There isn’t a parent in the world who doesn’t dread flying with kids at some point in their parent life. Am I right?! When Thomas was born, we knew flying was something we would be doing a lot of. Living across the country from most of your family and friends makes it kind of a necessity. And while our kids have become pretty seasoned travelers, every single time we fly it’s a toss up as to how it’s going to go. No matter how much I plan, anticipate and try to divert disaster; it never goes the way I want and I’ve come to accept it.
I really wish I would have documented the first time I flew with Thomas. He was three months old and I was such a hot mess. I had built up so much fear and anxiety. Googled every single thing I should do to prepare. Texted at least three people asking them for their tips and tricks. Made Andy come with me through security and to the gate. Had my diaper bag perfectly packed. Asked the gate attendant a hundred questions and even tried convincing her that I should definitely board the plane before everyone else. Only to later realize that you actually want to be on the plane for as little time as possible. Then when the plane took off Thomas fell right to sleep, and stayed asleep for the entire duration of the flight. My first flight with a child under my belt and it was a major success.
My kids were going to be perfect little fliers for life. Right? WRONG. Our next flight was a disaster.
It actually gets harder when they are toddlers; specifically the eighteen month through two and a half year stage. And despite the numerous nightmare flights and handfuls of “it could have been better” flights, we still find ourselves flying again and again. It has certainly taken some trial and error (and several embarrassing flights) to develop these helpful habits, but trust me when I say these are the best tips I’ve got!
- Window Clings. #1 play in my book and I’m sticking to it! Because what kid doesn’t like decorating an airplane window?! It has provided me with a half hour of solid quiet time on numerous different flights. And if you can find the alphabet ones with a toddler who is interested in their ABC’s-BINGO! I find most of mine in the dollar section at Target (along with lots of other cheap flight entertainment).
- Pack your own trash bag. Hear me out! I don’t know why, but we tend to accumulate so much trash on a flight, and the flight attendants can only come through the cabin so many times. Bring an extra bag to collect everything in between their pick ups. Bonus if it’s a bag that ties shut. This way you aren’t stuffing it all in the back of seats, or placing your ice filled cup on the ground and praying it doesn’t spill. You’ll feel more organized and the flight attendants will love you. Especially if you decide to participate in tip #1.
- Fly Southwest. The flight attendants are so nice and their flexible seating process is key!! On more than one flight a flight attendant has told me they can hold or watch my child if I needed to use the restroom. One even saw me struggling with Katherine on our last flight and walked her up and down the aisle for me! Yes…I handed my baby over to a complete stranger-where were they going to go with her?! Also, seats are not pre-assigned which can be a dream for traveling families (just be sure to get there in time for family boarding!). It also means there is a chance you can snag an empty seat for some more room, or for your lap child that you didn’t have to purchase a ticket for. Ask at the gate if the flight is full, and if it’s not, set an item on the seat next to you during boarding. Just do it. Trust me, no one wants to sit next to someone with a kid anyway. I know this is kind of breaking the rules, but mamas gotta do, what mamas gotta do. Andy gives me a solid eye roll every time I do this when he’s with me.
- Snacks. Seriously do not forget snacks. Lots of them. Goldfish, wheat thins, fruit snacks, candy (gasp!). Seriously, anything to keep them happy and occupied.
- Gate check a stroller. It’s one extra thing, but it helps me get through the airport quicker. Even if your kid(s) won’t sit in it, you can put your bag on it and random things that didn’t get back to their assigned spot after the chaos that is called security. Plus, you’re allowed to; so why not?!
- Liquid. In my experience, if you have a baby bottle, sippy cup, or kid looking water bottle filled with liquid; it’s fair game to get it through security. Sure, you get pulled aside and they have to test it, but let’s be honest…you’re going to get pulled aside and searched anyway for the hand sanitizer you forgot to take out and the metal car your son snuck into the stroller before sending it through. Airplanes don’t serve milk, so this always saves me a melt down or two if I have some of my own on hand.
- Wear layers. Because you will be hot. But you will also be cold. Plane temperatures are notoriously uncomfortable no matter what. If you’re wrangling one, two, or maybe even three kids during a flight, you will be hot. Especially if you’re nursing. But if you have an early AM flight, the plane will be cold from sitting empty all night. So, wear pieces that can easily be removed and put back on. Tank tops and hoodies are my go-to.
- Extra clothes. Pack extra clothes for each kid. Or if you want to take your chances, pack just one that would work for either, but just pack extra clothes. The one time you don’t pack anything, you’ll be sorry. Trust me on this one.
- Give them responsibility. As of lately, Thomas loves bringing his rolling backpack with us when we fly. He’s responsible for his snacks, and is allowed to pack one toy to take on the plane. It’s amazing how much interest he dedicates to getting that backpack through security, around the airport and onto the plane under the seat in front of him. It gives him something to focus on, and gives me a little extra space in my own bag.
- Last but not least; BREATHE. And remember that a majority of the people around you have been in your exact same shoes. You can do it! No plane ride lasts forever, and if you’re lucky; you just might have a good story to tell from it one day.
We just got back from traveling to and from Michigan for an extended summer stay, and I have to say…it’s so much less stressful to fly with another adult. I don’t know if it’s the extra hands, or knowing that someone else is sharing in the madness with you, but I’ll take it any day over traveling alone (which is typically how I do it!). What are your go-to travel tips? My friend Emily just shared some great ideas for traveling with kids as well and I specifically love her suggestions for getting through a long car ride! Check out her post here.
PS. Sorry for the lack of images. I actually convinced myself that I would be able to take a few on our flight home to Colorado. BWAHA. << This is me laughing at myself. 😉 << And this is me letting go of perfection. Happy Friday, friends! xoxo, KM
Loved reading this in bed with Margot this morning! XO
Saving these for our next 2 years of flying with Bodie! 🙂
Another great post Kailey! Love your writing. Keep up the great work! xoxoxoxo miss pretzels and wine at whatchamacallit.
Thank you!! These tips are so helpful and I always appreciate your insight!
I have one additional tip for the dads out there, if you get lucky enough to marry an amazing woman like I did, you can avoid flying with kids altogether. Send them on the trip early and come in a few days later! I could never fly alone with our monsters, still not sure how you pull it off, but you do. Love ya.
Great tips! Learned a couple news things for when I travel with my daughters next! Thanks for sharing,
Isn’t That Charming.