As flight attendants, we encounter kids on our planes every single day. We strive to be as helpful as we can with families on board, but here are some helpful hints to get you ready before departure! With school vacations just around the corner, there’s no better time like the present to talk about traveling with your kids. While we at ‘Two Guys On A Plane’ may not have kids of our own, we have over 20 years of flying experience and have had hundreds of families on board our planes. Plus, we’re uncles to some really great kiddos, so we’d like to think that gives us a little bit of credibility on the matter. Whether you have infants or teenagers, traveling with the whole family in this day and age is anything but easy. Now, let’s get you to your destination as safely and comfortably as possible!
1. Research Your Airline!
We all claim to have a favorite airline, and there’s a reason for that! Each airline provides different levels of amenities and everyone looks for something different when they fly. Some airlines have items for purchase, some are complimentary, but one thing is for sure – you can’t always assume that an airline will be able to meet your needs – especially when it comes to your child. Whether it’s blankets or snacks, airline catering can be unpredictable at times so it’s best to come as prepared as possible. Each airline has different levels of technology, too. Be sure to download movies and bring an external charger for your devices just in case the plane doesn’t have WiFi or Power Outlets. In the age of the ultra low cost carrier, you’ll sometimes find fees for seat locations, baggage limits, and drinks on board, so don’t wait until boarding to solve any potential issues. If you have particular questions or are worried about seat assignments, ask ahead of time! You may even be able to board early with your children on the day of your flight. Check your airline’s website before you go for official policies or reach out to their social media accounts with questions!
2. Have Toys & Games on “Slow Release”
We all know kids need distractions but the key to this is to not only have a variety of activities and toys, but to strategically plan your in-flight activities. Give different items to your kids at different times and don’t overwhelm them with an abundance of toys all at once. If you slowly provide a variety of games to play, it should be easier to keep their boredom levels to a minimum. Don’t forget – toys with little to no noise are always preferred while traveling in a metal tube. If you bring an iPad, don’t forget the headphones!
3. Goodies for Your Seatmates (and Crew!)
Whether you have an infant on his or her first flight or even just a rambunctious toddler, one thing that’s taken over Pinterest lately is making goodie bags for passengers around you. You might include a note that says “Hey, this is my first flight, so I may cry for a little while. Here’s a few treats to make this ride more enjoyable!” Now, many articles out there will tell you this trend is wrong. Sure, it’s not for everybody, but don’t mistake this gesture as an apology. Parents shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or embarrassed when their children cry. Being in a confined space with screaming children can be challenging for everyone, so a small gesture can go a long way to improve everyone’s morale. If you bring an extra for your flight attendants, they’ll likely go out of their way to take even extra special care for you!
4. Prepare to Pop (Your Ears!)
As adults, we usually pack gum to chew on to pop our ears. Well if you’re worried about a choking hazard for your little one, try gummy bears or some other chewy snack instead. This may be more appealing for your child and will still get the job done. Chewing on something or sipping on a beverage usually helps to unclog the ears. If you have a baby, perhaps plan your feeding times for takeoff and landing. The swallowing will help combat the changing pressure in the cabin. If your child is older, you can always try a common trick called the Valsalva method. To try this, pinch your nose shut, close your mouth, and press out as if you’re blowing up a balloon. Plus, they may even get a good laugh out of how silly they feel while doing it.
5. Bring a Car Seat (If Possible!)
If your child is younger than 2 years of age, you could opt to keep him or her on your lap for the flight, according to Federal Aviation Regulations. This might sound appealing because a car seat is one more item to carry as well as an added expense, but we strongly recommend bringing the seat along for any child. Just be sure that it’s FAA approved to be used aboard an aircraft before you go. As aviation professionals, we always recommend using the seat because it provides an extra layer of safety but also additional comfort for your child. If they seem apprehensive about flying, the car seat they’re familiar with will give them a sense of security in a new environment. If you opt not to use your car seat on the plane but still pack it for your trip, bring a cover so it doesn’t get dirty or wet during while being stowed in the airplane’s cargo bins. For more information about approved child restraints and car seats, check out the FAA website.
6. Don’t Fear Your Flight Attendants!
If we have the time, we love stopping by and saying hi to your kiddos! If you need something, feel free to let your flight attendants know, just be mindful that we have other families and passengers to tend to, as well. We will always do our best to accommodate your requests as long as we are able to! With that being said, don’t be offended if a flight attendant declines to hold your child, as many airline policies simply don’t allow it. This doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other ways for us to help! Whether you need to locate a changing table, your kid is sick, or if you need a trash bag to place dirty diapers in – ask! We’re happy to help and know that traveling is stressful, especially when you have the whole family in tow.
7. Keep Them Comfortable But Keep Them Safe!
Nothing is more stressful than being overwhelmed in a new environment, so try bringing small reminders of home. Pack their favorite cuddly toy or nap blanket and this could help your child settle in and relax a little better. If your flight attendants can do anything to make your experience more comfortable for everyone, don’t hesitate to ask, but remember – flight attendants are safety professionals, not parents. We want your child to be as comfortable as possible, but there are also many rules when it comes to air travel. As silly as some rules may seem, each one was created to keep you safe! It’s ultimately your job as parents to be sure that both you and your children are aware of the rules, know how to follow them, and listen to safety instructions. If you are confident and prepared, your child will likely follow suit and have a better experience!
8. Pack Snacks & Empty Bottles!
We know baggage limits are minimal, but make sure you leave room for nourishment! Whether it’s a long flight or an unexpected delay in the airport, you’ll be grateful to have extra snacks on hand. Plus, this will save you money at the airport and onboard the plane. You can even pack empty water bottles, too. While you can’t bring liquids over 3oz through TSA, you can always fill up empty water bottles once you’re through security. Most airports now have water bottle filling stations so you can load up before you board the plane. If you’re packing breast milk for your baby, don’t worry – TSA allows you to bring larger quantities. For more information about liquid restrictions and approved exceptions, check out TSA’s website for all the details.
9. Practice “Flying” in Your Car!
Prepare your children for the journey before you go. Kids often respond well if they feel as though something exciting is happening. If they have a “special job” to do, that works even better! Have them sit in the car and pretend like you’re getting on a plane. Explain to them a few basic safety rules about stowing bags and making sure your seatbelt is fastened. This might make adjusting to air travel a little easier and keep them well-behaved, too. If they hear it from you first, they’ll be fully prepared on what to do and be experienced travelers in no time!
10. Stay Calm!
We all know that babies cry, kids yell, and things can go wrong unexpectedly. This is normal, so don’t let any cranky adults around you make it worse! If your child acts up in any way on the plane, don’t feel bad about it and do your best not to stress out. Kids are intuitive so if you’re feeling anxious, they’ll feel it, too. If they’re crying, let them cry it out as chances are that’s going to help them feel better anyway. As long as you’re prepared, flying with your child should be a breeze. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight!
Now, all you have to do is pack your bags!
By now you should feel well-prepared to fly and ready for your next destination. If you have a suggestion of your own for parents traveling with kids that we didn’t mention, feel free to leave your favorite tips in the comments section. We might feature you in our next round of tips for parents!
Special thanks to our experienced traveler Mom friends, Kira and Leah, for sharing some pearls of wisdom with us for this article!