Getting away with your family is never easy – in fact, few things bring parents greater worry than the prospect of traveling with their children, whether by vehicle or airline. However, when you understand how to travel with children, all of those anxieties vanish and you can be assured that your family vacation will be one to remember (for the right reasons).
As a former flight attendant, I traveled the world, observing parents grapple with their children on short- and long-haul flights. However, I witnessed a plethora of effective family travel solutions. Add to that the extensive product testing that the Good Housekeeping Institute conducts in the travel category, and the fact that so many of our Lab experts are parents themselves — I am now the parent of a very well-traveled 5-year-old — and it’s safe to say that this is the only guide to traveling with kids you’ll ever need.
Arrange to go in the early morning.
It’s your best chance of avoiding delays during takeoff and landing, explains Patrick, a flight attendant. “These flights are typically less busy as well,” he explains, “and everyone is generally exhausted and just wants to nap—kids in particular.” Additionally, avoid flights with lengthy layovers or connections that take place late at night, if feasible.
Reserve mileage upgrades for flights without a toddler.
Traveling first class with children may prove to be more stressful than necessary. Joanna shares her experience traveling with her boisterous, energetic kid and incurring the vocal fury of her first-class seatmates for the whole of the flight. “It’s unjust, but with children in the economy, you’re going to get more understanding and support,” a flight attendant explains.
Discuss expectations with your children.
“In my experience, children perform significantly better when they are prepared,” says Shireen, a mother of three from Australia who has been to the United States multiple times with her children. She recommends watching this YouTube video from Let’s Go Play, which covers the full flying experience, from baggage check-in and ticketing to onboard manners and safety.
Layer your clothing and avoid lacing shoes.
When flying with a child, be prepared for dramatic temperature changes. Wendy, a flight attendant and mother, recommends dressing your children in comfortable layers — preferably without buttons, zippers, or anything else that would hinder them from reaching the restroom on time. The same holds true for footwear: avoid laces in favor of slip-ons.
Add some unexpected elements.
When flying with a toddler, bringing a wrapped new toy has two advantages: children enjoy unwrapping things, and a new object has a stronger draw on their attention.
Take into account the size of the stroller.
For some parents, navigating an airport without a stroller is unfathomable, so consider upgrading to an umbrella stroller. Additionally, check your stroller at the gate prior to boarding; the crew will have it prepared for you upon arrival.
Make a list of the items you’ll need.
Utilize this list as a guide when packing for the flight.
If it’s a pacifier, pack multiples to avoid it being thrown down the aisle or onto the floor.
Sanitizer, wipes, pull-ups, and diapers are all recommended. It is recommended to change one diaper every hour of travel.
Smartphones and tablets are preloaded with your children’s preferred movies and shows. Utilize a headphone splitter to enable them to share a device.
- Helmets for children
- Crayons (in a tiny box) and blank paper are used as art supplies.
- For rubbish, plastic bags
- Cheerios, pretzels, crackers, nuts, string cheese, and granola bars are all excellent low-sugar snacks.
Assemble security measures.
When packing, ensure that goods that must be removed for security inspection are easily accessible. Bear in mind that traveling with snacks means that you will be subjected to increased scrutiny during the screening process.
Acclimate to the pressure of the air.
Consult your physician before traveling if your child has recently had an ear infection or a cold. Pain may be felt as a result of the change in cabin air pressure. Additionally, after getting through security, fill up on enough water for everyone to get through any potential delays and have enough left over for the descent—the most uncomfortable part of the flight for ear pressure discomfort. Encourage your children to consume some immediately upon takeoff and throughout the final 30 to 45 minutes of the descent. Sucking relieves pressure and provides additional hydration.
Utilize Pull-Ups to the hilt.
While your child may have outgrown Pull-Ups, they are an excellent resource when traveling with a toddler or small child. “I use them on my six-year-old,” Wendy explains, adding that it’s far less stressful than rushing to the restroom or dealing with an in-seat accident.