Flying with children can simultaneously be one of the best and worst experiences of a parent’s life. On one hand- it’s stressful. Not everyone finds toddlers adorable. And the law of probability states that you will likely end up on the plane next to or in front of the grumpiest possible passenger. Kids throw up on planes, cry, talk too loud, and kick the seat in front of them. (That’s not just my kids, right?)
But kids also appreciate the magic of flying. Every. Single. Time.
After years of stressful air travel with kids, I’ve learned that there are certain tricks that can make your experience SO much better. Here are my 6 favorite airline hacks for flying with kids:
- Book Window and Aisle Seats: I’m probably going to regret spilling the beans on this little secret, but our family always books window and aisle seats. Why? Because it’s less likely that anyone will book the middle seat. 9 times out of 10 we end up with the whole row to ourself! Occasionally the plane is full and our plan fails. In that situation the person booked in between myself and my child has always gladly switched to either of our seats so we can sit together. It’s always been a win/win for our family when we book our flights this way!
- Board Last: It drives me crazy that most airlines allow families with small children to board first. As in, 3 seconds before they open up the floodgates and allow everyone else to stampede on behind them. Talk about feeling pressure and starting off on the wrong foot with every other passenger on the plane! Now, we board last. It give us extra time without feeling rushed. Plus it also allows us a few more minutes at the gate to stretch our legs and take one last bathroom break. And, for some odd reason, once the other passengers have taken their seats (and aren’t standing impatiently behind us waiting to board) they actually smile as my kids pass by! Another win/win!
- Carry-On: With the exception of some of the newer economy tickets, most airlines allow 1 carry-on and 1 personal item per TICKETED person. You need to know this. I’ve had gate agents try to tell me that we’re carrying on too much stuff when- in fact- we’re UNDER our family limit. Children under 2 (without a ticket) seem to be at the discretion of a gate agent. In my opinion (which should be taken with a grain of salt since I have no affiliation with the airlines) parents with lap children are given extreme leeway.
- Car Seat: Parents are allowed to carry-on car seats and this doesn’t count as one of the bags! I am a huge proponent of buckling small children in car seats during flights- read more about that, here. But, the one caveat- it MUST say “approved for aviation.” And parents should know exactly where these words appear on any seat they travel with to assist the flight attendant. There is nothing worse than being questioned by a flight attendant in front of a plane-full of people. And, trust me, they will question you. And you will totally sweat if you can’t find the words quickly (and everyone on the plane will glare at you!)
- BYOB: Yes, I’m serious. Although drinks are served during most flights, it doesn’t happen until well after take-off (and sometimes not at all if the flight is particularly turbulent.) There’s something about getting on an airplane that brings out the immediate need for a drink in children. Likewise, it can really help children’s ears adjust to the pressure change if they can sip on water as the plane ascends. Don’t rely on the beverage cart to meet your kids needs, always BYOB!
- Meet and Greet Post-Flight: One of the highlights of taking a flight (for my kids) is getting to meet the pilot and see all the controls. A lot of times families try to stop on the way in, but the pilots are always very busy getting ready. After landing, everything relaxes. We are always met with the kindest pilots- allowing my kids to take picture with them- and even offering up their seats for my kids to test out. We’ve had pilots take the time to explain many of the buttons and mechanics of flying a plane. If you want to make the trip even more memorable for your children, take a few minutes to chat with the pilots AFTER the flight!
Try these airline hacks on your next flight and let me know how it works out!
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