Before You Book
– If possible, book the flight during your kid’s usual nap time. Remember that late night flights are often delayed.
– Bulkhead seats are ideal and some planes (usually on international flights) have basinets attached to the walls for babies under 20 lbs. These seats are often only released over the phone. Seatguru.com is a great resource for seeing which seats have more legroom. Remember no one under the age or 15 is allowed to sit in an exit row.
– Kids under 2 do not need to have a purchased ticket, but having them in a car seat on a separate seat is safer and easier for everyone. Sometimes you get lucky and get an extra seat for free (ask at the gate), but having a separate ticket, especially on crowded holiday flights, gives you a pricy but reassuring guarantee. If two adults are purchasing tickets, buy a window and an aisle; middle seats are the most likely to stay open and if a stranger does end up sitting there, he or she will usually gladly trade so you can sit together. Car seats must be placed in window seats.
What To Pack
– Bring a snap n’ go or other small stroller with a car seat adapter (we like the City Mini for its easy one-hand fold feature and the ability to use it without the car seat at the destination). Checked strollers can get damaged, so leave expensive ones at home. Study and bring your car seat manual if you are used to installing the seat with a base and won’t have one at your destination.
– The Cares Harness Child Aviation Restraint ia an easy, safe TSA-approved seating alternative for kids 22-44 lbs. The adjustable shoulder straps slide easily over the seat back.
– The TSA allows a ‘reasonable’ amount of bottled breast milk, formula, puréed baby food and pouches. Bring enough for as many mealtimes as you are expecting to be traveling (don’t forget getting to and waiting at the airport), plus one or two more in case of delays. A security agent might do some extra testing on the liquids.
– Baby Tylenol and other medicines are also allowed. While we don’t recommend giving into the temptation to drug a healthy kid (sometimes meds can hype little ones up), if your kid has been teething or getting over an illness make sure you have pain relief on board with you.
– No identification is required on domestic flights for anyone under the age of 18.
– Plan on checking a bag and only bringing what you’ll need on the flight (which is plenty). The extra baggage fees are worth paying in exchange for one less thing to worry about. Organize your checked luggage with waterproof Ziploc Double Zipper Big Bags for each family member and day or activity.
– Baby Carriers are great for getting through security, walking up and down the aisles and soothing fussy babies to sleep.
– Always have an extra change of clothes on the plane for both you and your kid – someone how the biggest pukes and poopy blow-outs happen on the longest flights.
– Airplanes get chilly, so bring layers, socks, hats and blankets.
– Pack a diaper for each hour of the flight, just in case, and remember you might be delayed at the gate for a while. Also bring a changing pad and disposable liners. Some planes don’t have changing tables, so be prepared to use your lap in the bathroom or your seat. Leave your diaper bag in the seat and just bring what you need for the change.
– Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands often. We love these on-toxic, all natural Cleanwell To Go Wipes in convenient 10-packs for wiping down germy tray tables.
– If your child has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, bring it (in a protective zip-loc bag) to make nap time easier.
– Portable white noise machines can work wonders for mobile naps.
At Security– There is often a family line that allows you to go right to the front; ask an agent.
– Car seats (face-down) and folded-up strollers go on the x-ray conveyer belt if they fit. Otherwise an agent will do a manual search.
– Put breast milk, formula, and other liquids in a separate bin.
– Children under the age of 12 do not have to remove their shoes or jackets, and babies can stay in carriers as parents walk through the x-ray machine.
At The Gate & Boarding
– If you didn’t purchase a seat for your kid, as soon as you get the gate ask a flight attendant if you can be moved adjacent to an empty seat. This is often determined at the last-minute, so keep checking back.
– If you need to heat up a bottle for take-off, get hot water (in a cup with a lid) from a coffee vendor at the gate as hot water is usually not available on the flight until well after take-off. Remember you might be on the plane waiting or taxi-ing for a while so be prepared.
– Ask the flght attendant when you can board. Different airlines have different policies for family pre-boarding; usually it’s after first, business, and premium coach passengers but before everyone else. Some polite pleading can often get you far.
-Ask an attendant for gate check tags for your stroller and car seat. You can wheel the stroller up to the actual door of the plane, then fold up the stroller and leave it (and the car seat if your kid doesn’t have a seat) outside the door.
On The Flight
– Make sure kids are sucking on something, a pacifier, bottle lollipop or even your finger, during take-off and landing to protect their ears.
– Don’t be afraid to use the in-flight entertainment system; most have kid-friendly options. Smart phones and computers can entertain for hours. Download some of these kid-friendly apps and favorite TV shows and make sure devices are fully charged. There is enough white noise on the plane that neighbors usually don’t mind the accompanying sounds. Remember you don’t fly that often, so give yourself (and your fellow passengers) a break and relax usual screen time rules, though limiting TV/device time in the weeks leading up to the flight will make the digital magic more potent.
– Bring a small new book or toy for each hour of the flight. Wrap it in tissue paper for even more entertainment value. Some favorites include Elmo’s World First Flap-Book Library, four small, thin engaging books on balls, babies, puppies and food with lots of flaps to explore, and the The Cheerios Animal Play Book.
– Snacks that take a while to eat such as puffs, cheerios and fruit leather can be their own entertainment; bring a variety. Use disposable changing pads on the tray table before spreading snacks around.
– Stickers and even colored electrical tape can provide cheap easy amusement. The Little Airport Sticker Activity book and the similar Beach, Train Station, and Petting Zoo sticker activity books. are small, cheap ($1.50) and each packed with 34 stickers that can be rearranged multiple times on an included background. Watch younger kids closely to make sure they don’t try to eat stickers or pieces of tapes.
– Paper and triangular crayons that won’t roll off the tray are lots of artistic fun.
– Try to enjoy your time together with no distractions. Sing songs, tell stories, and shop the Sky Mall catalogue together.
With planning and practice, flying with wee ones gets easier. Happy travels! And for those-not-so-happy flights, remember that all planes eventually land and you will probably never see any of the other passengers again.