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Flying and Navigating an Airport with Kids- Tips & Tricks

I am by no means an expert in this space but I have been traveling with my kiddos since they were tiny babies! Leona was on her first flight around her first birthday and Porter (totally second child fashion) was on his first flight at only 1 month old!

I've learned a few things over the years and through out the trips we've taken with them.

Keep reading below for things I recommend doing to make life just a little easier and tips I wish I knew earlier as well as activities I pack for them in the airport and on the plane!

1. Kid related items fly free on most major airlines:

This means that strollers, pack & plays, carseats, etc can be checked free of charge on almost all airlines. This includes budget airlines like Frontier. When we travel it depends where we are going/what we are doing but we have traveled many times with the kids car seats and both checked them and gate checked them. I find dumping your car seats off at the ticket counter and checking them is the easiest route sine they are bulky. However, this will delay you at your destination as they come out with other luggage at baggage claim. Strollers can also be checked although we love to use our Zoe double stroller to help us get through the airport and then gate check it.

Strollers can be a bit more finicky with some airlines when it comes to weigh restrictions, etc (American for example only allows strollers under 20 pounds to be gate checked) Spoiler alert- most double strollers far exceed this weight limit. Just be sure to check the airline you are flying for their list of rules and regulations.

Our "normal" is to check car seats at the ticket counter and we use a protective bag for each of them and then gate check the Zoe double stroller. We have a Cosco travel car seat that is ultra light and easy to lug around through the airports and now that Leona is older we have and love the Mifold or Bubblebum carseat for her since it is so compact! Both are great preschool age travel seat alternatives.

2. Packing a cary on for kids-keep it simple:

When packing a bag with activities for kiddos to do on the airplane my biggest recommendation is a tablet for them. See my other recommendations and things I always pack for on the plane with the kids:

  • Tablets: Each of my kids have an Amazon Kids Fire tablet and we rarely use them with the exception of on airplanes. There is certainly a time and a place to have your kiddos be glued to technology but I firmly think an airplane is one time all screen time rules go out the window. Make sure you download games and/or movies at home on Wifi before leaving the house.

  • Headphones: Headphones obviously pair really well with a tablet and create even quieter and more peaceful space for those around you but they are also great to be able to plug into airline TVs if available too! A splitter can be a great idea too if your kiddos want to watch the same movie/show on one device (here)

  • LCD Coloring Boards These are a favorite of my kiddos. They both love to draw and write on these even when we are not traveling. This is a great alternative to a tablet if you are against your kiddos having screen time. They come in several sizes on Amazon (ours can be found here) and remind me of a modern day etch-a-sketch.

  • Snacks! We recently invested in the Tik-Tok famous GoBee Snack Spinners (found here and here in a 2 pk) and I would say they are game changer. They are a fun way to have easily accessible snacks for the kids. Its no secret that delays happen and travel can have things that unexpectedly come up. It is always better to have some snacks and food on hand to avoid meltdowns from being over hungry.

  • Books/Magazines: This is dependent of if I have space but my 5 year old loves her Highlights magazines which do create hours of entertainment.

  • Loveys/special items: Sometimes they just want their lovey to keep them comfortable in a new situation. Again these are items that at home we only use for bedtime now that they are older but if it makes them comfortable and happy during travel I am all for having them easily accessible.

  • Water bottle: Waterbottles are great to have when you get to your destination but they are also really nice to have on board a plane to ensure you avoid the famous "Mommmm, I'm thirsty" Just note I do really limit how much they drink on the plane though to avoid several potty breaks.

  • Miscellaneous: Sometimes I pack coloring activities (Target dollar spot has great options here), balls, cars, small playdough, sunglasses, etc. This really depends where I am going and for how long. These items listed here are also wonderful to have at your final destination to fill the time at the hotel in the evenings/mornings AND to have on hand at restaurants while you wait for food!

3. Always pack your bags knowing what needs to come out at security:

This is a point I always stress about so that I know exactly where things are to quick and easily pull out during our turn at the security checkpoints. This is even more important when you have kids with multiple bags that you may need to disassemble. Just keep in mind things like liquids, oversized hand sanitizers, sealed water bottles, formula, etc are things that are allowed with kids but need to come out for added screening and checks. It is best to have these on top/sides of your bags for easy access.

4. Stay calm and make games of stressful situations:

Kids always can read your energy. When you are stressed they know it and tend to mimic the behavior they see or act out which doesn't help anyone. Remember to stay calm and be flexible- travel is so unpredictable. If there is a situation that is not ideal (for example waiting in lines somewhere) make a game out of it. Count people or objects, play I spy, sing songs, do anything to keep you and your kiddos calm and happy!

5. Pack extra clothes (for everyone) and diapers:

If you are checking bags this is especially important. It is not as important if you carry your bags on like we always do since everything is with you in the cabin of the plane then. Make sure that you have easily accessible changes of clothes for yourself (important for traveling with babies who may spit up or have a blow out diaper on you) and your littles. They are little kiddos after all and as we all know very accident prone. Keep enough diapers on hand in your personal items to get you through a day of travel plus a few extra. (This is usually all I pack diaper wise and end up ordering from Amazon for delivery to the house/hotel or placing a drive up order at Walmart or Target).

Thats it! Keep it simple and easy on yourself. Don't over complicate things. Pack light but intentional. Keep calm and have fun. Make traveling fun for the kiddos so it becomes something they want to do. And as much as possible plan ahead for things like timing, packing, bathroom breaks strategically placed, but know travel is unpredictable so be willing to change your plans and stay flexible for things that don't go exactly according to plan.

Check out my kids cary on packing video here

Check out my tips on navigating an airport with kids here

Other Links

Leona's suitcase comes in several other prints/patterns too

I hope this helps!

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Maria Elizabeth

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