Flying With Young Kids: Do’s & Don’ts

Flying With Young Kids: Do's & Don'ts

Flying with young kids–also known as the truest test of patience, quick thinking, and endurance. 

Recently, our family (2 adults, a kindergartener,  and a preschooler) took a trip from Cedar Rapids to California involving 4 flights total.

In 2019, I took my then-toddlers by myself on a direct flight to and from Denver.

We’ve banked even more time in the car than on flights if you’re also in the market for Road Trip Tips. I’ve gleaned a bit of information from all this traveling that I would have wanted someone to tell me before I flew.

Here’s my list of Do’s & Dont’s when flying with young children:

-Do’s-

1. Bring your own snacks.

Like, a lot of snacks. Little mouths eating food=little mouths not asking how much longer until the flight is over. This also leaves you less reliant on buying food at the airport, which is always outrageously expensive and you may not even have time to stand in line. Pro tip: Each of our planes had little white bags on the back of each seat. We utilized these each flight for food wrappers which made things much easier when the flight attendants came around to collect garbage.

2. Put your kids’ masks on a lanyard.

We did not do this but saw a few other parents who had, and it would’ve saved me a few different headaches finding my son’s mask when it slipped down into the seat while he took it off to eat and drink. After retrieving the lost mask, it felt incredibly gross to ask him to put it back on his face. Lanyards for the win!

3. Bring spillproof cups.

Out of our four total flights, we spilled a drink on three of them! It was so pathetic by the third time that I could only laugh so I didn’t cry. Bring an empty reusable water bottle for your kids! At the airport, you can fill it up with water so you don’t have to buy overpriced water and drinks. Then, on the flight, you can pour the free beverage into it right away so there is less concern for spilling. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

4. Invest in a pair of wireless headphones for every member of the family.

We had never done this because I assumed they would be very expensive. We found a nice pair at Walmart that were less than $15 and they worked perfectly the entire trip. Fewer cords on an airplane mean one less thing to worry about and untangle.

5. Check car seats and strollers for free.

If you have kids who are too young to walk through the airport, a stroller is an absolute must. It is free to check at the gate. You check car seats and checked bags at the same time, which is nice to do right away so you’re not lugging them all around the airport. **Check your airline’s stroller and car seat policies before flying as they differ between companies.** Our kids are big enough to be in booster seats, so to avoid the hassle of checking those, I bought a cheap two-pack from Amazon and shipped them directly to our destination!

-Dont’s-

1. Don’t allow less than 90 minutes between connecting flights.

Both of our connecting flights to California were about an hour, which sounded nice at first (no waiting around the airport with impatient kids). But then our first flight arrived ten minutes late and we had to get to the other end of the airport quickly. We just barely caught our second flight (sweating profusely, one of us tripped on the escalator–not a good time). On the way back, we had 20 minutes to spare but that wasn’t long enough to wait in line for any of the fast-food places nearby (at dinner time) so we ended up spending $30 on two mediocre sandwiches at the nearest cabana. Would not recommend!

2. Don’t waste money picking your own seats on the plane.

The flight will automatically detect young children when generating seat assignments and will ensure they are sitting next to an adult in their party. They know flying with kids can be hard, and won’t make it harder for you!

3. Don’t mess with paper boarding passes when checking into your flight.

Check in on your flight’s app 24 hours before the flight (this will also tell you your seat assignment, boarding gate) and use the digital boarding passes. Swipe, scan, done.

4. Don’t pay for Wi-Fi or rely on it working spotlessly.

Download content beforehand to your device so that it works with or without an Internet connection. Bonus: it saves battery usage when you’re watching something already downloaded as opposed to streaming it.

5. Don’t overload the bags you’re carrying.

From personal experience, let me say that if you do this, walking around the airport will be *miserable*. Checking a bag can be pricey but when you’re sweating bullets hauling around a carry-on and personal item (backpack, small bag) for each person (probably carrying a couple of your kids’ bags, too) and going up and down escalators, on airport trams, squeezing into the tiny aisle as you find your seat…. the fewer bags, the better! We didn’t check a bag on our flight to California and it was my biggest regret. Sometimes the money saved just isn’t worth the stress it will put back onto you.

I hope this article helps you learn from my mistakes so that you have a stress-free, relaxing, comfortable time flying with your kids (a girl can dream!).

Comment below with any tips and tricks that have worked for your family!

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Alicia is a stay-at-home mom to Claire (5), Drake (4), and Kate (1). After growing up in western Iowa, Alicia ventured east to attend the University of Iowa and graduated in 2014 with a Political Science degree, and a minor in English. When she isn’t chasing kids, she loves finding time for scrapbooking, going on walks around the neighborhood, and watching any and every home renovation show! Alicia loves staying involved in her community, mainly through spending time in her church and volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. With three kids under five, her advice to moms with young kids is: “prayer, coffee, and then a little more of each!”

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