Air Travel with Kids

We have been fortunate enough to take a few trips with our kids lately.  New York and Connecticut in December. Mexico in March.  In January I flew solo to Jamaica with all three of them.  Many people thought I was nuts taking three kids age 4 and under on an international flight, but I politely reminded everyone that I navigate our big city with them everyday, so 4 hours on a flight was manageable.  I’ve found that with a bit of planning, air travel with kids doesn’t have to be horrible.

And, to all the grouchy fellow passengers who scowl when they see a young family boarding a flight I say this: You were once a kid and you bothered people, too. No parents want their kids to be upset on a flight, but keeping little ones happy in a tight space while their ears are popping and they are surrounded by grumpy strangers is really, really hard. Long ago I gave up any hope of relaxing on a flight, and now I don’t even bother bringing a book or magazine for myself.  Trust me, I’m doing everything I can to ensure an enjoyable flight for my kids and the passengers around us.

For us, the objective with  air travel with kids is to keep them quiet and contained. Here’s how I try to maintain sanity:

1. iPad or Kindle: I’m sure this isn’t a big shocker, but kids love these things. Before we leave, we load up *new* movies and games so they keep busy.  The kids each have their own set of earphones, which makes the trip feel extra special.  For the a price of most plane tickets parents can buy some sort of tablet that will keep kids happy.

2. Snacks: Just because we’re traveling doesn’t mean we have to descend into a pit of junk food darkness.  Sure, I pack a bag of M&Ms because I can pass one out at a time and it takes a loooong time to do that, but I also bring a lot of healthy snacks.  Bananas and oranges travel well.  Organic treats from Happy Family like nutritious Greek yogurt pouches with a healthy and tasty mix of fruit and veggies are awesome.  Vivian, Mack and Evie love these (and so do I – haha!).

3. Get creative: Mack brings an ever-changing assortment of Matchbox cars with him everywhere we go, and airplanes are no exception.  On a recent flight, I drew a road and parking lot for him to drive his cars on.  It kept him busy for a good 20 minutes.

4. Walk around: Just because we’re on a plane doesn’t mean we have to be glued to our seats for hours on end.  Several times during a flight I get the kids up to use the bathroom and pace up and down the aisle a few times.  I allow Vivian to crawl around, too.  Might not be the most sanitary of activities, but it keeps her happy and I can always wash her hands when she’s done.  Plus, fellow passengers never seem to mind sharing a smile with a cheerful little one.

5. Pack fun bags for the kids: Each kid is “responsible” for his or her own goody bag containing coloring books, little toys, snacks, a KleanKanteen water bottle and wet wipes.  We pack everything into Terra Baby wet bags because they travel extremely well and I love having them for use around the pool or beach once we reach our final destination.  I don’t let the kids open their bags until we’re on the plane, which adds a fun bit of surprise and excitement to the trip.

6. Go with the flow: Travel with kids is full of surprises, and that can be part of the fun. It’s best to go into the trip with an open mind.  I will say that the absolute worst age for traveling is 10-24 months.  At this age, kids don’t care about iPads or coloring books or movies.  They just want to crawl and cry. Sorry, but I have no tips to making travel with this age group easy.  Quite frankly, it sucks!  But, the light at the end of the tunnel is VACATION!

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7 Comments for this entry

  1. Kendall says:

    Yes, I’m quickly learning how difficult the 10-24 month travel is. Although, I’ve traveled with my little guy 3x since he was 9 months (now 19) and this is yet one more unspoken perk of ‘extended’ breastfeeding. Oh, but the continuous hopping up/down on my lap. So exhausting! Also, stickers are great for the 14month+ group – at least it requires them sitting and not bouncing. A small ball of playdough can go a long way if your kid isn’t mouthing anymore.

  2. Caitie says:

    Your little Matchbox car street/parking lot idea is so cute! 🙂

  3. Michelle says:

    Having travelled cross-country 4 times with my little guy, from 2 months to 2 and half years, I have to say that getting them their own seats is totally worth the money. He sat on my lap once when he was 11 months old, and I won’t do it again! It didn’t help that the girl in front of me reclined her seat, and then complained when he touched it. However, brand new boxes of crayons, coloring sheets, movies, all help to make the time seem to pass better for little people.

  4. z.thompson says:

    i just traveled to California from Virginia with 2 kids ages 3 and 16 months. what a challenge!! I was complimented on their behavior after every plane ride. (2 planes there and 2 back home) lots of snacks (all healthy of course) and monsters inc. on the kindle. 🙂 we were able to share 2 seats and the kids stood up and sat on the floor freely….I did not appreciate the child and mother on one flight walking up and down the isle the kid kept touching me and i had my own kids to look after. very stressful and I wont do it again while they are so young. but considering everything the kids did a great job. 🙂

  5. Jessica says:

    Sorry, I’m one of those people who sighs when I see a bunch of kids in the seats nearby. I know they are going to cry, yell, kick my seat, and generally annoy me. I do appreciate when parents correct their kids (Don’t kick the seat, Johnny!) and try to appreciate the fact that not all passengers love kids. And yes, I was once a kid, but never got on an airplane until I was 16 years old. So I wasn’t bothering anyone back then!

  6. Jessica says:

    Yes, I agree with getting them their own seat! I know it’s more money but it worked so well with us! The thing that worked the best for us was her car seat! My daughter had just turned 2 and since she was so used to sitting in her car seat and staying there! It didn’t even phase her, not sure she even knew she was in a plane. We even rear faced her, like she was used to in her car, and was able to prop up the iPad. I agree, lots of snacks and new toys/craft items kept her busy.

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