Flying on an airplane can be tricky with small children but it’s usually the fastest and most efficient way to travel. A family can travel from the West Coast to the Midwest in just hours on a plane rather than days in the car, and you can often get cheap air tickets. These tips for flying with kids can help make family travel on the airplane a little easier!
Pack an activity bag for the kids
Kids often act out when they are tired, hungry or bored. This can be especially difficult when you are confined in a small space such as an airplane seat. Bring lots of distractions for your kids such as travel toys and engaging activities. One of my tips for flying with kids is to pack a surprise bag for my kids filled with small toys from the dollar store. I usually pack a kids sensory activity such as molding putty, small cars, miniature princess dolls or collectible superhero figures, crayons or colored pencils and a small notebook. You can also bring a drawing board or a tablet with games that can be used offline. Give your kids just a few surprises to help them have a longer attention span with each activity on the airplane.
Board the plane early
It can be challenging to bring a gaggle of kids onto the airplane and get fully situated in time for the flight. Take advantage of the early boarding time, especially if you’ll be hauling a stroller and extra kids’ carry-on bags on board. Early boarding will allow you to walk through the airplane’s empty aisle, find your seats and get your kids buckled in and settled. You can also use the airplane’s bathroom rather than making a last minute trip to the airport’s public restroom; great tips for flying with kids.
Carry on extra layers
Even if it feels warm outside, the airplane’s temperature controlled cabin can be chilly any time of year. Pack sweaters or hoodies for each of your kids and yourself in your carry-on to avoid feeling cold on your flight. You can always take a clothing layer off but you can’t retrieve a sweater that’s packed in luggage below the plane.
Bring small pillows & blankets
If you can, bring small travel pillows and blankets on the plane to help your kids get cozy for a long flight. You can pack their blanket and favorite stuffed animal in their small carry-on bag so they can easily access it. Younger kids may even fall asleep on the plane, which will make the trip go quicker for everyone.
Make friends with other parents on the plane
Chatting with other parents can be a great way to pass time on the plane, especially if your kids are proving to be a conversation topic. Parents also love talking about their kids. Getting to know the people around you on the plane may help if your child ends up fussing a lot later. People in general usually understand that young kids cry and get stir-crazy in confined spaces.
Engage your kids in family games
My kids love playing search and find games such as I-Spy with colors, shapes and other descriptors. To play I-Spy, a child takes their turn by saying anything along the lines of “I spy something blue” or “I spy something shiny”. They can give clues to help the guessers discover the answer. I-Spy color games are also great for kids who are learning their colors. You can play the I-Spy game in the world around you or on the pages of any kid’s picture book, such as finding letters of the alphabet or specific items on a page.
You can also get creative by inventing a fairy tale with your family. The first person starts with “Once upon a time…” and offers a complete sentence, then the second person adds to the story with their own sentence. Each person takes turns adding to the story until the story reaches a conclusion. You can either set a time limit or give everyone a specific number of turns to end the game. You may be surprised how creative your kid’s stories can be!
Hand out snacks during the flight
Snacks are a must-have on any airplane flight. I like to bring along dried fruit, chips, crackers, small sandwiches, pretzels and fruit snacks. Anything that’s easily portable and fairly low-mess. Save money by stocking up on snacks before arriving at the airport and by buying larger bags of snacks that you can divide into individual snack bags. Your kids will love packing their own little snack assortment in their own carry-on bag too!
Don’t forget the sippy cups
Airplane cups can be tricky on those folding airline seat trays. Kids will likely want drinks and probably refills, so it’s always helpful to bring a few sippy cups to prevent spills and keep your kids’ drinks close at hand. My kids always enjoy drinking apple juice and fizzy sprite on an airplane flight. Once the flight ends, make sure to gather all your gear before getting off the plane!
You can definitely plan and pack for a successful airplane flight with kids. Bringing a few basic travel essentials will make your trip go smoother for your family and help you create memories with your kids!
Katie is a writer and influencer based in beautiful Coeur d’Alane, Idaho. She enjoys DIY projects, photography, decorating and going on family adventures. She feels blessed to be a wife, a stay-at-home mom to three kids and a Pacific Northwest lifestyle blogger.