the airplane… as anxious as it may make you. If you have a baby, bring a blanket you can lay on the floor and let them move around on that! I don’t let my kids walk the aisles on planes so letting them walk in the airport is a must especially during a layover. You can also have them play Simon Says and get them to jump, touch their toes etc if you want them to move without going far. My kids also adored standing at the big windows and watching the planes and all of the activity outside so I found finding a seat near the window while we waited to board was best! Waiting for one of our flight, we hung out near the help desk and the flight attendants and pilots were all lined up there and enjoyed playing with my kids so that was nice! Beckett is pretty social now so he basically made friends anywhere we were.
4. Remember they’re kids so don’t have adult expectations for them. They aren’t going to be as patient or understanding. They aren’t going to behave “perfectly” and that’s okay. They might yell on the airplane or kick a seat. They might have a temper tantrum in the airport. Again, an airport is an exciting place for a kid but it can also be very overwhelming to them. Don’t worry about what anyone else is thinking (you’ll never see them again anyway) and just focus on understanding and relating to your child. Little one want to feel safe, helpful and understood so make it your goal to support them with that. If they seem overwhelmed and you can find a quiet place to stop, do that, or get down to their level and talk quietly and calmly to them- some kids may also find wearing headphone comforting. Find ways they can help like holding the airplane tickets out to the ticket agent or asking them to tell them about what they see. Empathize with them if they are struggling like “I know, it’s really hard to stay in these airplane seats for so long! I wish I could get up and run too but it is against the airplane rules.” Beckett generally responds well when I explain “rules” to him… He was also pretty in awe of pilots so sometime I would say something like “I can’t let you kick the seat. The pilot told me it is against the rules.” haha That worked quite well! It also helps to explain to them what is happening both before and during… so explain why you’re waiting in line and what will happen next, explain what they need to do while getting on the plane etc
5. Keep calm. I swear, kids pick up on our energy and I really think one of the main reasons my kids do well with travel is because I am so calm about it. Sure, I try to be as prepared as I can but ultimately I know I have to go with the flow! Know that something might spill or a kid might cry or you might have to ask someone for help (I had a stranger and a flight steward hold my daughter so I could take my son potty on the plane which was new territory for me!). If you feel the tension building in you, take 3 deep breaths! This is my trick to not yelling at my kids. If I just pause for that moment, I can find a better reaction. Traveling with kids is definitely draining and it really tests us as parents but remind yourself of the parent you wish you to be. Sometimes I have to try to look at the situation from the outside and that helps me react less personally. Both kids fell asleep for quite a while on one flight since it was past their bed time and I used that time to read and relax myself. Often I’ll buy myself some chocolate or something so I can look forward to enjoying that. 😉
What tips do you have for flying with kids??