The thought of flying with kids is enough to make parents stay at home and play endless games of hide and seek in the house instead of venturing to a new city or country for a family holiday.
Flying with kids can be disastrous. We all know how much people who fly without kids complain about those who fly with children. The thought of their glaring eyes has you crumbling at the knees.
If something goes wrong when flying with your kids, you are a long way from help.
What if they get sick? What if they don’t stop screaming? What if there isn’t enough food? What happens if they won’t fall asleep? What if they just want to run up and down the aisles screaming?
Is flying with kids really worth the hassle?
I say yes. In all my years of flying and traveling, I do not ever recall being disturbed by another child.
I’ve been irritated by a few adults plenty of times.
Kalyra and Savannah have been flying since they were babies. We’ve only ever had one issue that lasted about 20 minutes.
Kalyra had just turned two. (flying with toddlers is possibly the worst of the ages to travel with kids but manageable).
We were flying to Puerto Rico and caught a 6:30 am flight from our home at the time Raleigh, North Carolina to Atlanta. There were plenty of men and women in suits preparing for their morning meeting or trying to get a few extra hours of shut-eye before trying to broker big deals.
Kalyra had just hit independence age and when it was time to put on her seat belt for take off she was having none of it. The high pitched screaming started. Craig and I crumbled in terror, thinking only of the annoyed flyers around us (to be honest I don’t even think they were).
We had an arsenal of strategies we tried, none of them worked, yet we remained calm and composed. The crying eventually died down and soon enough she could take the belt off and she was back to being an angel frequent flyer.
Flying with children isn’t really that bad. You can easily put systems and strategies in place to help your child cope and to train them to be good flyers.
Respect and Patience
It comes down to teaching our children respect and good manners and for childless flyers to have a smidgen of patience and tolerance.
Flying is public so expect children will be flying and might lose the plot. You can’t ask them to leave, and while I understand that this can be frustrating, especially since you have paid for a ticket, the best way for you to get through the flight is to manage yourself.
You usually cannot control what others are doing, you can, however, control how you react. I think the Dalia Lama says it best, whenever he is put through a challenging experience, he sees it as an opportunity for him to practice the art of patience and compassion.
Mediate and say,
“Thank you for this opportunity for me to learn patience and compassion. “
Trust me. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll end up enjoying your flight regardless.
Teach your children manners and respect and to consider other flyers around them.
I know you’re pulling your hair out and you just want to give up because they haven’t listened after the 100th time, but you can’t. You can’t sit on your entertainment system and iPad while your kids are kicking the seat in front of them and screaming down the aisle.
A stern word and a few consequences almost always work. Take them into the toilet for time out if you need to. That should silence anyone!
17 Tips for Flying with Kids
There are three essential keys to helping your child have a good flight.
1. Preparation and Planning when flying with children
99% of the time your child will be irritated, cranky or screaming because they are either:
Pack enough food, enough toys and provide the opportunity for them to rest on the plane.
2. Communicate throughout your flying with kids experience
Talk to your child before, during and after the flight, so they know exactly what to expect.
Describe the experience of flying from checking in, to boarding, to seat space, meals, entertainment, sleeping arrangements, playing, and then disembarking. Depending on your child’s age you can also talk through potential problems and solutions.
What do you think you can do if you start getting bored? What about if you are hungry?
Get your child excited about lying and let them know it is a big adventure. Practice flying with your kids at home. Watch cartoons or movies if you can.
As you go through each procedure during the flight, talk to your child so they are prepared and comfortable:
“We’re just checking in now and the lady is going to take our bags. We have to line up here for boarding, we must be patient as we wait our turn. Oh yippee, look the hostess is coming with food!“
Check in with your child throughout the flight as to how they are feeling and what they might need.
3. Train your children to fly from an early age
The worst thing you can do is delay flying with a toddler because you are frightened of it. It will only be worse when it is time to take the plunge as they won’t know what to do. Train your children to fly as early as you can.
Our girls are such great flyers as they have been flying from birth. They know the flight procedure, what to expect and how to manage themselves.
Just take a look at how Savannah, who was 17 months at the time of recording this, boards a plane. She gets it at an age when some children aren’t even walking yet.
4. Distract Children from Their Flying Fears
I have a fear of flying that I am learning to overcome. I hold Kalyra’s hand during take off. This helps take her mind off the fear and transfer that to having an important job of easing Mummy’s fears.
5. Book a Bassinet for Babies on the Plane
This is a tip for those flying with an infant. It was so helpful flying to the States when Kalyra was only nine months old. She loved having her own bed and would sit up and give the royal wave to the passengers.
Pre-book a bassinet when you book your plane ticket, as are limited numbers.
6. Get Organized for your flight with kids
As soon as you board the plane, get organized and settled in with everything you need. Have travel essentials stored in the pockets and under the chair. Now you don’t have to climb over everyone or wait until the seat belt sign is off to get what your unhappy child wants.
7. Have a Surprise Bag of Treats for your Flight with Kids
Go to the $2 store and buy a bunch of toys, wrap them and every couple of hours allow your child to unwrap one and play with it on the plane. When you are flying with a toddler, this is such a great way to turn a boring plane flight into a treasure trove of fun.
8. Go for Walks on the Plane with your Child
Every hour take your child for a walk up and down the plane. Not only is it essential for your health and sanity to stretch your legs, but your child will love all the attention they get from the other passengers.
This is essential when flying with a toddler. They do find it challenging to keep still.
9. Have Quiet Activities to Occupy Your Children on the Plane
You can’t go wrong with coloring books and pencils. Pack a couple of their favorite story books for quiet reading. Kids will love these quiet activities on a plane.
10. Ask for Help on the Plane when flying with children
If you are struggling flying with your children, ask the air hostesses for help. They are usually wonderful at helping parents with their kids and may even be able to give you a break. This is so important when flying with an infant – who doesn’t want a cuddle of a baby?
11. Take Snacks on Board the Plane
Every airline and flight is different now in regards to what food is supplied. Take plenty of food and water with you on the plane, just in case. When flying with an infant you can take their formula, water and any required food with you on the plane.
12. Entertain your kids on the plane with a movie marathon
Kalyra loves watching movies on the plane and she does for most of the flight. Flying to LA with her is a breeze. Allow your children to watch a lot of movies. It will get them excited about flying – it sure does for me! If you have an iPad, have a few movies ready for in-flight entertainment.
13. Entertain your kids on the plane with games
Kalyra loves it when we sit and play the memory game and Pacman with her on the in-flight entertainment system. It’s quiet bonding time. You can also do this if you have an iPad.
14. Help your toddler Get Settled to Have a Sleep
Let them lie on your lap, put the pillow down for them, and snuggle them up in the blanket. Do whatever you can to help your kids sleep on the plane; trust me you will appreciate those couple hours of rest time yourself.
Keep to your infant and toddler’s regular bedtime routines as much as you can: dress them in their pyjamas and have their favorite bear with them for snuggles.
15. Have your child Sit in the Middle on the plane
Have you seen the movie Flight Plan? Then you’ll know why I am recommending you seat your child in the middle on the plane. For safety keep them sitting between you and your partner in the middle seats. This way you know if they are trying to get out into the aisle without you! It will also stop them from being knocked by people walking by.
16. Help Their Ears on Landing
Babies have not yet developed the ability to equalize their eardrums naturally. If you have ever felt this pressure on your ears before then you’ll know why so many babies scream during landing. Breastfeed/feed your baby or have them suck on a dummy.
For older children let them chow down on chewy food.
17. Comfort Your Child on the Plane
A cuddle and a few calming words or hushed lullabies does wonders for comforting your child on the plane. Flying is such a new experience they might feel a little anxious. Help them to feel safe and secure. It’s the best way to settle them down.
Now for the reality of flying with a toddler! Here’s a video of our recent flight with the kids to Thailand with Air Asia X.
Read more tips for traveling with kids:
- The Ultimate Guide to the best Family Travel Resources
- 25 tips for traveling with kids
- 5 benefits of traveling with kids
- Family road trip survival guide