13 Tips for Airline Travel with Kids

Traveling Nov 19, 2012 No Comments

As the traveling season draws close, many of you will travel by plane.  Although it isn’t something we do often anymore (we are the road trip family, you know), we certainly have done our share of airline travel with kids.  A few things we’ve learned….

  1. Sometimes just being able to listen to the onboard music can keep a kid entertained for awhile – especially if it is a small child.  Bring along your own cheap headset for kids.
  2. Airplane snack boxes provide great entertainment, and even a source of pride.  We all know that the snack boxes are overpriced; so what, you are on vacation, right?  The kids are bound to ask for them, and before you automatically say no, consider the fact that they probably have fun things in them that the kids may not have seen before.  They are also likely to keep the kids busy for quite some time as they sort through their treats and decide what they’d like to eat first.  Consider having each kid do a special extra job before they leave home, and then remember to pay them right before the snack boxes go around.  Being able to buy themselves something so grown up is a really fun thing for kids.  And besides, don’t treats you buy ALWAYS taste better than those from home?
  3. Collapsible water bottles can be pretty darn handy.  They fold up small and can be filled once you’re through security.  A thirsty kid is a grumpy kid.  But stick with water, a seatmate sticky from spilled juice or soda is a grumpy seatmate.
  4. Never underestimate the handy-ness of diaper wipes or Handi-Wipes.  They can be used to wash faces, clean off airline trays, remove spots, etc.  By the way, did you know that the very drop down tray that you use for your food is almost never sanitized?  Normally I don’t worry too much about germs, but I do what I can to prevent sickness when we’re traveling.
  5. If your kid is the height that makes their little feet stick straight out and touch the seat in front of them, really consider bringing their booster on the plane if you’re allowed to.  It will help them to be more comfortable and will let their legs bend naturally.  If the booster is not allowed, encourage the kid to sit cross legged after take off.  Do NOT think it is okay for them to kick the seat because their legs are so short.  Figure out something, but don’t let them kick the seat.  One of the keys to successful airline travel with kids is to teach children to be considerate of the other people around them.
  6. Most times, less is more.  If you give a kid a bag of toys, they will go through all of them before you’ve taken off and will immediately be bored.  If you give them one toy every half hour, you’ll need far fewer toys.  And when they’re done with one, put it away.  A plane is not a playroom.  If you have raised your child to need to be surrounded by constant activity, you will probably need to work on this before you leave home.
  7. Flying Rubberneckers: High Flying Fun for the Airport and Plane
    is a game specifically designed to keep kids busy on the plane and in the terminal.  Our kids have loved it for years.  It’s sort of a cross between cards and a scavenger hunt and can be played a variety of ways.  We’ve loaned it to friends and family and everyone has a great time playing.
  8. Be extra prepared, always.  Extra clothes, extra snacks, extra diapers.  No matter how old your kids are, someone can always get sick or spilled on.  I’ve been on delayed flights where parents were out of diapers before we took off.  If you have a family of five you probably don’t need five extra shirts, but one or two in different sizes would be a good idea.
  9. If you must bring electronic devices, have back ups.  A headset and extra batteries are a must.  Remember, planes are loud.  Even if your kid can play with his Gameboy quietly at home, he won’t be able to on a plane.  And no one else wants to hear a chorus of Gameboy songs.  You also have to be prepared for the times you aren’t allowed to use electronics and have other things for the kids to do.  Before you bring out the electronics, try other, lower tech options first and then save the electronics when you need to bring out the big guns.  If you start with the best thing in your arsenal, you won’t have anything left if you run into delays.
  10. One dvd player with a headphone splitter works great for two/three kids.  When the kids were smaller, dvd players were more expensive than they are now.  There was no way we could afford three.  As a matter of fact, we didn’t even buy one, back then we used my husband’s laptop (he had to bring it with for work).  The kid who had to sit in the least desirable middle seat got to have the laptop.  The benefit to having just one device was not only expense, it encourage cooperation and was less to lug around once we arrived at our destination.  Just make sure you have a back up battery!
  11. Three kids sitting together can be much more peaceful than splitting the kids and parents up.  Obviously, you have to know your kids.  But we found that having the three kids across the aisle or directly in front of/behind us made it easier for them to share toys/snacks and it was easier for us to keep an eye on them.   By the way, it used to be quite common for airlines to work to sit families together.  This is no longer the case unless you want to pay an extra fee.  If you want to ensure you are sitting with your kids (or they with each other), you should pony up the extra money when you book the tickets.
  12. Be prepared for your bags to be lost.  If you lose your bags but have a toothbrush, swimsuits and a light change of clothing (or at least a spare pare of undies), you’ll be much more comfortable.  Swimming at the hotel pool while waiting for a suitcase can be a great diversion and a way to work off pent up energy.
  13. Before you consider taking that “bump” for free tickets, consider the real cost.  I can’t tell you how often we’ve fallen for this.  As a family of five, airlines are always eager to get our seats if they’re overbooked.  We’ve found that more often than not, the tickets cannot be used in a way that makes up for the time and hassle of the delayed flight.  Sometimes it does, but make sure you understand what you’re getting and what you’re giving up.

If you’re traveling this holiday season, I hope these tips help!  If you’re traveling by car, you’ll want to see last week’s post.  Where ever you may wander or roam, I wish you and your family safe and happy travel!



Tracie is an Assist U Virtual Assistant who loves that she can take her business along on family road trips. Traveling in Lewis, her trusty Ford Flex, Tracie works while her husband Bret drives and three teenage children experience America as it should be - from the backseat. Along with their giant poodle, the family takes extended trips pulling Clark, their short, comfy travel trailer.

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