Flying with children may be new for you, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Children can travel at virtually any age, which means you don’t have to wait until they’re adolescents to put them on a plane.
Choose a destination, pack your luggage, and enjoy a safe and memorable flight by checking out these six tips for flying with kids.
6 Tips for Your First Time Flying with Children
#1 Check Your Seats
Some airlines will assign your seats, so ensure you and your children are seated together before you board. The best way to guarentee your choice of seats is to check-in online, as early as possible.
If you choose the back of the plane, this will give easy access to the bathrooms, though if you don’t pre-select your seats, the front is often reserved for those traveling with children, and the airline will decide where you go.
Decide which area is best for your family – if you’re traveling internationally on a long haul flight, you can often get seats behind a bulk head so that no-one is sitting in front of you.
If you require extra facilities like a bassinet, make sure you tell the airline in advance so that they can organize this with your seat choice. And it’s important not to change seating after it’s been assigned if you’ve ordered special meals for your children.
It’s important to note that children are not permitted to sit in emergency exits, most airlines have a policy where a child must be at least 15 years of age for this seat.
#2 Bring Entertainment
Bring some of your children’s favorite stuffed animals, electronics or games. A bored child becomes a cranky one – make sure you prevent this by having enough entertainment to last the duration of the trip.
Bring quiet activities such as coloring and picture books or pack a pair of headphones for their device. Some airlines do provide these, and of course there is often an in-flight entertainment unit with plenty of kids movies, but it’s well worth making sure you have back up.
It’s rare, but not uncommon, for entertainment units to break, and you shouldn’t rely on the airline having free coloring books even though many do. So make sure you have your own entertainment.
#3 Supervise Them
It’s very important to be mindful of other passengers by not letting your children run around the cabin or make excessive, unnecessary noise.
Many kids get restless after sitting for a while, but you can prevent them from acting out through preparation. Talk to them about respecting others’ personal space.
Walk your kids through each step of the boarding process, including security screening. They may be concerned with seeing their luggage disappear but let them know this is temporary.
And don’t forget to inform them about turbulence – it may seem scary at first, but it’s ultimately harmless. Eighty percent of planes experience it, and the seat belt rule is mostly to avoid bumps or falls – not because the aircraft is in danger of crashing.
Turbulence is when most children will become frightened during a flight, so here everything you need to know to be able to explain it to them …
#4 Consider Using a Car Seat
If you’ve planned a road trip and you have young children it’s probably obvious you will take a car seat for your kid. But if you travel by plane it’s an equally good idea to think about having an FAA-approved car seat with you.
Many people will advise to hold small children on your lap if you don’t buy them a separate seat, but when it comes to safety (and comfort), you’re a lot better off spending that extra money.
Putting your child in a restraint system makes for a safer and smoother ride. You may be able to use an existing car seat if it’s certified for airline use. Some international airlines don’t allow car seats, however, so check yours if traveling overseas.
#5 Have a Change of Clothes
Pack an extra outfit or two in your carry-on. For both you and your child.
Accidents happen, and it’s not pleasant for anyone to sit through a flight with juice or spaghetti sauce on their clothes. Bring comfortable clothes that don’t require much hassle to change into. Comfort is essential when flying.
If you’re sitting in a row of three and it’s you and your child, consider sitting in the middle and seating your child on the aisle. That way, if there is a mess, it doesn’t end up all over the other passenger.
#6 Consider Identification
Kids don’t need identification on domestic flights – a boarding pass is the only requirement. Some airlines, however, may ask for minor ID, so find out if yours does. If you’re traveling internationally, your children will need passports.
Taking a trip with kids in tow can be easier than you ever imagined. Stay prepared, pack the essentials and get ready for takeoff.