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Children / Colorado Livin' / Family Travel / Health

Travel Tips: Flying With Kids

Although I would never call myself a travel “expert,” with family on both coasts I can assure you that we’ve done our fair share of traveling with kids. With distances over thousands of miles, airplane has become our main mode of travel. It’s not cheap. It’s not easy. But it is fast. If you’re planning air travel with kids, saying that you have to be prepared is an understatement. You really need to be OVER-prepared.

Remember that air travel probably means getting a meal at the airport, maneuvering airplane bathroom stalls (these bathrooms are NOT made for two people even if one of them is little – I don’t know what these “mile high club” people are thinking), schleping through security and fenagling suitcases at baggage claim.

Drinks will be spilled, feelings will be hurt, tears will be shed, expectations will go unmet… all in the name of air travel. Not that traveling on wheels is easy. We’ve done that too and it can be just as much torture, uh, I mean fun. If you’ve traveled with kids, you know what I’m talking about. Which is why half of the battle is planning ahead to minimize the craziness. And keep this one thing in mind: you can pack the newest issue of your favorite magazine that you’ve been dying to read, just don’t expect you’ll get to read it.

Some of the tips below may seem like overkill, but if it’s been a while (or maybe never) since you’ve traveled with kids I think you’ll be glad you at least considered them.

  • If you’ve already purchased tickets, double-check to make sure you know about seating
    and baggage. Do you have an assigned seat? Can you check in early online? How
    much will your checked bags cost? Some airlines allow you to check-in and pay for
    bags online at a discount. This can also get you a better seat assignment in some cases.
  • If you’re still considering which airline to travel with, be sure to know that each one is
    different! Some you have to pay for bags, others you don’t. Some give seat assignments,
    others don’t. Know before you buy.
  • Before you leave, get online and check out the airports. Take a look at the terminal and
    concourses. If you have a layover, know that airport too. Know how to get from the gate
    to baggage claim or what restaurants are available if you’ll need to have a meal. Just
    having an idea will make you feel more at ease. Here’s a link to Denver International
  • Consider the safety regulations now in place for air travel. There is a designated security
    line at the airport for families traveling with small children, so you can take your time
    folding up strollers and handing over baby bottles. However, knowing the rules ahead of
    time will make your life easier – and prevent that “here we go again” tone from the TSA
  • Even if you don’t allow your kids to indulge in sugary snacks, think of their favorite
    snacks (if it’s candy, now is the time to give in, and pack them in plenty! Think no liquid,
    no refrigeration.)
  • Bring a nice assortment of activities to keep little hands occupied. Nothing with small
    pieces that could get dropped and lost. Coloring and activities books are great for 3-8
    year olds. I have become fond of magnetic books that allow kids to make-believe and
    create fun scenes. Books to read, large playing cards, toy cars or figures, and video games
    are all great airplane options. And remember, older kids will like having their own bag
    and it will lessen your load. Each can have a backpack with their own things which will
    hopefully minimize arguing too.
  • Gum, gum, and gum. (For older kids, of course.) We have made gum something special
    anyway, so getting it in the airplane is a real treat – and bonus – it keeps ears from getting
  • Always use the airport restroom. As stated above, you do NOT want to have to go in that
    teeny tiny airplane bathroom with your kids. Oh, they’ll want to check it out even if they
    don’t need to use it… so good luck.
  • Strategically maneuver. You know your kids best. Who will want to sit by the window?
    Can you negotiate one gets the privilege on the way on the other on the return flight? Do
    you need to sit between kids to keep them at bay? Have a plan A and B.
  • Allow older kids to have input about what you will do and how they can spend money.
    Your airplane ride may be a great time to discuss these things. Give them an opportunity
    to talk about what they would like to do within the means of the family’s time and money.
    Make sure they know you will consider all ideas, but that ultimately the adults will be
    making the final decision. As for money, decide if they will be given a specific amount to
    spend from the general vacation fund or if they will be using their own money (obviously
    this would have to be decided in advance of the trip). Talk about what you will allow
    them to use their money on so there is no arguing on vacation. For example, if you won’t
    be letting them make purchases at the airport gift shop, you’ll want to talk about this
    ahead of time.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. Do you have other thoughts on topics I’ve missed? Please
share your wisdom. And happy vacationing to all!

Guest Blogger Jenna Hallock tries to keep life simple. Love like you mean it. Laugh like you’re enjoying it. And stand up for what you believe in. She hopes to share her joy for living with moms who need a little encouragement… and we all need some encouragement.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. Great tips, my dear! I’ll be embarking on two long airplane rides this summer and we will definitely be bringing a lot of diversions. I love to go to the dollar store prior and getting a bunch of new, cheap toys, coloring books and treats that they’ll be excited about.

    I always bring a change of clothes for everyone. Even though my kids are getting a bit older (4 and 6) someone still gets spilled on every time.

  2. My husband, 15 month old son and I flew to and from DC, with a layover in Minneapolis each way. We were planning on traveling with him in our lap. Except for one leg of the trip, one of the seats in our row was unoccupied. We got really lucky. Our son was able to play on that seat and we didn’t have to buy him his own ticket.

  3. Hear, hear on using the airport restroom.

    Thanks for this reminder of best practices. I’m sure you’ve headed off some travel problems this summer.

    Oh, and I reviewed the Trayblecloth awhile back, a product that might help traveling parents out.

    P.S. I still get disappointed whenever I don’t get to read that magazine — which is every time!

  4. Amber, No truer words were spoken. Someone will get SOMETHING spilled on them. 🙂

    Angela, You certainly were lucky to have an empty seat!! That almost never happens anymore. A layover can have it’s benefits too as long as it doesn’t have you running to the next gate!

    And Lori, am going right now to check out the Trayblecloth.

    Thanks for the great comments! Keep them coming.

  5. good tips!

  6. My cousin had great advice when I planned a trip with my one-year-old to the Left Coast. (That’s right, I braved flying without the hubs! That’s a feat in itself!) The tip: a have on hand a bag of funny little presents bought at the drug store before you leave for the airport — if you gift wrap them it will occupy her longer — that you dole out as necessary once of the plane takes off. It will take her mind of the fact that she can be walked around for the duration of the trip!

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