Air travel is stressful for anyone, but flying with children can be exhausting, especially for a new parent. Parents who have older children typically have the process down pat, but first-time parents are in uncharted territory. It doesn’t matter whether you’re flying with a five-month-old or a five-year-old, there are some general things you should always do and others you should not do. Here are some helpful tips for parents flying with children.
Do Schedule Flights During Sleep Time
If the timing and price works out, consider booking flights that coincide with your children’s bedtime. Try to avoid flights that can disrupt a small child’s sleep schedule. If your baby normally sleeps until 8 a.m., try not to choose a 6 a.m. flight if you can avoid it. Picking a flight where your kids might sleep can help reduce travel stress and also help keep them on the same schedule when you arrive at your next destination.
Do Prepare a Checklist for Your Carry-On
Preparing a checklist is especially important when you have a baby. Infants don’t carry their own luggage, and they certainly can’t pack on their own. Tracking down baby items at an airport can be an arduous and expensive task. Start your packing days in advance and keep a checklist of necessities. Make sure to include items like antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer since planes are a haven for germs. Also, bringing sealable bags to dispose of diapers can be helpful as well.
Do Burn Off Energy Before You Board
If you’re traveling with kids that are walking and talking, you’ll want to let them burn off some energy. If you keep them sitting still for an hour at the gate before boarding, they are going to be restless on the plane. If your kids are active before boarding, there is a higher likelihood that they might fall asleep on the flight.
Do Bring Something for Takeoff and Landing
Bringing something for takeoff and landing is especially important when you are traveling with infants. The increased pressure during takeoff can cause significant pain. Be prepared and have a bottle, pacifier or whatever else will help calm your little one down.
Do Take Advantage of Early Boarding
Get to your gate early so when they announce pre-boarding, you can head to the front. Most carriers have a pre-boarding process that helps disabled passengers and those who need extra time to get on the plane first. This is so they don’t delay the general boarding process. The airline crew also makes an announcement for people traveling with kids under a certain age to board early. This announcement gives you time to get your bag in the overhead and everything organized before the rush of other passengers.
Don’t Bring Messy Snacks and Avoid Caffeine
If you have older kids, be mindful of the snacks you opt to bring. Don’t bring items that will be messy to eat or create a mess in the space around your family’s seats. If you don’t want to deal with cleaning it up, the airplane cleaning crew won’t necessarily be happy doing it either. Also, skip the sugar and caffeinated beverages that will make your kids antsy. You want them to be relaxed and maybe sleep, not running up and down the aisles or becoming restless and cranky in their seats.
Don’t Let Your Kids Use Electronic Devices Without Headphones
Having an iPad or other electronic devices that can keep your child entertained on the entire flight is highly recommended. What’s not recommended is letting them play games or stream with the volume on if they aren’t using headphones. If your kids are awake and playing games while the passengers around you are trying to sleep, it can be very disruptive. Always pack headphones so your kids can stay entertained without being annoying other travelers.
Don’t Book Flights With Tight Connections
It doesn’t matter whether you’re traveling with an infant or a ten-year-old; tight connections are a nightmare for parents with kids. Getting everything together to deplane and then rushing to your next gate makes the entire process even more stressful. Consider long layovers, which also help with delays. If you have lounge access, it can be a great way to pass the time in between flights.
Don’t Assume the Airline Will Seat Your Family Together
With new basic economy fares becoming more popular, some travelers automatically assume that the airline will still seat them together because they have underage children. If you have a child that has his or her own ticket, you can’t assume the airline will automatically flag your group and put you together. There are plenty of stories online of families that rolled the dice and later had to start asking people to switch with them. If you have a child that you need to be seated near, pay the extra fee to choose seats.
If you are traveling with a baby, try to book early so you can get the bulkhead rows as these commonly have attachments for baby bassinets. Some airlines will let you request a bassinet ahead of time when you book your ticket, so you don’t need to bring your own.