Many parents are concerned about flying with kids. You definitely don’t want to be that family with the screaming kiddos that no one wants on the plane.
Relax! It’s way easier than you might think and you can take advantage of the time before school. My little one is not even four years old and yet has more air miles than most people in my family. When she took her first flight she was eight months old. She thinks flying is an adventure.
I found there are a lot of things we can do to make it easier for little ones to fly safe and cope with the stress that comes with international flights. Keep these things in mind and flying with kids and even flying with a baby becomes a breeze. Fasten your seatbelt there is coming a cute free printable your way.
Prepare with my best advice from thousands of air miles. Now let me spill out all I know about flying with kids.
Flying with kids – start relaxed and healthy
They may be little but they might need valid passports just like an adult. So first, check if your baby needs travel documents of her own. Traveling to Morocco, for example, requires a children’s passport. To get that you will have to get biometric photos of your little one. Make sure you get all documents in time.
Ready for take-off? Even babies can fly but they sometimes struggle with pressure equalization and ear clearing. Drinking or sucking a pacifier will help with that. Have your baby checked by a doctor if there are any health issues. It is still ok to fly if your baby has a little cold without fever. If the doctor decides it’s ok to fly bring baby nose drops to the plane and apply them before take-off. They will help your little one breathe easier.
Don’t forget that you always board with priority when traveling with a baby or toddler. Boldly walk to the very beginning of the cue. At some airports, you will also be treated preferentially at the security check.
Be on the lookout for family restrooms at the airport. Some have them in the transfer section. I didn’t know they even existed until this summer. I knew baby rooms with a changing table but this year we used a family restroom with a children’s sink, a chair for a waiting parent, changing table, normal and child’s toilet. It was large enough to bring in the entire family with hand luggage and stroller. (That was in Frankfurt/Main in case you wondered.)
Make sure you have travel information, digital copies, packing lists, etc. ready to hand. Maybe you create an Evernote file to organize your travel information.
Booking flights when traveling with an infant
Children under two years usually don’t need a ticket of their own but of course, you will have to book the flight for them, too. However, they will most often fly for free on mommy’s lap. Kids older than two years old fly with a children’s ticket that is slightly cheaper than one for adults. They get a seat of their own and a meal (if the airline serves one). In addition to that, they get the same free luggage and hand luggage as an adult.
Some airlines don’t let one adult bring two or more children under two. A single mom I know who has twins was denied plane tickets so she had to travel by train until her girls were old enough for children’s plane tickets.
Try to reserve seats right when you book your tickets. I always make sure we sit in one row with the little one sitting by the window. Looking outside and playing with the window blinds usually keeps her busy until we take off. Then I check in online the night before. That way we only have to drop off our luggage at the airport and keep the waiting time shorter. Print out boarding passes or have them sent to your phone.
If you want to save on flight tickets check out this post on how to book the cheapest flights possible by Jen Avery at Thrifty Nomads. Take full advantage of your parental leave or the time before school holidays dictate your travel schedule.
Bringing extra luggage
When flying with a baby or booking a seat for a child you are allowed to bring extra luggage for free. Usually, the airline lets you bring one piece of bulky luggage for free, a stroller or travel bed or travel car seat. Check out the airline’s luggage rules. If you want to bring two or more pieces you will most probably have to pay for it. Any extra luggage is covered by insurance like your normal luggage, too.
When my daughter was a baby we brought a travel baby bed with us to use in Morocco. I carried her in my baby carrier while being at the airport and during transfer. Now that she is older we always bring a stroller that we leave at the cabin door. It will be stored with the luggage but we get it back right at the aircraft. (At least Lufthansa is doing it like that) I love it because the stroller is coming very handy when transferring. Also, I use it to fix my little one who loves to run away and play hide and seek. I don’t want her to run off when we stand in the queue for security checks so I put her in the stroller and close the belt. (Maybe a child leash would work for a younger child, too.)
Pack drinks and snacks when flying with a baby or toddler
Make sure to bring more than one pacifier with you and enough to drink. I don’t know about other places but German security is quite generous and lets you take a lot of baby drinks with you. I always take “baby water” from the drugstore (because they took away plain mineral water for security concerns), fruit squeezes, hot water (which is for making milk and therefore no security issue, at least not in Germany or Morocco) and milk powder. In addition to that, I bring a lot of snacks because my little girl is a picky eater and will not eat the meal on board.
You have to check the rules and restrictions for hand luggage of your travel destination when packing food and drinks. The TSA has a section on its website about security procedures for people traveling with children. In Morocco, people do not care much and let you take a lot of food and drinks with you. In Germany, I had to discard mineral water. But they let you take “baby water” and food with you. Also, you can ask for plain water on the aircraft. Make sure it is bottled to avoid contamination.
Encourage your child to drink a lot when flying because the air on board is rather dry.
Keep in mind: Below I will share a handy plane travel packing list with you.
What else to bring when flying with kids
I always pack a little cozy blanket so we don’t have to use the ones on board that can be smelly or rough. A large scarf of Mommy does the same. In addition to that, I make sure to pack a set of extra clothes and cozy socks to put on on board. As my little one will sleep most of the time on board I pack a comfortable pants to put on. At the airport, she rather wears robust jeans because she might crawl on the floor or climb somewhere, etc. Of course, you will have to bring a diaper bag if your little one still is with team diaper. Remember to pack some entertaining stuff, too. See below.
Take a fabric tote bag with you that doesn’t take up much space. When transferring you can put jackets, scarfs or hats in there so you don’t have to carry them. I hang the bag onto the stroller.
I also take some sheets, changing pad liners, tissues and such. And portable hand and face wipes for a quick cleaning. With all those wipes, tissues and empty fruit pouches, you will be glad to bring some empty plastic bags for collecting all this garbage.
Now my little one has a ticket of her own she is allowed to bring hand luggage. I let her take her little rucksack which is packed with her favorite stuffed animal and straw cup. We don’t take full advantage of her free hand luggage but I think she likes having something familiar with her. You have to decide for yourself if you rather take something more practical.
Check my plane travel packing list below to review all that you might want to bring.
Security concerns when flying with an infant under two
Commonly, children under two fly on a parent’s lap, secured with a loop belt. We used to fly like that when our girl was under two years old. However, experts see some security concerns. If it gets turbulent the loop belt may hurt the child. So you may want to book (and pay) a seat for your baby and bring a travel car seat with you. The travel infant seat has to be suitable for the use in an aircraft which should be stated on the car seat or in the manual. Make sure that the airline lets you use a travel car seat on the aircraft and don’t forget to check if some part of your travel is conducted by a different airline. Ask your airline if you can still bring extra luggage as they usually allow only one piece.
Children older than two years will have to sit on their own seat anyway.
Some people recommend flying only for older kids because of the radiation exposure. However, German authorities state that flying with kids is safe and will do no harm on the little ones.
Sometimes a good choice: The Baby Bassinet
An alternative to loop-belts or travel car seats is a baby bassinet that some airlines offer for families flying with a baby. This is a little baby bed that holds the baby while flying. You will have to inquire if there are baby bassinets available. They are sometimes only available on long-haul flights or in special aircrafts. Check with your airline what rules apply to the baby bassinet, e.g. regarding the baby’s weight and height.
You will most probably not find baby bassinets offered by discount airlines or on short flight distances.
You can check out 5 travel bassinets for babys on ThinkBaby.org if you want to keep your baby cozy on the trip with a travel bed of your own. They are made for traveling so some fold up as small as a purse and can go into your hand luggage.
Keeping a toddler busy when flying
We usually fly at night and I recommend you try this, too, when flying with kids. My little one is falling asleep as soon as we are up in the air and will not wake up until I make her to. But it is not always possible to go with a red-eye. Bring games, books, crayons, and such with you. Don’t pack too much because this will end in chaotic hand luggage that quickly becomes a major PITA. Our little one always got some coloring book, crayons and stuff like that on board. Unfortunately, those kept her busy for not longer than 10 minutes.
Play games that don’t require a lot of utensils, like making up a story and everyone adds one sentence at a time. On some airplanes, children can watch a movie.
If your child is a bit older he or she might enjoy a movie or game on your phone. Make sure you have some options that work in airplane mode.
To not forget all this stuff you want to bring to the plane when flying with kids download the cute free printable packing list for airplane travels in the free resource library for subscribers. Subscribe right here:
This list includes the essentials to bring on a trip with little ones, but it does not cover all that you need on vacation and the stuff for mom and dad. If you want a more printer friendly version then check out this plain list I share. It contains the same listed items.
These were my top tips on flying with kids. Keep them in mind and your next flight with children will be easier than ever. Please let me know about any additional information that might help families flying with children.
And please share!