Flying with kids is probably one of the biggest stresses when planning a family vacation. You never want to be “that family” that everyone on the plane complains about and you don’t want to be pulling your hair out the entire flight either. While there are lots of worries, there are also lots of hacks we’ve learned over the years, which I’m happy to share with you here.
Flying with Kids – Tips for Arriving Sane
Check in Online as Early as Possible
Airlines open online check-in 24 hours before boarding. If you haven’t paid for reserved seats, it is really important to check-in as soon as it opens to avoid your family being split up throughout the plane. In Canada, a child will always be paired with an adult or guardian traveling with them. This does not mean the entire family will be sitting together. Early check-in will also allow you to have the best chance at securing your seat preferences (window vs. aisle). Personally, I always try to put my children in a window seat. The view can keep them busy for a while and they like being able to open and close their blind. This is also helpful in planes with three seats per row, because it allows your child to move around a little without accidentally knocking other passengers or having their limbs out in the aisle.
Baggage and Special Equipment Allowances
Infants (Under 2 years of age)
When traveling with a child under 2, most airlines will allow you to check both a car seat and a stroller free of charge, per infant. In my experience they will let you swap out one of those items for a play pen if you choose. They generally also allow one extra personal item to be brought on board for baby items.*
Children (generally 2-12 years of age)
Most airlines will allow you to bring a child restraint device (car seat etc) on board for free. You may choose to check the car seat without paying extra. They also tend to allow one stroller per child. Baggage allowances are the same for children as they are for adults.*
While they recommend the small umbrella strollers, we have always taken our tandem double stroller along without a problem. Airlines do list size restrictions on their websites, so it is important to check those limitations. These larger strollers have big benefits. First, they keep all younger children in one place. Not having to worry your kids will run off in a busy airport is a huge stress reliever. Second, the storage baskets underneath can hold your personal items. This means much less juggling as you’re walking to your gate, which can be quite a trek at times. Third, airlines have gate check for strollers. Just walk up to the plane door, fold it down and board. It’s incredibly convenient.
*Every airline has their own rules about baggage and child equipment. Please make sure to check the airline website for their specific guidelines*
Take Advantage of Early Boarding
Early boarding is a great feature. If you are at your gate early enough, they will call passengers “with children or needing special assistance” to pre-board. This allows you to get on with the kids before the plane is packed with people all trying to squeeze down the aisles and jostling for space in the overhead compartments. It makes for a much more relaxed boarding experience.
Depending on the age of your children, the movies provided on the built in TV can be great, but they won’t last as a distraction the entire flight. Bring a variety of small activities to keep the kids busy. Take colouring books and crayons, electronics like a LeapPad or iPad, or stickers and blank paper for them to decorate. On longer flights I will sometimes even bring a surprise new toy for them to open and use in a desperate situation. If it comes down to it, you can always take the kids for a little walk in the aisle after the drink and snack carts have gone through. I always recommend packing lightly, but when flying with kids, this is one area you don’t want to be too stingy with!
Snacks can be a life saver. The kids will love being served their drink and snack from the flight attendant, but we all know those don’t go very far. We try to bring a combination of healthy foods (veggies, dried fruit, crackers and cheese) and treats (smarties, cookies). Sometimes all a grumpy child needs is something in their belly!
Descent and landing can be a tricky stretch of time. Children often get sore ears from the altitude change and there is only so much you can do while you’re confined to your seat. A chewing motion, or swallowing can be a big help against popping ears. Suckers or small snacks like Cheerios are great to have. Drinks (or bottles for babies) are also good options.
Prepare for messes
After all of their playing and snacking, there is bound to be some mess. I like taking along either extra wet wipes or a wet cloth in a zip-lock bag. I also always make sure to bring travel packs of kleenex, one change of clothes and a plastic bag to store any soiled clothing inside.
Flying with kids isn’t always easy, but with some preparation it doesn’t have to be as hard as you might imagine; And the pay-off at your destination is always worth it!!
For more on this, check out my article 10 Benefits of Traveling with Kids
Posts on this site may contain affiliate links. Using them costs you nothing extra. We make a small commission, used to bring you more great content!