Updated April 29, 2019
Planning air travel with kids? I’ve got five super helpful tips to flying with children to make life easier and less stressful! Flying with kids can be fun and a great experience for the whole family.
When my husband and I were expecting our first child, we talked about the things we’d have to give up or miss out on. One thing that came up was travel. The more we talked about it, the more we thought, “Why do we need to give this up? We really don’t.” Theres’s a lot you sacrifice when you become a parent, but there are ways to keep enjoying the things you love. Travel is much different 7.5 years later into parenting, but it’s so rewarding. Here we are, countless flights and a lot of fun memories later. We did not, in fact, give our love for travel up.
Our girls have been so many amazing places, and we truly love the experiences we’ve had. Now that baby number 3 is on the way, we know it’s going to be a little difficult for a while, and a lot more expensive, but that comes with the territory. Travel is something we save for, and we’ll just have to keep doing that.
My advice: just travel with your kids. Yeah, it’s a lot of planning and prep. Yeah, it can get expensive. Yeah, there’s a lot to pack. But I promise you you’ll make incredible memories, even if they aren’t the picture-perfect ones you hope you’d make.
Now that I’ve said all this, I made a video with five of my biggest tips for flying with children. I’ve geared this video to flying with small children – birth to about ten years old. We’ve been flying with our kids since Kennedy was 2 months old, and they have been on well over fifty flights. We are not the elite air travel experts of all time, but we do know a good thing or two. Hopefully some of this will help you plan your next trip!
5 Tips for Flying with Children
I hope you found the video helpful! I am recapping below everything I chat about in the above video. But, be sure to watch the video if you want more in-depth tips!
1. Get TSA Pre-Check
If you only do one thing I suggest from this blog post and video, get yourself TSA Pre-Check. It saves a lot of time in the security line. You’ve got to wrangle enough if you’re traveling with kids, and the TSA Pre-Check security line makes life just a little bit easier. We will never be without it again. If you’re planning any international travel, you should just go ahead and get Global Entry, as it automatically comes with 5 years of TSA Pre-Check.
2. Be a Smart Packer
Know your airline’s baggage policy and how to capitalize on that! We fly Southwest Airlines very frequently, and you can check two bags per ticketed person. I would rather not deal with having to lug luggage and car seats through the airport – lugging kids is enough. And, let’s face it, you’ll likely have to check something when you’re flying with small children. I’m of the mind set that I’d rather not deal with kids and luggage, so we check as much as we can. We swear by these space saver bags when we’re packing our luggage – they’re such a lifesaver!
Checking car seats are much easier when you have these carseat travel backpacks. Car seats are free to check with any airline, so you may as well. If you do not have a travel bag/protector for your car seat, you run the risk of it getting damaged. We have found that our car seats travel amazing with the travel bags. Not to mention, the fact that it’s a backpack makes it so you can actually be hands-free to maneuver kids or other pieces of luggage. Some people prefer to bring carseats on the plane, but we are not those.
Definitely take your stroller through security and onto the plane. You’ll gate check that – meaning, you will leave it on the jet bridge as you board the plane, and it will be there waiting for you when you land. Strollers are a must for babies and really young ones.
3. Master the Carry On
The carry on can make or break the success of your flight! Kids and flying can be an interesting combination, so try as best as we can to cater to your kids’ needs. A lot of this depends on age. I never go without snacks and hand sanitizer. Babies definitely need a change of clothes, more than enough diapers for the day (you never know what could happen), a change of clothes for you. Snacks and headphones are absolutely essential for toddlers/preschoolers/ elementary-aged kids! Also make sure the devices are charged and games/movies are downloaded to the device. WiFi can be spotty, so don’t think you can rely on it. Jackets and small blankets are great for kids.
4. Know the Rules of Your Airline & Any Extra Policies
All of the rules and regulations for air travel with babies and kids can be overwhelming. Your best bet is to always give the airline a call if you cannot find the answer to your question online. It’s better to be over prepared than under prepared. One of the big questions I always see is “do kids need ID to fly?” ou’It depends on the airline on what you’ll need to bring with you, so definitely call and make sure! If you are bringing a lap infant (baby 0-2 years old who is not ticketed), most airlines require you to bring a birth certificate to prove the child’s age, and that they’re under 2. We’ve been asked for the birth certificate a number of times traveling with an infant, although sometimes they do not ask for it. Your best bet is to bring it.
The TSA ID requirements for kids 2 and up vary a little bit but most airlines do not require identification for ticketed passengers for kids under the age of 18. Again, do your research and call! Most of the time when we are traveling with our girls, the TSA agent at security asks them to verify their names and they are clear to go through security.
One other thing a lot of people don’t know about is that you can bring liquids through security that are specifically for the needs of your babies and children. This includes medicine, formula, and breast milk. All you need to do is take it out of your bag and alert the TSA agent as you are going through security. It usually will get scanned separately without any problems.
5. Have Realistic Expectations
Flying with children is a whole event in itself. You know your kid the best, so cater to your kids’ needs even if they seem a little unconventional. Don’t pull out all of your tricks until you are on that plane (snacks, devices, games, etc.), if you can help it.
I know that my kids are really hungry and thirsty on planes, so we always hold off on food and drink, and let them go crazy on the plane. Haha. We buy a big bottle of water once we get through security and they can drink that on the plane.
Babies cry. It happens, and there’s not much you can do about it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Give yourself some grace! It’s only a few hours (hopefully). Don’t be afraid to ask for help from one of the flight attendants or crew if you need it. They’re always so accommodating and happy to help.
Bottom Line – Just Do it and Make the Memories!
Yes, travel with kids is hard and there are a lot more moving parts to the experience. But the memories you’ll make are worth it.