Plane Facts On Flying With Kids
It's that time of year - time to fly home for the
holidays! If you are traveling with kids, you know the stress level
involved when it comes to the big travel event. Kids are so
energetic that flying in the confines of a small airplane cabin is
sure to test your sanity.
So, how can you keep what little sanity you have left
when flying with kids? In short, a little planning goes a long way.
Traveling with children goes much more smoothly when you tell them
what to expect from their big adventure. In addition, a little
"food" bribery works wonders.
Here are some tips to make flying with kids less
Choosing The Flight & Seats
Try your best to select non-stop or direct flights.
Simply put, the less airport connections, the better. I personally
find changing airplanes to be THE most stressful part of traveling
with kids. There is nothing worse than coming in at Gate 1, only to
find you'll need to schlep the tribe and their gear all the way to
The time you fly can also make a significant
difference. Flying at non-peak times, late at night, mid-afternoon,
and early in the week from Mondays-Wednesdays can make your life a
whole lot easier. Remember that Thursdays through Sundays are higher
When booking your flight, be sure to state your
seating preference. The best seats for traveling with children are:
· The bulkhead area · Near the bathroom · Window seats
Remember, if you are sitting in a bulkhead row, all of
your carry-on items need to be stowed in the overheads for take off
and landing. During the flight, you can place your items back on the
floor. As a reminder, the FAA (Federal
Aviation Administration) has determined that seats which are
directly adjacent to exits should be restricted from occupancy to
customers traveling with infants. Additionally, only one infant per
row on either side of the plane is acceptable due to the
availability of oxygen masks.
Pack A Bag With All The Necessities
They key to any traveling with children is a
well-stocked bag with the necessities, and bribery food! If you are
traveling with infants, understand that most airports do not carry
diapers or formula, so you will need to plan accordingly. I always
recommend taking a full day of supplies or more because you never
know if there will be significant weather delays, etc.
So, what should be in the bag?
· Since many airplanes tend to be cold, make sure all
children have an extra sweater or jacket at their seat.
· For babies and toddlers, bring along diapers, wipes,
a change of clothes (in case of motion sickness), a favorite
blanket, toy, and other items you find necessary.
· If your child is on medication, be sure you have
enough for the entire plane ride. As always, keep medication with
you in your carry-on - never check medicine.
· For older kids, have them pack their own backpack
with crayons, markers, paper, and toys to keep them busy.
· Food! Be sure to include favorite snack foods for
the kids. Cheerios, granola bars, cheese and crackers, juice boxes,
and any convenient snack foods that are easy to pack will keep kids
happy. If you are flying on an international flight, make sure to
understand the customs rules before you leave: most fruit and dairy
products will be confiscated at customs.
· Take along a copy of your child's pertinent medical
information and your pediatrician's phone numbers. Especially when
traveling overseas, ask your doctor or health service for a
· Lastly, don't forget your tickets. Better yet, when
you make your reservation, get e-tickets so you won't have to worry
Child Safety Seats
Flying is safer for infants and toddlers if you
purchase a safety seat. Children who are over two years old are
required to purchase a ticket. Infants, who are carried in an
adult's lap, do not require a ticket.
If you are flying with small children under 40 pounds,
you may use an FAA approved child safety seat. As a reminder, many
booster seats are not FAA approved. The Civil Aviation Medical Institute
(CAMI) has found that backless booster seats and harnesses could
expose a child to abdominal and back injuries. All approved child
seats will have a small yellow sticker on the device stating that it
is FAA approved.
The child seat must be used in an unoccupied aircraft
seat and cannot be held in an adult's lap. Child seats cannot be
used in an exit row, or in the row immediately before or after an
exit row. In addition, passengers with lap infants cannot be seated
in exit rows.
On long hauls, such as international flights, many
airlines offer bassinets, which are provided free of charge. These
bassinets are large enough to hold a child up to about 6 months old.
They may not be used for takeoff, landing, or any time the fasten
seat belt sign is illuminated.
Don't forget that you can order special children's
meals for your little ones. Airlines do not charge extra for these
meals. Many airlines offer kid favorites that include hot dogs,
hamburgers, pizza, and chicken nuggets.
United Airlines serves Friendly
Skies Meals™ on flights from 21 cities. These meals include
McDonald's® hamburgers or chicken nuggets along with cookies and a
If you are traveling with an infant and need formula
heated, know that airplanes do not have microwaves on board. One
great tip I learned as a flight attendant is to use the "air sick
sacks" in the seat pocket in front of you. They are waterproof and
make great bottle warmers. Pour hot water in and place the bottle in
to warm up. A few minutes later, you will have warm formula for your
Here is a list of things you can do to make your
travel day much easier:
· Dress for comfort. Dress for comfort, and let
your kids wear comfortable play clothes. Save the good clothes in
your carry-on bag and change into these after your arrival. Grandma
will never know!
· Arrive early. Allow ample driving time to the
airport for holiday traffic delays. It's best to arrive two hours
before departure to start things off on the right foot.
· Check luggage first. Check luggage first,
then park the car. This is much easier than trying to carry luggage
and children at the same time.
· Security screening lines. Security screening
lines may be long this time of year. If you are using a stroller, be
ready to take your child out of the stroller so security personnel
can inspect it.
· Tire them out!. Once you are at the gate
area, let your children work off as much energy as possible before
flying. Use every opportunity to walk and move around before
boarding. Some airports like Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston have
· Pre-board. Take advantage of pre-boarding.
This helps you and the kids get settled in, and allows you to find a
nearby space for carry-ons.
· Pillows and blankets. Grab pillows and
blankets before they disappear.
· Gate-check your strollers. If you are
bringing a stroller, ask for a gate-check. This means that the
stroller is taken from you as you board and given to you as you
deplane. Never check your stroller with your luggage. You will need
a stroller for the long walk to baggage claim or for changing
· Tour the cockpit. If there is time, ask the
flight attendants if it is possible for the kids to get a peek into
the cockpit before or after the flight. Most flight crews enjoy
showing children the cockpit. More often, the best time is after the
flight. Kids will be amazed by all the lights and instruments.
· Seat belts. When in your seats, explain to
the children about the fasten seat belt sign. Let them know that
when the captain has the seat belt sign on, they cannot leave their
seats - even for the potty.
· Window seats. Let children take turns at the
window. The window is the most fun place to sit on the airplane. Try
to make sure every child has a chance to see the sights while
· Toy story. In-flight, divvy up the toys
sparingly. Depending on flight time, it is best to offer one
plaything at a time. It helps to pass the time away in small
Ear pain is the most common airplane problem with
infants and toddlers. Ear pain occurs when the plane is ascending to
cruising altitude or making a descent to land. Pain occurs when the
ears' Eustachian tubes are blocked due to rapid changes in cabin
pressure. The best thing to do is to feed your baby a bottle, a
sippy cup, or have them suck on a pacifier. If that doesn't work,
understand that crying actually relives their pain as it unblocks
If your child has a cold, make sure you seek the
advice of doctor before your trip. They will often prescribe an
antihistamine to help keep congestion at bay.
Most of the time traveling, with your kids is a fun
experience. There are times, however, when it can seem like a form
of torture. For every parent whose normally well-behaved sweetie has
turned into a screaming maniac at the airport, just remember to keep
a sense of humor!
Click here to return to article index