Tips for Flying on an Airplane with Small Kids

by Marcy on June 16, 2013 · 0 comments

tips for flying with kids airplane

My family just got home from a trip to southwest Florida and I thought it might be helpful to share my top 5 tips for flying with small children. My kids are currently 7 and 3, and I started flying with them when they were 5 and 2. I am by no means a travel expert, but each trip we seem to figure out something new to make our lives a little easier when schlepping 2 kids and all of our crap stuff through the airport.

Here are my tips:

samsonite viz air backpack

1) Wear a backpack in place of one of your carry-ons. My husband and I finally wised up on this last trip and both of us packed a backpack vs. me carrying a purse and him trying to roll another small carry-on. We put our laptops, snacks, wallets, keys, diapers/wipes and activities for the kids in our backpacks and that helped to free up our hands for pushing the stroller and rolling our suitcases. Samsonite recently sent me this Viz Air Laptop Backpack to try and I love how lightweight it is! This bag was perfect for carrying both my laptop and our iPad, and I loved that I could carry a sippy cup on one side and water bottle on the other (both empty until we got through security). (Now through 6/24/13 save 15% off select Samsonite products + get FREE shipping on orders $99+ with coupon code JUNEFREE)

2) Purchase an umbrella strollerI’m not going to lie – I despise umbrella strollers 95% of the time. However when we are traveling, I feel that they are a must. Umbrella strollers are easy to collapse and fold (nice when going through the security line), and they are lightweight and easy to carry. Thankfully they aren’t very expensive and from the looks of all that are offered on Amazon, there are models that are much nicer than the $10 one I bought at Target 3 years ago! ;-) We hang on to our stroller until we get to the gate where we gate check it for free. Basically that means that the stroller gets tagged and we leave it at the end of the bridge right outside of the plane door when boarding. It is stashed under the plane and is waiting for us when we exit the plane. Easy, peasy!

3) Consider purchasing a lightweight car seat and car seat bag. For everyday use our 3 year old sits in a Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat. We adore this seat, but it is both large and heavy. Needless to say, the thought of lugging in through the airport was not at all appealing to us. When I was getting ready for our first flight with baby 3 years ago I asked around and a friend recommended the Cosco Scenera Convertible car seat for travel. In my experience there is nothing fancy about these seats (they aren’t overly padded), but they are sturdy, safe and light – weighing in at less than 11 pounds typically (vs. almost 20 lbs for the Britax model). It has been worth every penny. I also purchased this car seat bag and love it. We are able to fit both the convertible car seat and the bottom of a booster seat in the bag, with room to spare for other random items (if we run out of room in our luggage). I love that the car seat bag has arm straps that can be worn as a backpack (if you carry a backpack like I mentioned in tip #1, sling one bag on each arm), and we have found it to be both lightweight and durable. I see people struggling with a stack of car seats (not in a bag) all of the time, and I want to walk up and tell them about this bag so badly! :-) We check the car seat bag (for free) when we check our luggage so that we don’t have to carry it through security and through our gate. I see people gate check their seats all of the time and I often wonder why? Maybe it is because they brought their expensive seats and are scared to check them? Maybe there is a reason I am not aware of? I have no idea – I just know that the way we do it works for us!

4) Divide and Conquer! When we go on trips we typically drive ourselves to the airport and use long term parking. The first time we did this we parked first and lugged our kids and all of our stuff on the airport shuttle to the airport. It was a nightmare!! Depending on when you travel the shuttles can be crowded, and loading and unloading can be a cumbersome process if you have a lot of stuff. We finally smartened up and realized that it is MUCH easier to drop one of us, both kids and all of our stuff at the passenger drop off at the airport while the other adult parks the car and rides back in the shuttle – luggage FREE. We do the same when we pick up/drop off our rental car and return home.

5) Keep the kids busy. Thankfully, flying with a 3 and 7 year old last week really wasn’t that hard. (I thought flying with an 18 month old was MUCH harder!) They are both finally at an age where they are fairly easy to entertain, plus they are excited about the process of taking off/flying/landing; so that provides entertainment in and of itself. We did use our iPod and iPhone to entertain the kids some of the time, but I was sure to pack favorite treats (M&Ms, candy that they don’t have often) as well as new sticker books, books, markers, paper and coloring pads (these Disney Mini Coloring Pages were a hit!) for them to use. I hit up a Scholastic Warehouse sale in May and found tons of cool stuff that I knew would keep them entertained – all for $2 or less per item. The Dollar Store or the Dollar Spot at Target would be great places to find inexpensive things for the kids to do.

If you are lucky, you’ll wear your kids out so much on vacation that they’ll sleep the entire flight home, like my sweet 3 year old did. I even got to read a magazine! :-)

toddler sleeping on a plane

Bonus tip: Policies vary by airline, but we frequently fly AirTran. I pay the extra fee to reserve a block of seats for us when I’m purchasing our tickets. I choose the side of the plane that is 2 rows wide, and I purchase a block of 4 seats. It is worth the extra money to me to not stress about us finding seats together. Plus I don’t have to worry about my kids pestering other passengers that might be sitting beside them!

What would you add to this list? I would love to hear your travel tips – both for flying and driving with kids!

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