During the work week, I am extremely lucky to call the best airline out there my employer. Growing up, my father worked for an airline as well, so travel by plane is something that has always been in my memory and anytime I have to actually drive a long distance. . . well let’s just say we avoid it at all costs.
Air travel has its own unique set of disadvantages and complications, and only becomes exponentially more when you add children into the mix. Through years of traveling extensively with my daughter and advice I have picked up from my customers, I’ve created a list of a few tips that might make your upcoming trip just a bit more fun (or at least less stressful).
As a reminder, please contact the particular airline you will be traveling with to confirm their specific policies as each one does run a little different though most items below will stand for a vast majority.
Tips For Going Through TSA
- If it has been some time since you last traveled with children, TSA does allow for your child to wear their shoes if they are under the age of 12. So don’t worry about taking them off and leave them on!
- While baby wearing is the way to carry both your babe and all of your belongings, please know that you are not allowed to wear your baby through security and must remove them from your sling/wrap, etc. (Not sure on which baby carrier is best for you-check out this blog post filled with many options!)
- Breastmilk, formula and medications are not subject to TSA’s 3-1-1 rule and are not required to remain in a quart zip-top bag as your other liquids are. However you must declare these special items prior to screening and they may be opened.
- Good for anyone traveling (not just families) TSA has a very handy tool on their homepage titled “Can I bring my…” Simply type in what you are wanting to bring through security and they will give you the specific policy regarding said item.
Tips Before You Travel
- I know the standard tip is to book travel during nap times and if your child is one that can sleep anywhere, anytime that is great advice. Mine-not so much, she is just too interested in everything going around her to sleep and I found that the earliest flights are always our most successful trips. Not to mention, the earlier the aircraft starts, the less potential for delays to occur, resulting in a long wait while at the airport.
- If you are traveling with a lap child under the age of two, bring a copy of their birth certificate or shot records to prove their age. Employees are required to ask for age verification for lap children and while many times they won’t if it is beyond obvious your child is under the age of two, if they do and you can’t prove their age-you most likely will be required to purchase an additional seat.
- Prepare your children for what will happen through all steps. Tell them about how checking your luggage works, when going through security explain that their special toys are going to get pictures taken of them when going through the x-ray machine. Prepare them that just like in the car, your seat belt has to to remain on the entire time unless you are going to the bathroom.
- Speaking of bathrooms-if your child is old enough to use the restroom by themselves, at least for the first time make sure they know how to open and close the door, my Flight Attendant friend has warned me that many children get “stuck” in the bathroom because they don’t know how to get out.
- Purchase new books, coloring books, small toys, and edible treats to surprise your child with while on the plane. I like to hit up the dollar store and pick out at least one to two items per hour that I will be on the plane. I know it is bribery but no one, especially mom or dad, appreciates a bored kid stuck in their seat.
- If you will be relying on technological devices to help keep your kids entertained, have your children practice wearing headphones. My daughter hates them, but after purchasing some Doc McStuffins headphones, she loves to wear them just because.
Tips For The Day of Travel
- If you drove yourself, take a picture of where you parked. By the time I get home my brain is fried and being able to remember while my daughter is running around with all her pent up energy from the flight home is quite the task.
- Wear layers and bring something for warmth. While boarding the plane, especially in the summer, the aircraft can become extremely hot, but once up in the air I often find my daughter is very cold. I try and pack either a light blanket or sweatshirt to make her a bit more comfortable.
- If your child is like mine and is obsessed with restrooms, take them as close to boarding as possible and warn them up front it will be some time before they can go again (just to check out the new restroom).
- Some parents find that their children really benefit from particular medicines such as a decongestant while in air. If you child is one of them, be sure to give it to them in enough time prior to their flight so that you aren’t waiting for it to kick once they have already become uncomfortable.
- Pack zip-top bags. Many of them. You never know what you are going to need to put in them, dirty diapers, clothes or make shift vomit bags. Also, about dirty diapers and vomit bags-please don’t put them in the back seat pockets! While the planes are checked for items left behind in the seat back pockets, sometimes things can be missed. I’ve unfortunately spoken to more than one customer who has stuck their hand and discovered an unpleasant surprise.
- When my daughter was wearing diapers, we only brought enough diapers to last 24 hours so we didn’t have to pack the entire pack, I didn’t let any diaper take prime real estate space in my carry on. I would utilize diapers to help pad my valuables, and you can twist and fold diapers to fit in the smallest of nooks and crannies.
- If your child is ticketed, it is highly suggested to bring their car seat onboard with you if it is FAA approved. Each airline should provide their seat dimensions so that you can make sure it will fit prior to travel. Your child will feel more secure and in the event of turbulence or a rough landing, they will be as safe as possible. Additionally, as much as baggage handlers will take precautions with your car seat, the belly of a plane is an extremely rocky place and items will shift greatly; potentially causing unknown damage to your car seat.
- If you are unable to bring your car seat on, I suggest gate checking both your car seat and your stroller. Additionally, with your stroller, if the wheels pop off easily, remove them prior to gate checking them and put them in a separate, secured bag and either carry them on or somehow secure them within the stroller. A stroller without wheels is not useful!
The Crying Child
The thing I speak to most of my customers about when they express concerns about traveling with their children is crying and how it will impact other customers. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter what distraction technique you use, your child will cry.
One particularly horrible experience after extensive weather delays, my daughter was inconsolable and we were experiencing turbulence so it was not safe to walk through the cabin. A customer in front of me turned around and yelled at me to, “control my offspring” and in my shock I had no words but the elderly woman next to me quickly reminded the guy that I was doing my best and that I needed to worry about my child and not other passengers. I was beyond grateful to her for sticking up for us and she is absolutely correct, if you are doing your best and you still can’t calm your child, there is nothing you can do.
Talk to the Flight Attendants, they might know of a better space on the plane if it isn’t full or some other trick up their sleeve that could help. And if not, luckily the flight can only last so long and hopefully, you will never see the limited passengers who were sitting around you again.
I’ve experienced a lot of air travel by myself and with my child, but I by no means have it completely down. These are just a few bits of advice I can offer to help make your travel plans a little easier.
What are your best practices or tips that help you get through your air travel?
**The thoughts and opinions expressed above are my own and are not a reflection of my employer. I am happy, however, to direct you to official answers should you need anything further clarified.
Good tips, Cassidy! I feel like I’d like to high-five that elderly lady who stuck up for you. Bravo! 🙂
Great tips Cassidy!
Other tips of mine:
– Pack clorox wipes to wipe down everything that the lil’ones will want to touch throughout the airport/plane!
– I make zip-loc baggies including 1 diaper, wipes, and disposable changing pad (that way when you need to run to the bathroom you can take your little baggie and that’s it, don’t have to haul around a big bag
– Gate check your stroller! Delays can be much more pleasant if you can walk the terminals with the stroller. Even if it’s a short flight, never know when you might need it!
– My carseat has been lost multiple times, the airports have closets full of them they will loan you if this happens
– Breast milk is easier to take in bottles than in baggies. If you have to do a vapor test, unscrewing the top is much better than juggling the zip tops and risking spills
– If you are BF or pumping, pack a collapsible cooler if possible so you will be able to transport if necessary (you can get ice once you go through security if you need it)
The more you travel when they are babies, the easier it is for parents and for the kids! Don’t be scared 🙂
As a Flight Attendant for the best airline (yikes hope we work for the same one ;)) I enjoyed this article. I find it odd that TSA states on their website that you cannot wear your child through the metal detector when we worn my daughter on each of her nine trips thus far. They just swipe our hands each time. I would also highly suggest you feed small babies on take off and descent as it helps clear their ears. give older children a paci or drink.