Vacations with kids take more than merely planning an itinerary and packing the necessities for your family travel.
Before you can get to your destination and start soaking up the sun, you have to deal with the potential pitfalls of flying with children first!
In a perfect world, flying with children is all about sharing sweet smiles and giggles with your little ones and napping silently. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in reality.
It might get messy, and then you can start to feel like you’re about to lose it! This is when our travel tips for kids on airplanes might save the day.
- 1 General Tips on Flying with Children (No Matter Their Age)
- 2 Flying with an Infant
- 3 Flying with a Toddler
- 4 Flying with School-aged Kids
- 5 Flying with Teenagers
- 6 Conclusion
Although there are different tips and tricks on flying with children depending on their age bracket, it doesn’t hurt to know some general information on traveling with kids on a plane.
These travel guide tips could come in handy, especially if you’re flying for the first time with your little ones.
To what age do kids fly free on airplanes? Considered “lap infants,” children under two years are free of charge if you’re flying within the continental US.
If you’re planning a vacation for kids and want to take advantage of this free pass and your child is nearing two, consider booking it before your infant has their second birthday.
Not all international flights have the same rule; instead, you will often receive a discount. But then again, that’s better than nothing, right?
Because lap infants don’t occupy a paid seat, they aren’t given a checked baggage allowance.
Your lap infant’s baggage will have to be checked with yours, which may well mean an extra baggage fee. However, if you pay for an infant ticket, he/she will get the same baggage allowance you paid for.
Thankfully for those planning family travel with younger kids, car seats and strollers can often be checked for free (regardless if you’re flying with a lap infant or on a paid fare), as they won’t be counted in your baggage allowance.
Most airlines also allow bringing a diaper bag in addition to your regular carry-on if you’re flying with children.
For children under eighteen, the Transportation Security Administration does not require proof of identification when traveling within the US.
However, if you’re flying with a child who’s considered a lap infant, most airlines will require proof of age so they can make sure that they are indeed under two years old.
Therefore, you may want to pack his/her birth certificate, passport (if they have one), or immunization records.
Of course, if you’re flying internationally, everyone will require a passport, including kids and infants.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak we’re experiencing worldwide, don’t forget to bring essentials that help keep you and your family clean.
Stuff like masks, hand sanitizer or alcohol, wet wipes, and even hand gloves, are especially important on your family travels.
While babies undoubtedly bring a lot of joy to our lives, they do also sometimes come with their challenges!
These challenges are only amplified if you’re both crammed in a tiny space and trying to stay as silent as possible, so as not to disturb other passengers. Here are some helpful tips if you want to know how to fly with a baby with less fuss.
It’s a universal fact that babies need a lot of sleep, but not always on your command. Try to book a flight in sync with his/her sleeping schedule to help cope with this.
This way, your child will find it easier to get to sleep, and you’ll be able to relax and think about your holiday plans!
Flying with an infant successfully is not an easy task to execute, and flying can be stressful even without bringing your little one along.
When deciding whether to pay for a seat, try to imagine if you’re carrying him/her on your lap for the duration of the flight.
Taking your child as a lap infant could mean extra snuggle time and be a great bonding experience, and it could help them to fall asleep faster due to warm cuddles and their parent’s natural scent.
Then again, you might not be able to feel your legs after an hour or two!
Consider if you want to purchase a seat, especially on a long haul flight. This will add to your trip’s cost, so make sure to take that into account also.
If you decide to take that extra seat, don’t forget to bring your car seat or capsule. Just make sure your child-restraint system (CRS) is approved for use on an airplane.
Either way, your child’s comfort is the priority, so figure out what works best for your case.
The majority of airlines give boarding priority for passengers traveling with small children – definitely something to take advantage of.
Boarding early means you’ll get first dibs on overhead bin space and have extra time to settle in with your little one before other passengers start to fill the plane up.
It can be considered one of the top tips for long flights, as you’ll have extra time to figure out how to get comfortable with your infant.
When traveling with an infant on a plane, ziplock bags come in handy. Secure your toiletries in a ziplock bag and keep it away from your child.
Keep loose pills or medications away and store them inside childproof bottles. Keep anything that can be a hazard out of baby’s reach.
Pack a few of your infant’s little toys. Even better, bring new toys so he/she will be interested in them the whole flight. Your neighbors on the plane would probably appreciate if you didn’t bring toys along that are too noisy!
Tie loose objects, including your child’s toys. It not only keeps them in check but also saves you from having to duck down to get items that have fallen or been thrown.
Plus, you wouldn’t want your baby’s toys touching the plane’s floor!
As adults, dealing with ear pressure when flying is relatively easy. As for our little ones, they might have no idea what’s happening but they’re feeling the pressure changes just the same.
Help them to ease this sensation by feeding them during takeoff and landing. The act of sucking can help them to equalize their ears.
Compared to an infant, flying with a toddler might take the difficulty level up a notch.
While babies are often happy to sleep and cuddle, toddlers want to move more, are more autonomous, and may not take kindly to being expected to sit still for the flight’s duration.
Here are some of the tips for traveling with a toddler.
Since toddlers are older than infants, they can eat a wider range of snacks.
For snacks for kids on airplanes, try bringing easy to eat or chew foods like raisins, bananas, breadsticks, biscuits, and other easy-to-bite fruits.
Avoid snacks with high sugar content because we don’t want a sugar rush to occur!
You can also request a children’s meal. Most airlines, especially if you’re on a long haul flight, will offer special meals for kids that are more likely to suit their tastes.
If you want this option, you must generally alert the airlines no less than 24 hours before your departure.
There are no specific items to bring when flying with a toddler, but packing something that helps them to be comfortable is a great idea. Sleeping aids like a comfy pillow, soft airplane blanket, or a carry-on cushion can help them settle quickly, especially if you’re on a long haul flight.
For an amazing recommendation for a travel pillow for kids, check out BCOZZY’s chin-supporting pillow, which gives a sense of comfort and security.
It’s a soft pillow that keeps your toddler’s head from bobbing up, down, and sideward. https://www.amazon.com/BCOZZY-Kids-Supporting-Travel-Pillow/dp/B01DOE0DO6
Another neat thing to pack for your toddler is this inflatable footrest for more legroom. You can use it to create a makeshift bed for your toddler so that they can sleep comfortably. Learn more here. https://www.amazon.com/WanderingTot-Inflatable-Travel-Pillow-Airplane/dp/B07D7Q1GGF
Bringing airplane toys for toddlers is kind of a no-brainer. This is where toddler bags become useful. Pack their cuddle toys inside, making their bags designated only for toys.
That way, you don’t have to search for it in your bag, and they’ll appreciate having their own little stash of familiar items.
Such airplane toys for toddlers like this sticker book (https://www.amazon.com/Little-Airport-Sticker-Activity-Stickers/dp/0486412725) or the ones from a dollar store are our top recommendations. Anything small and interesting will do, so long as it fits in your toddler’s bag.
Your kid’s tablet could come in handy at this time of need. During this time, electronics are your friend.
Watching some airplane videos for toddlers or playing travel games for kids can be one of your best activities when flying with a toddler.
Before boarding, take the opportunity to explore the airport. Look out the windows at the planes and machinery.
Airports can be an entertaining place given the number of stores and souvenir shops that can be found inside. Some airports even have a playpen where toddlers can play around while waiting for your plane to board.
Traveling with pre-teens can be a bit more manageable. At this age, they will likely be much more invested in and excited about your trip.
They might even be on their best behavior during your flight – if you negotiate correctly, that is!
Make your kid’s vacation a special one – starting with your flight. Let them eat a treat they usually aren’t allowed or watch a movie they don’t always get to watch on a typical day.
Get your kids involved in your trip, and talk all about your travel destination. You can bring a book about the places you’ll go to and let them hop in on your trip-planning.
Make them excited for your family travel, and discuss the food you’ll eat and the things that you’ll see once you get there.
Plan for your trip as if there is no in-flight entertainment. Preload their electronics with travel games for kids and let them play it for a limited time during the flight. Bring along any favorite card games, or a magnetic travel chess or checker set.
If your child is watching a movie or video on the plane, you may want to invest in a decent pair of headphones.
Some of the best headphones for kids on airplanes are the LilGadgets’s Untangled Pro Wireless Bluetooth Headphones (https://www.amazon.com/LilGadgets-Untangled-Childrens-Bluetooth-Headphones/dp/B00HX0RTK4) and the Puro Sound Labs’s BT2200 Kids’ Bluetooth Headphones. (https://www.amazon.com/Puro-Sound-Labs-BT2200-Lightweight/dp/B01N3TMVB8)
Now, flying with teenagers is a bit different. They are much more independent at this age, and they know what they want – with just a little supervision from us. Although every teenager is different, here are some helpful travel tips when flying with a teenager.
If you’re taking a long haul flight and have a tall teen, an aisle seat could be ideal and allow them to stretch out a little.
However, many teens would prefer a window seat to enjoy the view, particularly if they don’t get to fly often.
Leave it to them to entertain themselves. But, as a parent, thinking one step ahead is always the key. Pack power banks, as it’s likely they’ll be using their phones or other gadgets throughout your flight.
Among other things, a memory foam neck pillow, like Phixnozar’s (https://www.amazon.com/Phixnozar-Memory-Travel-Pillow-Airplane/dp/B07TZF862W) and a blanket will help your teen get a good night’s sleep on a long-haul flight.
Just like us parents, teens also enjoy all the free services in an airline.
In our experience, our teens love watching movies the entire flight, as well as munching on complimentary snacks they can get their hands on!
In-flight amenities like food services, audio and video entertainment, in-flight games, and sometimes a Wi-Fi connection are offered by most airlines.
Family travels and kid’s vacations are the perfect opportunity to de-stress and make bonds stronger.
There are no specific rules or strict travel guides for flying with children, as every child is unique in their way and has distinct personalities.
While these travel tips for kids on airplanes might come in handy, it’s up to us to make our trips with them as fun and memorable as possible.