Traveling with Kids | Tips for Flying

by , posted on December 6th, 2012 in Traveling With Kids

For me, one of the most daunting parts of traveling is the dreaded packing. In the past I had serious anxiety about packing and could be found organising our suitcases for weeks before leaving on vacation. But I’m happy to tell you all that after years of traveling the world with my children I have a system and tips that make it a lot less stressful. And I’d like to share it with you all.

First of all, there are two important packing rituals for any trip that involves taking an airplane. You have your carry-on for the flight and your suitcases for the rest of your trip. Today, I want to chat about what we need to fly with kids (not babies, that’s a whole other ball game).

In our family, our kids are always really keen to have their own carry-on. The problem is that the enthusiasm for wheeling their little animal Samsonite cases usually lasts about 5 minutes before we end up with armfuls of baggage. In short, it’s better if you just pack a few bags so that the kids don’t have to worry about lugging anything around.

Before getting on any flight, I make sure to have the following items close at hand at all times (I prefer to store my in-flight bags under the seats in front of us instead of in the overhead storage bins because it’s so much less work and quicker to get at anything that is needed).

My all-time top item to take on any flight is a change of clothing. I have three children who are more or less the same size so I pack at least one outfit (in neutral colours that work for my son or daughters) for the inevitable spills that will happen during any meal time. Seriously, we haven’t had a flight that didn’t involve a glass of apple juice being spilled on someone’s lap (most of the time mine). My sister-in-law once had to run through Madrid airport in her underpants and a tiny scarf due to being thrown up on continuously from Argentina to Spain by her two year old son. And I had my daughter dump a cup of hot chocolate on me 5 minutes before our 13 hour flight to China. So, maybe some extra clothing for mom and dad might be a good idea as well.

Next, I would suggest a well-stocked medicine bag. I always have paracetamol, anti-nausea tablets and anti-diarrhea medicine (remember my famous flight from Milan to Belgium?). I also always keep cough syrup or throat lozenges on hand. There is nothing worse than having a toddler/kid who is coughing in a small confined space filled with strangers for hours on end (oh the looks you will get from co-passengers!). Lastly, I take lots of tissues, wet wipes and a few “air sickness” bags.

Now you have to worry about keeping your little ones busy and contented. I usually have one bag that is full of entertainment for the kids such as activity and reading books, playing cards, travel board games, art supplies (paper, pencils, markers, scissors, glue stick, etc.) and iPods that have the kid’s favourite music and narrated stories. Some people swear by Nintendos and other video game devices but until now we’ve managed without (most long flights have TV’s that are equipped with kid’s channels offering movies, TV shows, music and games anyway). One other thing that the kids always bring on a flight is a drawing for the pilot. If the air hostesses are friendly (not always the case) they take the kids to the cockpit before take-off to say hi to the pilots and give their drawings. It’s a big highlight for my kids when flying.

And last but not least, we make sure to always have a few snacks on hand for those moments between meals or when a flight has been delayed and the kids get hungry. We try and keep it as healthy as possible with crackers, nuts, water and fruit but the odd treat is also pretty smart to keep for emergencies like when you have to sit on the tarmac for 3 hours. And don’t forget a few bottles of water.

These are our basic essentials for flying with kids. If you have these items the flight should go quite smoothly and you’ll be prepared for any “disaster” that might arise. Do you have any other favourite items you take on a flight with kids?

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6 Responses to “Traveling with Kids | Tips for Flying”

  1. Katie Says:

    December 6th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I wrote a post about airplane travel a few months ago. Here it is in case you are interested in stopping by. The absolute best thing we brought on our last trip was a small photo album for each child that we threw together with printed photos the night before the flight. We included pictures of each of us, extended family, places we had been with or without the kids, anything that could potentially spark a story and keep us engaged for longer. But even without the stories, my boys (4 and 2) flipped through those things endlessly.

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    Love the photo book idea. I’m sure my kids would have loved them when they were small. And great post on your tips and tricks for airplane travel with kids.

  2. Katie Says:

    December 6th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Oops, I actually forgot the link. Here it is if you’d like to stop by:

  3. Sandra Says:

    December 6th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Yes, the food for the tarmac sitting. When we lived in Toronto we zoomed down to Disneyworld – about a 2 1/2 hour flight. On our return, a thunderstorm hit as we pulled away from the terminal and we sat on the tarmac for almost four hours! You can’t tell me that they didn’t know this was coming…

    Anyhow, we DID have a ton of food – you can never bring too much. And also, you never can be sure if you can get tasty, healthy, well made food in a particular airport.

    I LOVE the idea of making a picture for the pilot! When the girl was 6 months old we went to NYC and we have photos of her in the cockpit with the captain’s hat on. We weren’t in the air!

    The pre 9/11 days – I remember flying from Toronto to Vancouver and sitting in the co-pilot’s seat in a 747 during landing.

  4. Jillian in Italy Says:

    December 7th, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Yes, I’ve also spent close to four hours on the tarmac with the kids. It can be quite tortuous. Especially the incessant asking of the question “When are we taking off Mama?”.

    Can you imagine sitting in the co-pilot’s seat during a 747 landing nowadays!? Ah, the good ol’ days!

  5. Cindy H Says:

    December 7th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Great post. I’d like to add that you should always carry a thermometer and fever reducing meds, and if you are traveling with an infant take 24 hours worth of diapers and food because you just NEVER know when you will be stuck in an airport or some hotel in the middle of the night waiting for a flight to resume.

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