Making your trip a cinch

Flying with Small Children

Flying with small children is no piece of cake, but if you know what to expect and how to prepare for it, then your trip can be a success. And by success, I mean minimal tears and stress.

This article will look at how you can plan out your flights and make sure your little one is content for as much of it as possible. There are quite a few things to consider, so read through the entire thing and feel free to leave tips of your own in the comments. 

Getting Through Security

Keep in mind that kids have to go through all the security checks, too. Make it a game for them, even if you hate the security checks yourself. Be sure to allow a little extra time, since it can take longer to deal with children as you go through this process.

It's a great idea to use slip-on shoes like Crocs so your child can easily slip his shoes off and put them back on himself. This is particularly useful if you have more than one child, since it can be difficult to get everyone back into their shoes. 

On the other side of security, make sure you let your kids run around a bit. Look for an empty gate where they can run in circles, crawl around, etc. If room is limited, have them do jumping jacks, etc. to help wear them out. You want them to be happy to sit quietly for the flight, but since little ones have so much energy, it's also necessary to let them get some of it out. 

Check to see if there is a play area . . . some flights will have these and they are excellent for letting off some excess energy before you go.

On the Plane

Getting onto the plane can be tricky. It's best if there are two adults traveling . . . one can get on and get the seats and bags settled while the other stays with the kids until the last boarding call. That way, the kids don't have to sit for too long and you can take them to the bathroom or change diapers right before getting on board. 

It's easiest to take off jackets and extras before you get on board, so plan this accordingly. You may also want to have a snack for your child when you get seated so they can sit quietly until takeoff. 

Have a just potty trained child? Stick them in pull-ups while you're traveling. The last thing you need is to have to change soaked pants in the confines of an airplane bathroom!

Keeping Kids Occupied

Boredom sets in fast on an airplane where you're stuck in one spot for long periods of time. These days, thanks to new regulations, you'll find that you can't even walk up and down the aisles with your child to pass the time! That means you're going to need to keep your little one busy in his seat the entire time. 

By bringing lots of activities for your child to enjoy, you'll find that tantrums are kept at bay. So, entertainment is key. Here are a few ideas to start out with:


Bring along some crayons and a pad of paper or some coloring books and encourage your child to draw some pictures. You might even want to staple some papers together before you leave and have your little one make a book about the journey.

Computer Games

Kids that are old enough to handle the computer will enjoy playing age appropriate games on a laptop. Some good games to try include the Reading Rabbit series, which offers educational games from Toddler through Grade 6, or Thomas the Engine and Dora or Diego games. All of these can keep your little one occupied for a nice chunk of time. Don't forget earphones so the rest of the passengers don't have to listen to the noise.


Again, your laptop can come in handy for watching movies. Either that  or you can bring a portable DVD player. It's worth picking up a new movie or two just for the trip so your little one can enjoy something suitable. Another good option is to buy the DVD set of his or her favorite TV show. 

Flying with KidsCredit: christopher frier brownBooks

Take along some books to read. If your child is old enough, get a big book of fairy tales rather than a number of smaller books. There will be more content and it will last a lot longer. 

New Toys

You can hit the dollar store and find a number of small toys for fairly cheap. Little cars, dolls and animals are all good items to look at. You might also consider things like mini Etch-A-Sketches, puzzle cubes and magnetic toys. Pack them each separately or even wrap them in wrapping paper and pull one out every hour or so to surprise your child.


Food Distractions

Kids get hungry more often than adults and when they do, they get super grumpy! To stave off hunger pains while waiting for the food cart, make sure you have some snacks on hand.

Try to avoid super sugary snacks, since these will cause problems later when your little ones are bouncing off the walls!

Find out from the airline what is allowed first, but here are some safe options:

  • Cookies
  • Fruit snacks
  • Mixed nuts
  • Dry cereal
  • Crackers
  • Granola bars

animal crackers

You know best what your child likes, so make sure to have some of these things on hand. Keep in mind that a sucker or lollipop is a great way to help your little one pop her ears as the plane takes off and lands. Even if you usually don't allow candy, this might be a good time to consider it.

Small munchies are best because they take longer to eat and provide a little entertainment. Your child can have fun stringing Cheerios and then eating them one by one, dancing graham cracker bears or animal crackers around their tray or stacking fruit snacks. Remember, every minute counts and you want your child to keep busy and keep their blood sugar up.

Other Handy Tips

A few random tips for flying with small children:

Bring along wet wipes. No matter how old your kids are, they will get messy at some point and having extra wipes along will make it easy to get them cleaned up without having to worry about getting to and from the bathroom. 

Explain things. To make sure that everything goes smoothly, explain everything to your child. Make sure she knows that she has to be strapped into the seat if she has her own. This should be mentioned several times before boarding and a couple more times before the seatbelt light goes on. Let her know to watch for the light. You can actually be removed from a flight if your child refuses to be buckled in. 

Fold your own stroller. If you're checking your stroller at the gate, it's a huge help to fold the stroller yourself. The airport crew probably won't know how and your stroller could end up being treated badly and even broken. Just do it yourself to avoid trouble.

Stay upbeat. Your child will pick up on your mood, so if you're getting grumpy and frustrated, so will he and that makes everything more difficult. Smile and play games and your little one will be happier . . . and so will you.

Let kids carry their own backpacks. They can keep their own toys and books in their packs and you can stick to more basic stuff in your carry on. 

What are some of your tips for flying with small children?