Traveling with kids can be daunting. As parents who have traveled with our daughter starting at 6-months of age, I know from experience how scary and overwhelming it is traveling with kids, especially when they are young. But, one thing my experience of traveling with our daughter at such a young age has taught me is that traveling with kids doesn’t have to be this big, scary, and stressful thing. To help you, I have put together this list of travel tips to help your experience traveling with kids less stressful and scary.
For starters, it is important to note that different ages require different things to make travel easier. When children are young preparing for travel is all about timing and planning around their feeding and sleep schedules. When children are a bit older packing things like snacks and other distractions, such as tablets, headphones, coloring books, and educational activities are essential.
Things to do Before Booking the Trip
When flying there are things you can do ahead of time to reduce the stressors of traveling with kids. These things include:
Research airlines to identify those that are kid-friendly. Some of these include JetBlue, SouthWest, and for international flights, Etihad and Emirates. I have had the best experience with Etihad and their inflight nannies. Similarly, Emirates offers onboard toys, entertainment, and even kid-friendly meals.
Book a flight that coincides with smaller kid’s bedtimes. Red-eye flights are great for this very reason because the cabin lights are dimmed, and this encourages sleep. Hopefully, this will mean the baby/kid will be asleep for a good portion of the flight.
Book seats at the back of the plane since they are closest to the restroom.
Get travel insurance. Make sure the travel insurance you get allows for escorted travel if your child or you are hospitalized.
Things to do After Booking the Trip
Have a plan to get through airport security easily.
Do a mock run-through of checking in, going through airport security, and boarding the plane is like with your kids. It should be a fun “game” for them, and when done a few times, they will know what to do when the big day comes.
Build enough time into your schedule for accidents, meltdowns, food, and just making your way to the gate. The worst thing is a rushed kid and a stressed parent. Make sure you add enough time in your schedule so that you’re not rushing to the gate with kids, bags, and a stroller in tow.
Research rules specific to the airlines regarding luggage, carry-on items, liquids (baby formula), etc. Save this information to have later.
Research airports with play spaces.
Prepare little “peace offerings” for passengers in front of you or in the same row. This can help lighten the mood a little if your little one starts to get cranky or disruptive during the flight. Heck, my husband and I have even purchased drinks for people due to other people’s kids tormenting them.
Download your kid’s favorite shows or movies to your tablet. These days, most streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Hulu, etc. allow you to download full series of shows.
Things to do at the Airport
Have the TSA website available (What can I Bring?) that shows the items you are able to bring. It is also a good idea to bookmark a similar page of allowable items specifically for the airline on which you’re flying. If you breastfeed you can bring ice packs. If you bottlefeed, you can bring formula and water if you’re using powdered formula.
Gate check the stroller. I wore my daughter for the most part, but the stroller helped with keeping things like her diaper bag or my carry-on bag from weighing me down while I wore my daughter in my ergo baby carrier. Plus, it is much easier to fold up the stroller if you have the baby strapped to you than trying to hold your baby in your hand.
Whatever you do, do not check your child’s car seat in with the luggage. The car seat can become damaged or lost. In either case, it will be rendered useless.
What to Pack in Your Carry-on
Only pack the essentials in your carry-on. Essential items include:
- Favorite toy and/or game
- Tablet or other activity
- Kid-friendly Headphones – My daughter uses BuddyPhones
- Change of clothes for mom and baby
- Plastic bags for soiled clothes
- Disposable toilet seat covers for kids
Keep your bag with you and not in the overhead to minimize getting up a lot and interrupting your fellow passenger.
Not So Funny Story: There was a time when I was traveling with my family from New York to London, and a larger family was onboard. With the kids kicking the back of my seat, and the parents constantly getting up to go in their bags stored in the overhead bin, and then having a bag fall on my head, I was THROUGH! I have a kid, so usually, I understand but this was over the top.
So please DO NOT be that family.
For newly potty-trained kids, bring a few pull-ups for those just-in-case moments. You never know when you end up stuck on the tarmac and can’t get up to go to the restroom. You can have the kids wear the pull-up for the flight but still be a big boy/girl by putting their underwear over it.
Once kids are old enough, get them involved. Let them help you pack. Also, children love having their own little backpacks or suitcase. It makes them feel like a bigger kid.
Dress both your kids and yourself as comfortably as possible. Put them on layers, that way, if they get hot, you can just remove something.
Dress your smaller kids in clothes you wouldn’t mind them getting dirty or having to leave behind if necessary.
Parents, try getting enough rest before the trip and stay hydrated. You will need that extra helping of patience, both with your kids and others.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. I promise you are doing a better job than you think.
What are some things you do to prepare yourself for traveling with kids?
This post contains affiliate links.