Google+ Authentic Parenting: Frustration Free Flying with Kids

Friday, June 29, 2012

Frustration Free Flying with Kids

Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Image: Yogendra174 on Flickr
As my daughter passed the body scan at the security line in Brussels Airport, I couldn’t help but notice the family in front of me. Frantically searching together their affairs, while their toddler was clinging to mother’s leg, desperately seeking attention in this unfamiliar, scary situation.
Mom gets hold of the stroller - like a drifter clamping to a piece of wood - unfolds it and tries to put the child inside. The child, too uncomfortable and unsettled to be physically separated from mom, resists. Dad gets involved, screams against the child and forcibly straps her in the contraption. The child is now wailing, still trying to get out. They all go off, annoyed, stressed, frustrated.
For this family - clearly leaving on a vacation - this trip does not start off happily.

Now when you don’t take the plane often, certainly with small children, it can seem like a very scary endeavor. Most people already find traveling to and fro quite stressful, so add a child to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

But shouldn’t vacation be fun-filled and exciting from the get go?

Traveling with kids isn’t quite as dreadful as we might think. My daughter, now 4, has travelled to over ten international destinations by plane, and has boarded more planes then she is old - in months! I can only remember one flight where she was ‘difficult’.

The way your flight and everything that surrounds it goes, depends a lot on the way you are feeling, and how you are prepared. Here are a few tips to fly stress-free with kids:

  1. Make sure your flight leaves at a reasonable hour. Night flights are perfectly doable with kids, if they don’t leave way passed their bedtime (an overtired infant or child will not sleep on a plane). Early morning flights, where you have to get your kid out of bed in the middle of the night are a definite no-no! 
  2. Travel light. Well at least where it comes to hand luggage. You don’t need a million and one things for your child. When you are preparing your hand luggage, lay everything out at first and go over it to see if everything is 100% necessary. 
  3. If your child is a little older, get them their own hand luggage, they’ll be proud to be carrying their own bag. Let them pack it themselves (just make sure there are no prohibited items and the weight is in check). 
  4. Make sure your hand luggage is within the norms of your airline: the right weight and size and not carrying fluids are sharp objects. If you are unsure, check your airline’s directives. 
  5. Don’t wear a gazillion useless accessories you have to take off at the security check. As far as clothes go, keep it simple and comfortable, for the whole family. 
  6. Do take: an extra set of clothing for your kids. We’ve had spills at nearly every flight and it is quite annoying for a child to have to sit in wet clothes for an entire flight. 
  7. Bring loose change so you can buy drinks in the airport. You can’t bring in your own drinks, except for a bottle for your baby. 
  8. Make sure to have an extra layer of clothes for on the plane, it can get really cold and sometimes it takes a while before you can get a blanket. 
  9. Don’t bother with a stroller. If you need them on your destination, check them in. Strollers are hell to fold and unfold in busy security lines and at the plane. You’re much better off with a decent carrier (I’m using a Didymos woven wrap and if necessary, I can get both kids in there). Older kids are often happy to walk in the terminal, because there’s lots to see and fun games to play. 
  10. Make sure you are way ahead of time. International flights require you to be there two hours ahead, but we still go way before that. This way, we are ahead of the crowd and we’re sure to have lots of time for the whole adventure. 
  11. Don’t see the traveling as a necessary evil, consider it a day out: have a snack at the bar, browse the book sin the bookstore. If you’re making it more of a day’s out, you might actually enjoy it and your kids will be more relaxed too. 
  12. Check ahead of time where the playgrounds are at your airport, and go there before boarding. this gives you some time to check all your travel documents and your child gets to play and relax. 
  13. Don’t be afraid of walking in the walkways of the plane, you might meet other kids for your child to play with. 
  14.  Make sure your child uses the toilet on a regular basis. With all the excitement, they might forget!  

Have you flown with your children? What did you find challenging? I hope these tips help you to have a good time next time you fly.

APBC - Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic ParentingVisit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Traveling with a Sick Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her tips and tricks for traveling with a sick child based on firsthand experience.
  • Educational Travel | Pennsylvania, New Mexico &; LouisianaThat Mama Gretchen relives three childhood trips while outlining a plan for future homeschooling adventures.
  • Babymoon: A Cruise in Europe — Bianca from The Pierogie Mama writes about the babymoon that she and her husband took to Europe, via a week long cruise through the Western Mediterranean..
  • Travelling with our little oneStoneageparent describes what travelling means to her family, exploring the link between attachment parenting and travelling
  • I Just Can't Do It — aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes the nightmare it is trying to travel with her daughter, and how for the moment day-trips to local areas will have to suffice.
  • Carnival: Travel and VacationMacgyvermama rounds out her "Travel Light with Babies and Kids" series with some juicy tips on how to travel light and stress free with your moving and grooving Toddler!
  • Traveling: Adventure, Nature, Family — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her hopes and fears for her Great Summer Camping Road Trip with her three small children.
  • Frustration Free Flying with Kids — Based on her extensive experience flying with her family, Laura at Authentic Parenting shares tips on how to make the trip fun for you and your children.
  • 12 Awesome Toys To Bring Along When Traveling With Children - Ariadne over at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing about toys her children love and playful ways to use them that make travel with children more fun and less stressful for the whole family.



  1. These are all good tips, but the big one for us is not how to survive the security or airport, but how to get our 2 yr old to put a seat belt on once he is on the plane!
    He never wants to be strapped into anything, but when it comes to strollers and car seats you have more time to resolve it or possibly just not go out - but this isn't possible with a plane ride. We recently went on six separate planes and it was extremely difficult every time!

    1. I understand, we had these issuers too with our wild child daughter, I want dot go into it in this article, but it was too extensive, I will write a separate post about this issue.
      Thank you for your comment

  2. Great tips. Though I could never ever imagine flying with my daughter. I'm terrified of flying, and have only been abroad twice. The last time I had to get on a plane I had a panic attack. There's no way I could get on with my daughter. Shame really, but there you go.

  3. Echoing other Comments..very good tips! I flew with our then 2 month old and it was relatively easy. I did get some push back by tsa when I opted us out of the scanners. The training doesn't seem to be consistent or comprehensive at all.

  4. These are great tips - for me it was challenging to manage the toilet trips with three children being the only adult so I had to ask the flight crew for help. luckily they were super willing to help!!

  5. I gotta say I am not with you on the stroller front. If you are travelling with more than one kid and have to cart luggage yourself there are times when you just have to be able to strap one of those kids down so you can manage everything else. A little umbrella stroller isn't too hard at security. And if you are blessed with a toddler that is happy to nap in one, then it is worth it's weight in gold!! At Heathrow airport in London they even have a special family line when going through security where a man did everything possible to screen my younger son while he slept in his small stroller without waking him up, ensuring that my son was well rested and not a nightmare when it was time to embark the plane.

    Also this is HUGE!!!! Invest in some child sized headphones for your toddlers and young children. If they are willing to sit for three hours at a time glued to the airlines entertainment then your trip is going to be sooooo much easier, but the headphones they hand out in planes are often in the ear, which can cause problems, and the ones that go over the head are too big and fall off and all of them have terrible sound. Buying them their own comfy over the head headphones can mean the difference between actually getting to read a couple of pages of your own book and having a three year old on top of you for 7 hours!!!!!!!!!!

    1. couldn't agree more on the headphones. I tried to fly once with a stroller and it was hell... I was all alone and my daughter was still too small to just put down, and I couldn't find anyone to help me fold it when entering the plane. To me, it's just another 'thing' that gets in the way... But it probably also depends on your child
      Now with two, my daughter is always happy to walk, and when I hull luggage, she'll either walk next to me or sit on the cart.
      But how very cool that they scanned your kid IN the stroller. The few times I had a stroller, or that my child was sleeping in a wrap, I had to take her out. Can you imagine the mayhem?

  6. thanks for the tips, I would say something quite similar. We've also travelled a lot with our son by plane. The sling is THE essential travel accessory for us, both getting onto the plane and in ocuntry (and at home too!), with our 2 year old son, plus breastfeeding him is just the best way for me to settle and calm him in an unfamiliar environmnet.

  7. We have only flown once with my eldest and none with my two younger kids. I know they would love to, and by now I think they would be easy, but it is the expense! I think kids of any age do best with proper planning on our part, so if/when we do fly I will have to keep these tips in mind!

  8. I fly a lot without my husband with my oldest daughter, starting when she was 3 months old. I found that using a stroller helped, not to carry her, but to carry our extra hand bags. I would carry her in my Moby and the stroller helped as an extra set of hands when I had to put her down. I also found that breastfeeding during takeoff and landing help with ear popping pain. However, now that she's a toddler I'm at a loss on how to help her with it. I gave her a natural flavored lollipop and it helped with the takeoff, but she didn't want it during landing. Any suggestions?

    1. Anything that will make her swiller helps: maybe carry a juice pack (not always possible, I know), or chewing gum? You can also show her to yawn... though I know that's not always easy to explain to a two year old.
      Also, make sure that her nose isn't congested, if so, use nasal spray or nasal drops before take off and landing (make sure they're suitable for your child, just salt water spray will do if it isn't too congested)


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