As I looked down at the rather unpleasant stain on my shirt I whispered to my husband, “Ummm….we’ve got a problem here!” It was our first time flying with kids and we had what I like to refer to as a ‘diaper integrity failure’. I’d like to say that was all the more adventure we had on that trip, but nope. There was screaming (from our baby), trying to get our car seat through security, and all kinds of craziness. If we had just prepared better we could have made it through without almost losing our minds!
In case you haven’t noticed, most parts of parenting go smoother if you take some time to research and make wise choices. Completely winging it and hoping for the best doesn’t always work out well. This is especially true when flying with kids! If you take your time to research and think things through, you’re much more likely to have a good experience.
Choose the Right Flight Time
Our #1 rule when our kids were babies was to NEVER mess with nap time or bed time unless absolutely necessary. Like many babies, they weren’t great at settling to sleep in strange or busy environments. If you’ve got a baby like that, you do not want to be dealing with an airport when he should be sleeping!
On the other hand, perhaps you have one of those babies who will sleep anywhere, any time. Awesome! Then flying over naps or during the night is ideal. Your little angel can sleep right through the flight without a peep…or a poop! Whichever way your baby leans, choose the right flight time to meet her needs.
Find a Kid-Friendly Airline
We’ve all seen horror stories on the news about parents and kids who were treated terribly. More often than not you’ll see comment after comment of other parents who have had similar problems with that same airline. Now, I”m not going to name names here. You get to figure on on your own which airlines are more kid friendly. I don’t want any companies to come after me with torches and pitchforks or anything. ; )
To choose the best airline for flying with kids, research:
- The airline’s policy on gate-checking things like strollers
- Percentage of flights delayed and cancelled for the airline
- The airline’s baggage and carry-on policies
- If the airline allows early boarding for customers with children
- The airline’s policy on bumping passengers (especially in regards to separating families)
Research Security Procedures
TSA Checkpoint. That phrase inspires more dread than almost all others for people traveling with kids. They have long lines, more rules than you can count, and often not a lot of wiggle room for the unique needs of kids. The best way to have a stress-free trip through the TSA checkpoint is to research security procedures ahead of time. You can read over the TSA regulations here.
You know that old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? It is never more true than when you are flying with kids. If you aren’t prepared for any adventures that may come your way, it could get rough!
Prepare for Hunger
Overly hungry kids will turn on you faster than you can cry, “HELP“! That’s the last thing you want while trapped in the air with a few hundred strangers. Don’t let this happen to you. Pack snacks!
You could always skip packing and pay $40 for two candy bars at the airport, but let’s get real, you’re not a millionaire! Instead, pack one small snack per kid for every hour of your flight. Then pack one extra as a ‘just in case’ snack. You never know when your flight will be delayed and you want to be prepared! Some easy snacks are:
Prepare for Entertainment
Flights can be fun and exciting for little ones. They can also be boring, and even frightening. You want to be prepared for entertaining your kids just in case they aren’t so hip on flying! Bring along a few items you know your kids will love. Pro tip: If you bring along your child’s precious ‘lovey’ (that thing he can’t sleep without), guard it with your life! Triple check that you have it before leaving the plane!
Prepare for Messes
It’s a fact of life that he moment you aren’t prepared to deal with messes, your child will have the world’s biggest diaper blowout of her life! When you’re flying with kids, you do NOT want a mess that you’re unprepared to deal with to happen. It’s not like at home when you can grab a spare outfit from the dresser! Here’s what to pack for messes in your carry-on(s).
- 1 diaper per hour you’ll be out, plus 2 extra
- 2 outfits per baby or 1 outfit per older kid
- 1 extra shirt for each parent
- LOTS of baby wipes (those things can clean anything)
- 1 gallon-sized zip top bag per person (to stash soiled clothes in)
Take a deep breath and be confident in your parenting abilities. You CAN have an enjoyable trip while flying with kids. Trust your prayers, preparations, and parental instincts to get you through. If you’re still not sure you’ll survive, go with the ‘fake it till you make it’ method. You need to exude confidence throughout your trip or things could go awry.
Kids Can Sense Stress
Kids are kind of like animals sometimes. They can be loud, wild, and can sense stress and fear. Not only can they sense it, they tend to feed off of it. If we get stressed, they’ll get stressed. For most kids that tension either leads to poor behavior or meltdowns. Help keep the whining and anxiety at bay by being confident.
Whiny Adults Can Spot Weakness
Speaking of whining. Some of the worst whining tends to come from adults who have to share ‘their space’ with kids. Somehow they’ve forgotten that we can’t expect kids to behave like adults. Many seem to have forgotten how to behave like adults themselves! When babies fuss (as babies do) and kids get restless (which they will), these ‘adults’ have a whiny meltdown of their own. These people can sense any sort of weakness or vulnerability in parents. Those are the folks they tend to unleash their fits on the most.
One thing that can help stop them in their tracks is to project confidence and authority. They are far less likely to go after a mom who has a ‘don’t mess with my kids’ air about her! I’m not saying to be rude or aloof. Just be confident that everything is OK. If your baby cries or your kid needs to walk the aisles for a minute, you have nothing to apologize for!
Enjoy Your Time Flying with Kids
It is possible to enjoy yourself while flying with kids. If you are wise, prepared, and confident, you can have a good time as a family. Remember, though, that life is never perfect. You can’t expect your trip to go off without a hitch. Expect the unexpected, roll with the punches, and remember that even the most stressful journey will be a funny family story one day!