How to Have a Stress-Free Flight with Kids

By Rachael Funk

Having kids doesn’t mean your exhilarating days of world travel are over. In fact, a 2016 report from the TMS Family Travel Summit found that millennials with children are traveling internationally more than any other demographic group – and usually on adventure trips! If you are headed abroad with young children, here are a few tactics you can use to make flying easier and even (dare we say it?) more enjoyable.

Fly early in the day

Remember those commercials in the 1990s where parents would sneak into their kids’ rooms, shake everyone awake, and then lead their thrilled family out the door into the pitch black morning and onward toward the vacation of their dreams? Now’s your chance to indulge your nostalgia and be those parents! Whenever you can, pick the earliest flight possible. This is when planes are usually the least crowded and the little ones are most likely to nap. It’s also your best chance to avoid delays at takeoff and landing.

Dress for convenience

You and your kids are going to be constantly slipping in and out of clothes – on the TSA line, during bathroom breaks, at the gate, on the plane. Dress in comfy layers that are easy to pile on and yank off. If you can, avoid complicated buttons, zippers, or anything that might increase the chances of an accident if someone doesn’t warn you they need to use the bathroom early enough. Also, skip shoelaces and opt for Velcro or slip-on shoes.

Say yes to Pull-Ups

Listen, you’re a great parent - you’re taking your kid on vacation! Surrendering to the sweet sweet refuge of Pull-Ups for a few hours is not going to stunt your child’s potty training progress. Think of it as a security measure for you, the clothes your child is wearing for the entire flight, and the seat they’re in. Even if your kid has recently moved beyond the Pull-Ups stage, you know how adults are about airplane bathrooms and how those lines can back up.

Don’t give 'em the aisle seat

Parents of small children are all too familiar with the phenomenon of grabby hands. Though it may be tempting to sit your prodigy on the outermost seat so they have room to extend their curious little tentacles, this also puts them within reach of the scalding beverages on the drink cart. Better to take the aisle seat yourself. You know, for the children.

Bring some entertainment

Sure, plenty of airlines now offer in-flight entertainment, but it’s a great idea to bring along a few tangible items your toddler can interact with if they get bored with the subtle humor of The Office. You may even pick up a few special travel products to use exclusively for travel as a special treat you’ll all enjoy.

Go for the security measures

If your children are inquisitive explorers just like you, keeping tabs on everyone can be stressful. There are tons of ways to watch out for your wanderers, from tagging their arms with your contact info in magic marker to child locator devices you can track with apps. Backpacks and harnesses with leashes are also an option, albeit a controversial one. If you’ve got a group with a proclivity for skidaddlin’, chances are high you’ve already got a safety system that works for your family and will easily adapt to international travel.

Triple check passports

In the United States, passports issued for adults ages 16 and up are valid for 10 years, but for children 15 years and under, they are only valid for 5 years. Additionally, passports for children 15 years and younger can’t be renewed; a new passport application must be filled out and submitted in its entirety. For more information on passports for children and adults, stop by the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Plan for deplaning

By the end of the flight you may be so relieved it’s finally over, you’ll forget it’s going to take a while to get off the plane then even longer to get through customs. Before you rush off, make sure everybody gets a little snack and goes potty or else that customs line is going to feel like the longest part of the trip.

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