In the past decade, flying with children has not only become harder but it now requires more diligence, patience, and coordination. In order to ensure a smooth flight, trying booking the flight during an “off” time or in the middle of the week. This should help avoid congestion, long lines, and stressful situations. If possible, coordinate the flight to the sleep schedule and/or pattern of your children. This is especially important with infants and younger children. Try avoiding late evening flights when there is a possibility of a cancellation. There is nothing worse than being stranded in an airport overnight with young children!
Before leaving for the airport, do as much as possible beforehand to avoid the hassle of long lines at the airport. This means checking-in, printing boarding passes, and paying luggage fees the night before. If you are on a long-haul flight that serves a meal, make sure to request a kid’s meal when booking your ticket! When you arrive at the airport, luggage can be dropped off curbside and you can head straight to security with your children.
It is important to remind your children of what is expected of them both before the flight and during the flight. Depending on the age of your child(ren), try to make it an interactive experience. Read them books about planes and how they function before leaving. Teach them about your final destination and what you can do there (this is especially exciting and relevant if it is a major, cultural city that you are visiting). Let them pack their own carry-on (with supervision, of course!) This gives them responsibility and allows them to make their own choices in what they bring.
Before heading to the airport and boarding the flight, reiterate that this is a time when manners and their best behavior are expected. By letting your children be part of the experience, they feel more empowered during the trip. Give them small responsibilities throughout the flight. Maybe they are “responsible” for reminding you to buckle your seatbelt! This lets them be involved and makes them feel important.
In terms of packing for flights and carry-on suitcases, less is more! While it is important to bring extra diapers and other essentials in case a flight is canceled, try to buy as much as possible at your final destination. Remember not to make your carry-on (or your children’s carry-ons) too heavy! When packing your carry-on, also consider additional pieces of luggage such as strollers, car seats, etc. Depending upon the airline and the length of your flight, you may end up paying more for these essentials. I’ve read about some parents packing all their clothing in only carry-ons to save the additional luggage room for their children’s clothing and other necessities.
Here are three essential things you always need to have in mind:
- Check the policy of children and tickets. Most airlines allow children under the age of 2 to be a “lap child.” However, the policy varies from airline to airline. Make sure to double check if you are traveling with children around that age.
- Print out all boarding passes and other pertinent information the night before. You don’t want to be running around a few hours before your flight trying to get all the appropriate documents printed.
- If the airport says you should be there 2 hours ahead of time, budget at least 3 hours with children. It is better to be too early than too late!