Flying with kids: How to make the hours fly by

Whoever coined the phrase “getting there is half the fun” obviously never flew with a baby. Or a toddler. Nevertheless, thousands of families gamely purchase air tickets every year. Parenthood, after all, is not for the faint of heart.

Beyond noise-cancelling headphones (for you and all your fellow passengers), what can you do to make the flight easier for you and your little ones?


Child looking out from the airport lounge

Getting ready to board

Keep moving. Find out if there are any play areas for children in the airport. If not, keep young children out of the stroller. They’ll be sitting for a long time with little space. Find a safe place and let them run around.

Reconsider pre-boarding. If you’re travelling with another adult, he or she can pre-board with the carry-on, stow items in overhead compartments, and get the child seat prepped. You and your child can board last-minute to reduce time in seats.


En route

If you’re a parent, you know that packing light isn’t an option. While you have to consider baggage weight (as well as how much you can reasonably carry), there are a few must-haves:

  • Extra clothes (for you and your child); this applies even to older children who are toilet-trained; accidents happen, and so do spills (frequently on you).
  • Extra food, diapers, wipes, etc. in case of delays; remember that a flight can be delayed for a day or more; you don’t want to be without the basics.
  • High-protein snacks (try to avoid the sugary ones, although lollipops are great for toddlers during take-off and landing).
  • Sippy cups or straws for drinks, to keep spills to a minimum.
  • Extra pacifiers, with tethers (to keep them off the floor). These can help reduce ear pain for babies during take-off and landing.
  • New toys and books (to maximize interest); it’s a good idea to give these out slowly over the flight – and remember to keep some in reserve for the return flight.
  • Have lots of quiet play ready for your toddler, using what’s available on board (“I Spy” with the airline magazine pictures is a good example).
  • If you are bringing an electronic device, make sure it’s charged fully. If you have more than one child who will want to watch and listen, use a splitter so they can both have a set of earphones (not earbuds, which don’t fit little ears well).

Last, but not least, remember that almost everybody on that flight has had children who wouldn’t stop crying, wouldn’t stay in a seat, or who doesn’t talk quietly. Don’t let the few who don’t remember this fluster you. Be polite, but don’t be overly apologetic – when travelling with a child there are certain things that are beyond your control. Prepare using the tips above, and you’ve done what you can to make everybody’s trip a comfortable one.