Flying with children: top tips for a smooth flight

You may have logged thousands of air miles but traveling with young children – especially for the first time – can be anxiety-provoking for some parents. In-flight tantrums. Landing at your destination frustrated instead of ready for fun. These certainly can’t be on the list of vacation memories you want to make. CHOC’s child life specialists, of whom many are parents to young kids, offer the following tips for flying with little ones.

  • While most travelers are accustomed to arriving early at the airport, passengers with kids in tow need to add even more time for getting through the terminals. In addition to security checkpoints, consider the need for extra bathroom breaks, stops for snacks and distractions that can easily lure the attention of fresh-eyed explorers.
  • Talk to your kids about what to expect, from arriving at the airport and boarding the plane to landing and collecting your luggage.
  • Pack munchies, including – if age-appropriate – small lollipops to help with air pressure changes during take-off and landing. (Sucking on a bottle or pacifier can be helpful for infants.)
  • Make sure your carry-on contains plenty of on-the-go activities, like a portable water doodle, stickers by number, small puzzles or magnet scenes, finger puppets, small books, flash cards and travel-sized games. And don’t forget to load your phone or tablet with kid-friendly entertainment.
  • Consider wrapping a few inexpensive items and surprising young travelers with them throughout the flight.
  • Got a window seat? Window clings can be a magical distraction.
  • Bring child-sized headphones for in-flight entertainment. The airlines’ headphones aren’t designed for little ones’ ears.
  • Don’t forget your child’s favorite comfort item, like a stuffed animal or blanket.
  • Have extra clothes on hand for kids – and you – in case of accidents and spills.
  • If your little one is used to a sound machine for sleep, pick up a portable one or download an app on your phone or tablet. This is especially helpful for long flights.

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