travel with children - Early Intervention Support

15 Tips for Surviving Air Travel with Children

Tamara GuoParent Routines, Resources

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, the 5 hours flight with the screaming baby or the kid kicking the seat relentlessly behind us. Whether you were the parent of said child, or just another passenger, no doubt you were frustrated, if not completely annoyed.

Babies and little kids cry, and sometimes even the most well prepared parent can do nothing to console their travel weary or sleepy child. But, many times, what other travelers see as “misbehaving” or “spoiled rotten” kids, is really a parent who came totally unprepared for air travel with young children.

So, what can you do to help ensure that air travel goes smoothly? Here are 15 helpful tips to consider before boarding your next flight with your youngsters:

  • Dress in fuss-free, comfortable clothing & shoes for going through TSA security and doing lots of walking. This means wearing comfortable shoes that slip on and off easily and limit any belts or jewelry that might set off metal detectors. Children under age 12 are allowed to leave their shoes on for screening.

  • Check-in at home via the computer and print your boarding passes ahead of time to avoid at least one airport line.

  • Prepare toddlers and older children by reading books about airline travel and/or making them aware of what will happen step by step, especially during TSA screening. There is nothing worse than a two year old unwilling to place their favorite blanket  or stuffed toy through the scanner because they are afraid it will be gone forever.

  • Use a cross body purse or a backpack which leaves your hands free for carrying your kids or their luggage. Many parents swear by using a hands free baby sling for infants in an airport as the easiest way to carry them through security.

  • If your child is of preschool age or older, let them wear their own backpack or pull their own child-sized suitcase on wheels. Most kids find this an exciting opportunity for independence!

  • Arrive at the airport early & consider off-site airport parking which means you will be picked up & dropped off at the door of your airline ticketing counter by a shuttle van rather than spending time looking for a space in a crowded lot and navigating through the parking lot with kids in tow.

  • Most airports have children’s play areas, so once you’re through security, consider letting kids burn off some steam there before boarding.

  • Don’t check your stroller. Most airlines allow you to push it the whole way to the gate and then gate check it for ease. Be sure that your name, address & phone number are on the stroller itself and get a gate check claim ticket from your boarding agent.

  • Upon take-off remember that young children don’t know how to prepare or clear their ears due to cabin pressure. Infants can be bottle fed or nursed upon take-off and landing, while older kids can sip drinks or chew gum or chewy vitamins to relieve ear pressure. Also, look into the commercially made “Ear Planes” ear plugs for kids and adults.

  • Medically required liquids, such as baby formula and food, breast milk and medications are allowed in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight. It is not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag. However, you must tell the TSA official that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the screening checkpoint process. Medically required liquids will be subjected to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container.  Medication should be labeled to facilitate the security process.

  • Pack a nice variety of games, toys and snacks to keep your child entertained. Make sure you have wipes for dirty hands, faces and spilling accidents. Don’t get toys and snacks out until your child asks for them or becomes fussy and bored. Many kids can be occupied in the first ½ hour to hour of a flight simply by gazing out the plane window and marveling at what they see below. Think about one game/toy per ½ hr or hour depending upon the age and attention span of your child. Remember, you do have tray tables so you can even bring simple crafts that use a glue stick or you can bring Playdoh.

  • Keep in mind that just because another passenger smiles at your child does not mean that he/she wants to engage in peek-a-boo or entertaining your child for the entire flight! Your sole focus on the flight should be to keep your child(ren) entertained and well behaved. You will most likely not get a chance to read or nap yourself.

  • The best place to sit, whether you like it or not, especially with babies and toddlers who tend to have a rougher time on flights, is the last row of the plane. You are near the galley so the flight attendants can assist you with filling cups and bottles, and you are near the bathroom for diaper changes. Plus, you are less likely to disturb the entire airplane should your child become fussy or have a tantrum.

  • If you are traveling with an infant you can sometimes request bulkhead seating with a bassinet, as long as your infant is under 20 lbs.

  • When kids get antsy, remind them of the things you’ll be doing upon landing such as “We’ll be meeting grandma for lunch” or “Soon we’ll be swimming in the pool, won’t that be fun?”

For specific guidelines for travel with children, including children with special needs, from the TSA, visit this link:

Good Luck!