Spring, for some families, means packing bags and heading to the airport for a getaway. However, flying with young children can be stressful.
“New experiences can be exciting for some children, but they can also be frightening, especially if it’s your child’s first time flying,” said Linda Nelson, a program developer on KinderCare’s education team. “Talking about what will happen can help your family manage expectations and focus on the fun of travel.”
Consider these ideas to help make family airplane travel an enjoyable adventure for everyone.
Schedule Flights Smartly
If you have the ability, pick a flight that works with your child’s current eating and sleeping schedules. Aim for a flight that occurs between mealtimes, and try to fly during normal naptime.
Be Ready for Jet Lag
If you’re going to cross time zones, plan ahead to combat jet lag. Two weeks before traveling, start making small adjustments to your family’s schedule by moving bedtime 20 minutes toward the time zone you’ll be traveling. Wait a few days then adjust your schedule again. When you get to your destination, try to stick to your child’s regular schedule by taking naps and going to bed as close to his or her normal times as possible.
Pack the Essentials
At the airport, you’ll want to move nimbly and hands-free, so opt for a backpack as your carry-on. Pack a change of clothes for each member of the family, diaper wipes, tissues, lotion and lip balm. If your child uses a pacifier, attach it to your child’s clothing using a clip. It can help soothe the pressure in his or her ears during takeoff and landing. Also consider packing books, crayons, markers, pencils, paper, activity books and age-appropriate toys to keep your child occupied.
Remember the Snacks
Low blood sugar can turn even the sweetest kids into champion tantrum throwers, so be sure to bring along plenty of healthy snacks in case delays disrupt regular mealtimes. Consider options like homemade granola or protein bars, fresh fruits and veggies, sandwiches or almond-butter pouches. If your flight is long, try to pack snacks that won’t create lots of crumbs you’ll have to live with until you arrive at your destination. Also remember a spill-proof cup or water bottle you can fill before boarding.
Mind the Rules
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents are there to help passengers, but there are also rules that must be followed. Consider these airport regulations before traveling:
- Medically necessary liquids like baby formula, baby food, juice and breast milk are not subject to the 3.4-ounce limit.
2. Children under the age of 12 are not required to remove their shoes during screening.
3. If you’re flying within the United States, children under the age of 18 traveling with an adult usually don’t need more identification than a boarding pass. However, some airlines may ask for a birth certificate for lap infants. Call ahead of time to see which documents you need.
4. Your child will need a passport if flying internationally. Child passports must be renewed every five years until the age of 16.
5. If your child is traveling internationally with only one parent, you may need to bring a notarized letter of consent from the child’s other parent or legal guardian.