Flying with Children… And Living to Tell the Tale

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1959 Convair 880 main-cabin

So, you are getting on an airplane, jetting off to someplace fun and fantastic! Bon voyage!

Oh, wait. You are taking your baby or toddler or (heaven forbid) both with you?

Well, then, let’s talk.

One of my girlfriends once said, “You don’t take vacations with kids, you take trips.”

While I don’t agree 100% with this statement, it is definitely a lot different traveling with kids, especially when you are getting on an airplane. There’s no pulling the plane over and there are lots of eyes watching while you attempt to survive until you get to your destination. Here are some tips to traveling with young child(ren) so that it almost feels like a vacation!

Packing the Carry On

Your carry on will be your lifeline once aboard the plane. You don’t want it overstuffed with things and poorly organized, but you also need some essentials that will make your journey easier.

1) Entertainment: It’s a good idea to bring things like crayons, coloring books, sticker books, a travel-sized magna doodle or aqua doodle, and other quiet, portable toys that don’t make a huge mess or have the potential to annoy fellow passengers. Always bring your child(ren)’s special lovies or attachment items, because as exciting as an airplane ride can be, it can also be a bit intimidating with unfamiliar noises, smells, and feels. Consider buying or, even better, borrowing a portable DVD player or interactive reader, especially for the trip. Don’t bust it out until you are on the plane, which should buy you some extra time because it is new and different.

2) Food/Snacks: In this era of airlines cutting back, getting a snack or something to drink can be tricky. So be sure to pack lots of mess-free snacks like apple slices lightly tossed in lemon juice (to keep from browning), crackers, string cheese, etc. These portable fruit blends are great because they are wholesome and little mess. Think “special treats” that you know your child(ren) enjoy, but are nutritious and filling.

3) Jacket and/or Blanket: Even if your destination is warm, airplanes are notorious for being cold. You should dress your child(ren) in sturdy shoes, pants, and layers to be able to keep them comfortable at a range of temperatures.

4) Extra Clothes: Pack at least one extra outfit in a gallon size zip-locked bag. This way if you end up with soiled clothes, you can zip away anything smelly.

5) First Aid Kit: Pack a first aid kit with infant/children acetaminophen, bandages, antiseptic ointment, portable ice packs, and extras of any sort of medication your child(ren) take on a regular or semi-regular basis (think inhalers, antacids, cough syrup).

6) Miscellaneous: If there is something special that your child likes to take in the car/go to bed with/or have around at random times and it fits in the bag, take it. You likely will not regret making room for it, but might be very sorry if it’s not with you.

Seating Arrangement

If your child is very comfortable and takes naps in their car seat, you might consider getting them their own seat, even if the airline doesn’t require it. Since they already understand the concept that they must be buckled in their seat, they’re unlikely to fight it. You can also look into an attachment that will turn their car seat into a stroller to make your trip through the airport easier, with a quick adjustment you can turn this into s baby bassinet also.

Sling It

A baby carrier or sling is a great idea for getting through the airport quickly and efficiently. Even if your child is a good walker, if they are within the size range for the carrier, it will help you manage your things and not have to worry about your child wandering off. If you have a tight connection time, this will also help you in getting to your gate quickly. If it’s been a while since your child was in a sling or carrier, do some practice runs prior to your trip.

Minimize What You Pack

There is no need to take everything with you. Once you have figured out what you must bring, try to figure out what you can buy, borrow, or steal when you arrive at your destination. If you know people where you are going, trying posting your needs on your Facebook status: “Staying in Atlanta for two weeks – anyone have a high chair/car seat/pack-n-play we can borrow?” I know I have responded to several of these requests. My own pack-n-play is usually just sitting in our garage, collecting dust, and I am more than happy to lend it out to a friend-in-need, or even a friend-of-a-friend-in-need.

There are also great sites where you can “rent” things to make your stay easier. Here is a list of these sites by state. So rather than trying to haul your stroller/pack-n-play/car seat with you on the plane, you can rent them.

You can also check out consignment stores, craigslist, or discount stores in the area where you are staying. This is a bit riskier, as if it is something that you really need, you might end up paying a bit more than you’d like rather than doing without.

Traveling with children will always be a little extra challenging, but being prepared will help you face the obstacles that might arise with ease. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you have a wonderful vacation!

Traveling Soon? These useful links will help you prepare for your trip.
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Kathryn Henry

by Kathryn Henry

Kathryn Henry is a writer for TeachStreet. TeachStreet is a website that provides online and local classes, including traveling classes to Spanish lessons.

3 Responses to “Flying with Children… And Living to Tell the Tale”



Thank you so much for allowing me to invade your space! Love your site.

Joyce Schaum


You also may want to consider travel games that are magnetic. These will keep the little one(s) busy and you can still have all the pieces.

Diane Paisley


I agree with it all and can’t overemphasize the backpack full of FOOD! YES, it all goes thru security with the exception of blatantly liquid pieces larger than 3 oz. Peanut butter, nutello, and apple sauce are not liquids. I’ve even taken the sample size liquor bottles that I’ve collected somehow in my 1 quart ziploc when I can’t get upgraded and almost everything costs.

My kids’ tylenol is in every bag that is packed (we only get one each 22″ suitcase and one under the seat backpack for carry-on as stand-by travelers). I’ve got diahreah meds in turkish and nausea meds in german at my fingertips throughout every trip. Bandaids are essential along with the liquid-skin (bandaid in a bottle) product that is in my 1 quart liquids ziploc.

My kids have invested in their own neck pillows and get to be in control of those. They also are the proud owners of mp3 players and their own personal headphones with usb chargers that are useful on some planes these days (9/12). All three kids have the palm centro without phone service for games and note-taking. We don’t take dvd players b/c almost anything goes on the flight video choices to home (which is usually west) via the airline service screens.

This is definitely NOT a vacation. We can go to Gramma’s or Auntie’s for those. This is a trip or even, for my kids, a field trip. These rarely include swim suits. Two pairs of good walking shoes are required and that’s all the foot wear you get to carry.

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