Airport Zen: 5 Tips for Flying with Kids

November 27, 2013

Many parents dread flying with their children, and it’s easy to understand why.  We’ve all seen the toddler racing through the crowded airport followed by his screaming mother, and the screeching baby on the plane with the smelly diaper.  But going on vacation with your kids doesn’t have to be a hellish experience.  Make the trip easier on you, your kids, and your fellow passengers with these easy tips.


#1: Bring entertainment—with headphones!

Kids have a lot of energy, and that energy needs to be channeled into activities that won’t get you kicked off the plane.  Puzzle books, drawing pads, and travel-size games are perfect for kids.  Many parents bring portable electronics for their kids, such as tablets and portable DVD players.  If you do bring electronics, you absolutely must bring headphones or disable the sound.  It’s not just common courtesy, it’s the rules!

If you’ve got a trip planned with a young or restless child consider indulging in a luxe travel experience on a private jet. This will allow you to feel more relaxed with your children, because you wont be worrying about them kicking someone’s seat or upsetting other passengers. Of course, travel by private jet is a little more expensive than normal travel, but absolutely worth it if your budget allows.

#2: Bring kid-friendly food.

If it’s sticky, juicy, crumbly, smelly, or messy, leave it at home!  Things that spill easily (like applesauce cups or yogurt) or that can dye the hands (like M&Ms and Skittles) aren’t a good idea either.  Try to pack healthy foods like ham-and-cheese sandwiches, baby carrots, apple slices, raisins, string cheese, and so on.  Foods that take a long time to eat, like candy necklaces or jawbreaker candies, can double as entertainment.

#3: Bring extra clothes and plastic bags in your carry-on.

Just like adults, kids sometimes get sick—but kids aren’t as good at finding a good place to vomit.  Children can be sick with no warning at all, and it usually happens when you least expect it.  If your child does vomit onto herself or into your lap, you won’t want to be sitting around in those clothes for the entire flight.  Keep an extra set of clothes for each member of the family in your carry-on luggage, just in case.


#4: Bring something to suck on.

Take-offs and landings cause pressure changes in the airplane cabin, and these pressure changes can cause significant ear discomfort.  Adults know how to clear their ears, but children aren’t so lucky.  For children 3 years or older, chewing gum or sucking on candies can relieve ear discomfort.  Toddlers will benefit from sucking on a bottle of juice or a lollipop.  Infants are the trickiest, but giving them a bottle or breastfeeding during take-off and landing can prevent ear discomfort and keep them from crying.

#5: Stay calm and set a good example.

Children learn behaviors by watching their parents, and airport etiquette is no exception.  Make an effort to stay calm and optimistic, even if your luggage is lost and your flight has been canceled.  If you get angry and upset when your flight is delayed, your children will think it’s okay to do the same when the flight attendant won’t serve them juice boxes.  You may not be able to control your children’s reactions, but you can at least set a good example.  And if your children do behave badly, try not to be too embarrassed or upset about it—you’re probably never going to see those other passengers again anyway, so relax!