10 tips for flying with kids

We are not newbies when it comes to travel. We've flown on more planes than I can count and therefore have experienced our fair share of hiccups along the way. That old saying that you can never be too prepared? Totally true, especially in the case of flying. A few scenarios that we can add to our "learned the hard way" list:

- baby with explosive up-the-back diarrhea, running out of diapers and not packing an extra outfit thus having to dish out some outrageous amount of money for a 5-pack of Pampers and a scratchy size 2T "Welcome to Chicago" t-shirt from an airport gift shop

- getting stuck on the tarmack for over 2.5 hours with 2 kids under 3 due to a weather delay, then finally taking off 3.5 hours late making our arrival time at home after midnight

- potty-trained child falls asleep on the plane, waking in a puddle of pee on the seat. I dig through my carry-on, and find that the extra clothes I thought I packed were actually swapped out with a pull-up that I was going to put on him "just in case". With no time in between our connecting flights to search for an overpriced alternative, I remember that I wrapped a breakable item in my sons swim trunks. So, on a flight back to Kentucky in January, my 4 year old donned the cutest navy and white board shorts. And no skivvies.

Whether you are traveling with 1 child or 5, alone or with a helper (spouse, friend, mom, etc.), here are some ways you can learn from my mistakes and hopefully have a smooth travel experience with your kids:
  1. Pack extra clothes IN A CARRY-ON BAG for each family member. In fact, put each person's extra clothes into a large zip-loc labeled with their name. I know it takes up a lot of space but trust me, almost every time I've flown at least one person has needed to change. Whether it is because someone pukes, pees, poos up the back or spills something, it never fails. Better be safe than sorry. Then, the wet/soiled clothes can go right into the zip-loc bag to keep it from contaminating the rest of the stuff. I've found that it works well to pack the extra clothes in a squishable bag - that way you can simply shove it in the overhead bin during the flight and not have to mess with it unless you need it. Hopefully you don't :)

  2. Pack as if you might get stuck in the airport/airplane. There are so many factors that could delay your itinerary - weather, mechanical issues, maintenance issues (remember when my kid peed in his seat? I guarantee the next flight was "delayed" in order to disinfect...sorry people!), delayed incoming flights, personnel issues, etc. It seems that cancelled and delayed flights have become the norm. Most important/useful items: more than enough formula for the wee ones, batteries and/or power cords for kids gadgets, cell phone chargers, snacks, a small toiletry bag with toothbrush/paste, contact case and solution, glasses, deodorant.

  3. Bring a small backpack for each child. Allow them to fill it with a few small books, games, toys and snacks of their choosing. Keep in mind that you won't want to pack anything with a lot of pieces. Think chunky toys, coloring pads with a ziploc of crayons/markers (we keep a bag specifically for travel - some that aren't brand new that way if they roll down the plane behind you on takeoff you won't stress about leaving them behind...) again, speaking from experience here :) If your kids are big enough, have them carry it themselves. Whatever doesn't fit in that bag stays home.

  4. Bring a secret "back-up" bag of stuff for the kids. Use only when needed. Murphy's law seems to apply quite often when traveling. Their best and favorite toys that just-had-to-come-with suddenly lose all appeal the second they unzip their bag on the plane. Grab a few extras that you think they'll like and stash them inside your own carry-on. Your kids will think you're magic when you pull a beloved toy/book out of thin air. Bam!

  5. Invest in some kind of device that plays movies. Kindle nook, iPad, iTouch, kids tablet, portable DVD player...whatever you choose will be WELL WORTH the money. Just remember to load it up with movies/shows/books well before you are supposed to be walking out the door. And also remember to charge it the night before. And to bring the power cords (for use in the terminal before boarding) and some headphones. An empty, dead electronic device with no power cord does nobody any good. (Yup, totally been there!)

  6. Allow each child a "flying allowance" - a certain amount of money they may spend at the airport or on the plane. Maybe $5, just enough to buy a bag of candy or an upgraded snack on the plane, whatever it is will add a small amount of excitement to the trip.

  7. Bring some chewing gum. This seems to help with ear popping during takeoff and landing. If you know your kid has an ear infection, you may want to give them a dose of Tylenol about an hour before the flight too.

  8. Pack a fair amount of Wet-Ones (or other disinfecting wipes of your choice). I'm a mild germophobe and people let me tell you, airplanes are filthy. I don't let my kids touch a single thing until it's been wiped down and sanitized (the armrests, tray tables, windows, seat backs, seat belts, you name it).

  9. And on that note, bring some Air-Borne. I am not exactly sure what the stuff is or how it works, but it claims to keep the germs that are trapped in the plane with you for 2 hours from getting you sick. That lady that's hacking her lungs out in the row in front of you? Dis.gust.ing. If I could keep my mouth and nose closed for an entire flight I would.

  10. Pack some kids meds. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have been a little relieved when my kids wake up with a slight runny nose on the morning of a trip. Because when they do, I feel a little less guilty about loading them up with Benadryl. But it's also helpful to have some Pepto Bismol (for upset tummies), pain reliever (see #7) and Neosporin (to immediately apply to scrapes and scratches they might get on a germ-infested plane).

I hope these tips are helpful when you are planning your next trip with kids. Every flying experience seems to bring up some new challenge, so if you have any tips of your own, feel free to add them in the comments!

Happy flying!


  1. Good to know these tips when traveling with kids! I also have a portable dvd player that they can use to watch movies for them not to get bored while traveling.

  2. Great tips! I LOL when I read some of them...been there, done that! Love the idea of having a change of clothes for everyone in a ziploc bag...will have to do that too when we fly again!