Planning a vacation can be a lot of work, especially when children are involved. Do you drive? Do you fly? A lot will depend on the ages of your children, what your family dynamic is, how well your children travel, as well as how far away your destination is.
For us we decided to go on vacation this year with our friends and their daughter. We decided that with three children under the age of three that my friend and I would fly with the three children and our husbands would drive with all of the beach essentials.
Flying with children can seem like a daunting task, but if you plan it can go off without a hitch (or maybe just a few small bumps in the road).
Here are some tips for flying with children*
Give yourself time at the airport, but not too much time
The last thing you want to be doing is rushing through the airport (with or without children), but if you give yourself too much time you will end up with cranky/bored children who spent too much time in the airport and are ready to be done prior to the flight itself.
Departing we arrived with about 2 hours before our flight – this was a good time frame. We were able to go through security (Pittsburgh International actually allowed us to go through the First Class line (and it was a lot faster), grab a snack, and settle in at our gate to enjoy a cup of coffee and change diapers last minute before departing.
Speaking of diapers – if you have a child in diapers I suggest using an overnight diaper for the flight, since they hold more you don’t have to be as worried about leaks.
As for navigating the airport my toddler had her own small backpack packed with her favorite blanket, a stuffed animal, her tablet, snacks, a water bottle, and her activity books. I wore the baby in a baby carrier and had a backpack with the rest of our essentials in it. My friend did try and use a stroller, but her two year old did not want to ride in it, and it ended up just being a hassle having it (we sent it in the car on the way home). So, I only suggest a stroller if you know your child will want to be in it (you can easily gate check a stroller if you do go this route).
Packing a bag of NEW toys/games
This is huge! Our toddlers loved getting new little bags while they settled on the plane. They each got a fruit/veggie squeeze pouch (as a good take off snack), stickers, and something to color. If you are flying with two (or more) children, especially younger ones, be sure that you have the same thing for each one to avoid any potential fights.
We did have tablets for each toddler set up with games/videos that could be accessed without internet access (this is key- especially for quick domestic flights where internet may not be an option). We also had headphones for each child as well. Be sure to practice using the headphones before the trip as well as familiarizing your child with how to navigate their tablet (if they are old enough). I will say that our toddlers preferred sticker/activity books and snacks over their tablets (to be honest).
For the Baby
For the baby I had pouches and bottles ready to go and easily accessible in my carry on, and a few toys/teethers to play with. For a child under two you have the option to purchase them a seat or hold them on your lap. We opted for a lap this time, but I think for any additional flying we would purchase a seat and bring the car seat (just to make everyone a little more comfortable).
A half drank water bottle that I could swish water around in and that the baby could crinkle and shake was actually his favorite and kept him entertained for over twenty minutes. – I stumbled upon this entirely by accident.
We found that involving the toddlers as much as possible in what was going helped them during the flight. My friend had them put their “noses up/down” during take off/landing, we also had the girls flap their “wings” to help the plane fly. Overall it was a successful experience and I would gladly fly with our children again.
What tips do you have for flying with children? Be sure to include the ages to help fellow PMB readers plan their own trips!
*For reference we flew with two adults, a 2 year old, an almost 3 year old, and a 10 month old (who sat as a lap child).