Travelling by air can be stressful alone. If you have a flight planned with your kids, I am here to help. Here are my top tips for flying with children. You will find everything you need to know including travel documents to have, information about car seats, what to pack, and more!
Top Tips For Flying With Children
As a mom of four children and being a Disney fan that lives across a giant ocean from Walt Disney World, we have accrued a few air miles as a family. My oldest child who is now 19 took her first long-haul flight at 2 and the youngest I’ve taken a child is 5 months, let’s say I have a bit of experience when it comes to flying with kids! Yes, I’ve learnt some big must do things and quite a few must not things as well. So here are some things to think about if it’s your first time taking to the air or maybe some things that might help even if you already have.
Do Kids Need ID to Fly?
Currently (October 2018), minors under the age of 18 do not require a photo ID to travel domestically within the US. However, if you are travelling as a single parent or without both parents present, be prepared that you may be asked to present either a birth certificate or/and a letter of authorisation from the non-flying parent. This is especially important if you and your child have different surnames, you do not want to have a TSA member ask you the question “are you aware your child has a different family name to your own?” true story, this happened to me and my child who was questioned about my relationship to them, intimidating and easily avoided. Lesson learnt! For those travelling overseas, then a passport is required for all party members regardless of age.
Flying with Children: Strollers and Car Seats
In my experience, strollers can always be tagged at check-in but can stay with you all the way to the departure gate. You do not need to try and carry your child through the airport, although you can, of course, hand in your stroller if you wish with other baggage.
Car seats have the same options and more often than not can be used on the plane too provided you have paid for a seat for your child. Children under 2 years old they still need a ticket and boarding card but are permitted to sit on your lap, which can reduce your flying costs). I’m not going to give my opinion on the morals of this one except to say that if its within your budget, having a space to free your arms up during the flight is really nice haha. Check with your individual airline for their guidelines.
Pre-booking Seats Together with your Child
This one really grates on me but unfortunately if you want to guarantee that your family is sitting together then pre-book your seat allocation. There are guidelines that suggest a child should always be sat with their accompanying adult BUT there is no law that says they have to put you together, as a parent for peace of mind you may want to suck up the cost for reassurance (although I’m sure my 6-year-old would happily talk to any adult next to her for 9 hours haha)
What to Take on the Plane for Kids?
Make sure you have items for comfort. I was searching for a better term but this one fits perfectly, items that will make your child more comfortable during the flight hence giving you more of a rest I hope! All these items work for adult or child, they are my essentials!
- Neck Pillow. Neck pillows are a great buy and can be picked up quite cheaply, they are great for supporting little heads for naps and making them feel snug.
- Sleepsocks. Sleepsocks are a great item if travelling during the night as cabin temperature seems to drop 10 degrees (someone please explain this one bbbrrr), they can make the difference between tired tears and sound napping.
- Small Blanket. Likewise, their favourite blanket as plane blankets are made of the thinnest cotton and do little to keep out the chill.
- Headphones. I’m also going to mention headphones here, bring a set your child is used to if you can as I’ve never seen a set of earbuds that fit comfortably on a child and these seem to be standard these days for in-flight entertainment.
Flying with Children: Snacks and Drinks During the Flight
Airlines will overcharge, in fact, they can charge anything they like as you are effectively captive in the air with them. This also means you are limited to the choices on offer, 90% of the time your child will declare they don’t like any of them (maybe that’s just mine…), I strongly suggest packing some of their favourite snacks, even sandwiches or chips.
Just about anything that doesn’t need heating up is a go apart from soups or liquid food. Yes, let’s talk about liquids on a flight. NO LIQUIDS may be taken through security unless they are under 100ml, leave the juice pouches at home as you will not get them through (liquids may be packed into checked in baggage, however.) Once through security try and grab a couple of drinks for your child, it will still be cheaper than on board and no waiting for a flight attendant.
One more little helpful snack to have is a hard candy or chew candy to give to your child as the plane descends, cabin pressure does change, meaning little ears can go pop or block for a while, the more they have to repeat swallow during landing, hopefully, the less they will be impacted.
Hand Luggage for Kids
I’m intending to write a separate blog post with ideas and tips on this subject so I’ll make this brief, but essential items for the carryon are going to be wipes (even if they are pushing 12 you’ll still want them, trust me), a spare set of clothes down to the underwear for spilled drinks, any accidents, and vomiting. Sorry, but it happens.
My kids were awesome at this trick when overtired so on the same track carry a ziplock bag and regular plastic bag, one for storing dirty clothing and one for catching the vomit. In fact, put that bag in the seat pocket in front of you as soon as you are seated, you do not want to be rummaging around when your child does this to you!
I also suggest avoiding any toys that are prone to rolling such as crayons (invest in the triangular ones that can not roll) so you are not reaching under the seat when they roll off the tiny tray..yes they will.. and any toys with small pieces that can get lost such as jigsaws, lego etc. Your neck back and shoulders will thank you. DO NOT FORGET your child’s favourite plush or blankie ever, set notifications, pin a note on the fridge, anything…unless you don’t value sleep or your sanity!
This is just a brief overview of the important points to consider, in fact, I probably could write a part 2 for this blog, but for now, I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you have any of your own tips and ideas to help other readers please comment below so they can be added in further updates. For now, I wish you a pleasant flight.