Our kids have been flying since before they could crawl. Their passports were stamped barely a week after receiving them in the mail. We fly. A lot. So let me share with you some thing that have helped me survive flying with kids, including flying by myself with 2 under 2!
Babywearing. Babywearing. Babywearing. Really, this is my top general travel tip for trips with young children, not just flying. Having your hands free while you go through the airport and get on the plane is ESSENTIAL. Want to bring a stroller? That’s fine. Use it to carry your bag. Put your baby on your body and you (most likely) won’t even have to take them off for security. You’ll undergo a quick screening after walking through the scanner, but it’s much easier than taking your baby or toddler out of a car seat or stroller, folding it down, then getting both of you through. Tekhni is my brand of choice. They make woven wraps and ring slings, and partner with others to make carriers of all types. A local baby wearing group near you, or a professional consultant (*cough* Like me *cough*), can help you get the hang of your carrier before you travel.
Car Seat Alternatives
I think we’d all agree that car seats are the safest places for kids. However, frequent travelers know that renting a car seat is a big no, and carrying large car seats with you can be space prohibitive. Here are a few of our favorite alternatives to save space in your baggage and on the plane. For plane rides where the child would benefit from a harness type seat, the safety harness by CARES is an FAA approved option that easily fits in your bag. If you don’t need a seat on the plane, but would like an easily packable seat for your destination, the Ride Safer Travel Vest has been a game changer for us! You don’t have to worry about if it is safe to check your car seat, and you don’t have to lug a heavy seat through the airport or down the plane aisle.
Did you know that there are places in the airport with food and drinks and comfy chairs and plugs and quiet and self serve alcohol? Yes. Yes there are. Our credit card gives us free access to these lounges as a perk (as well as pre check and a travel credit and more). Once we check our bags (or during a layover) I know we will have a great place to stop, stretch out, charge our devices, and regroup. It’s so nice to be able to tuck away and enjoy some food without paying $13 for a sandwich. Some lounges also have things like showers. It may even be worth paying for a day pass if you have a long stay, but if you travel, I highly suggest getting this card and lounging to your heart’s content. Did I mention self serve alcohol?
Bag o’ Fun
Allow me to clarify. This is not referring to giving the other passengers gifts (because that’s a hard NO) or wrapping individual toys for unwrapping during the flight (because I’m not trying to hold all that trash until they run through with a trash bag)…this is practical stuff (i.e. stuff you can order on Amazon). Just so we are clear.
Each of my kids has a special airplane bag. It includes all sorts of quiet activities and of course, an iPad/Kindle. These things ONLY come out when we get on the plane so they are special and new. Netflix and Amazon Prime allow you to download shows for offline viewing, which make it easy to have new programming available on their tablets. Some of our favorite items are baby links, triangular (no roll) crayons, Water Wow, puffy sticker pads, window clings, Floam (play dough is too messy!). I also bring adapters for the plane system and a splitter in case one tablet bites the dust and both kids need to watch a single one.
Headphones. Who knew they would be such a thing? You need headphones that:
1. Stay on their heads
2. Are loud enough to hear over engine noise
3. Are not so loud they ruin their tiny ears
For younger ones we had great luck with CozyPhones. They are even comfy to sleep in! For older toddlers/young kids, we really like the Califone Zoo Headphones. They have a volume limiter but still exceed engine noise.
Please check with your airline to see if they allow these extenders on your flight.
If you are like me and won’t be flying business class, you’ll want to make sure your kids can sleep. While they can sometimes sleep sitting up, I like to up my chances (oh, hey there Melatonin!) and these foot pillows make the perfect seat extenders for little ones. I spread my two out like so, but smaller kids would be able to fit using half seat and half pillow.
Diapering for the Long Haul
You know what’s not fun? Changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom. If you haven’t experienced it, consider yourself lucky. I did it once. And only once. After that, I diapered for a flight like I was diapering for a full night’s sleep- layer of protective cream and an overnight diaper or double diapers. Unless it’s a flight that was longer than a typical full night of sleep (or we had a “code brown”), that’s all I would do. As soon as we landed, I would head to a bathroom larger than a mouse cubby hole to change the diaper.
I feel like those are my best tips you can’t find everywhere (nurse on take off and landing, just in case you haven’t read that 1000 times). What would you add?
Affiliate links are used in this post but did not contribute to which products I chose to feature. These are real things that we use and love!