Air Travel with Young Kids: 10 Quick Tips for a Stress-Free Flight

A while back we did a well-received series called Air Travel with Your Infant. We thought it was high time to address this topic again, but this time for young kids under 12 or so. Here are 10 tips to help keep your sanity when traveling with your young family.

girl sleeping on plane

1. When you’re booking flights, consider taking the earliest flight of the day. Often, a very early flight will be cheaper and you’re much less likely statistically to have flight delays when you’re on one of the first flights out. Finally, an early-morning flight means your youngsters might very well sleep on the plane.

family at airport security

2. Use the family lane if there is one available at security. The TSA agents at those posts will be more patient and accustomed to families. Make sure you’ve got the appropriate documentation for the kiddos (passports for international travel, none required for the under-18 set for domestic flights), and don’t worry about having kids take off shoes, hats, and light jackets. Under normal screening conditions, kids under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes. On the other hand, just in case, slip-on shoes for younger kids is a good rule of thumb in case they do get asked to remove them.

kids travel

3. With kids, you’re probably better off wearing backpacks for your carry-ons. You want a hands-free experience as much as possible (you’ll thank us later). Even younger kids (3 years old and up) can carry a backpack on the plane, and we like to make this a fun part of the process. Kids can pack their own gear like games and snuggle animals for the flight. This will help get them excited about the journey and free up space in your bags for essential items.

kids in airport

4. Speaking of clothes, keep it very simple. Dress kids in layers (airplanes can be very cold) and make sure your younger kids have easy-access, on-and-off pants. We prefer shorts over long pants, weather permitting. The tiny bathroom floors on airplanes can be icky and wet – ‘nuff said.

sleeping child on plane

5. We bring a change of clothes and pack at the bottom of each kid’s backpack along with a large plastic sandwich bag to keep the messy togs, should it be needed. It just never fails – accidents happen, someone vomits, a formerly potty trained tot regresses on the cross country flight, or an entire cup of milk or plate of spaghetti gets upended in someone’s lap. Trust us. You do not want to deal with this small emergency. And your seating neighbors will thank you too.

family in airport

6. Maximize whatever time you have in the airport. Some airports have family-friendly resources like playgrounds, but even if you’re not so lucky, run those rug rats ragged. If you’ve got a couple of hours to kill for a layover, we highly recommend a jaunt from one end of the airport to the other. Tire them out to maximize their sleeping-on-the-flight potential.

child in window seat on plane

7. Keep your little ones in the center or window seat. This may sound a bit counter-intuitive (you want easy access to the bathroom, we know), but aisle seating is actually dangerous for small kids. The drink cart can squish little hands and feet extending into the aisle, and the hot drinks are an accident waiting to happen for curious little hands.

girl on airplane

8. Once on the plane, whip out your antibacterial wipes and thoroughly wipe down the tray table. The tray table is actually the most bacteria-prone place on the plane, so taking this extra step will allow you to bypass any bugs your child might pick up on the flight that could seriously derail your vacation.

flight attendants helping child

9. Introduce yourself to the flight attendants and consider a bribe. I know, I know. Should you have to do this? You guys paid for your tickets just like everyone else, after all. Well, sure. This is true. But there’s nothing wrong with greasing the wheels a bit. It’s not necessary to go over the top, but gifting your flight attendants with some local chocolate that you can easily pick up in the airport before hopping on the flight is never a bad idea. It will put you on their radar. It might perk them up if they’re having a bad day, and it’s an admission that you know that your team might be challenging and you appreciate their efforts. Trust us. It’s a good call.

girl on airplane

10. Last, but not least, make sure you have chewing gum or chewy vitamins for little ones on take-off and landing to avoid inner ear pain due to changing cabin air pressure.

You’ve got everyone thoroughly stocked up on in-flight entertainment (some parents like to stash a few new items to amp up the in-flight novelty), so you should be all set! If you’re traveling with an infant, be sure to check out our three-part series Air Travel with Your Infant. Happy travels!

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2 Comments

  1. I will NEVER EVER use this company again!!! I got ripped off for $800.00. They don’t disclose info about addition money or conditions on planes such as Frontier. Charge you addition money for carry ons, service is outragouslly horrible, seats do not recline. I FELT LIKE A SARDINE IN MY SEAT!!! Snacks on Frontier are non existing. Cheap air did not disclose any of this!!! I never got a call confirming my reservation nor 13 calls from the company. WILL NEVER EVER USE THIS
    So called Cheapair!! I could have saved money going with airlines. $50.00 for a carry on? Another $80.00 for seat selection when the plane is half filled? Customer service ignores your calls! Horrible way to plan you vacation!! BEWARE!! THEY DO NOT DISCLOSE PERTINENT INFO ON LINE AND WON’T RETURN CALLS!

    1. Hi Keri, I’m really sorry to hear you had such a distressing experience. We really have one of the best customer service ratings in the industry and this kind of complaint is just not something we’re used to seeing. We actually have a lot of information online and we always send our customers detailed information about baggage allowances. We also have this blog post online that specifically discusses Frontier: https://www.cheapair.com/blog/travel-news/how-to-fly-frontier-airlines-and-win/. Frontier is an a la carte style airline and does charge fees for anything other than the seat you book. This is the same model Spirit uses as well. Seat size and lack of snacks is certainly something that many consumers are not happy with, but that problem is not just on Frontier and not something that we can control. Flying is very convenient and affordable now, but the trade-off is that the seats are not as large as they used to be and there’s not a lot of perks like snacks in Economy, I have a feeling you may have flown with a competitor of ours. Please reach out to us at shannonm@cheapair.com and allow me to confirm you booked with us and not another company.

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