Traveling with kids can be…trying at best. And kind of a nightmare at worst. Luckily, our consultants are also parents - they've been through it all and come out (mostly) clean on the other side. Want to know their best advice? Read on!
Plan your flight, meticulously.
Booking the best possible seats, at the best possible times, is the quickest way to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for disaster.
You know that time every day where your kid seems to have a meltdown? Make sure your flight isn’t overlapping that, whether it’s first thing in the morning or the hour right before dinner. And think about where you want to be seated – if you have toddlers, it’s probably towards the back so you can be close to the bathroom in case of emergency. If you’re traveling with a baby, try to pick a window seat – the last thing in the world you want is a seatmate climbing over your sleeping infant to get to the bathroom.
I always suggest to take the seat with you on the plane when you're flying with kids who are still in a car seat or booster. Just like in a car, kids know they need to stay buckled in and seated until arrival. This makes it a lot easier for you and the passengers around you.
Karen Whited, Lancaster, PA
Bring everything you can think of, and then bring some more stuff.
The biggest favor you can do for yourself is make sure you pack absolutely everything you think you may need. This is one of those situations where it's far better to overpack than to underpack.
This site has a fantastic and really comprehensive checklist that covers all the basics: necessities like diapers and sippy cups, extra snacks and drinks, and airplane-friendly toys like triangular crayons and sticker books.
I personally like taking my stroller and checking it at the gate. It gives you somewhere to strap your kid down to when they’re at the gate so you don’t have to worry about chasing them down the whole time.
Maurice Aufderheide, Woodbury, NY
Don’t forget snacks and drinks! Most airlines do not start a drink service until they’ve reached their cruising altitude, and boarding sometimes begins almost an hour prior to take off. Bring along some favorite snacks and buy milk/juice/water prior to boarding so that your kid doesn’t get hangry (hungry+angry).
Kelly Luf, Meriden, CT
This is the culmination of all your careful planning. You have your seat, your carefully packed carry-on bags are within reaching distance, and everyone is well-rested and fed and changed. You, my friend, are ready to go.
Dole out your snacks, hand out toys and games, mop up spills (and there will be spills), and try not to check your watch too often. If your little ones see that you’re getting antsy, they will too.
We take several small toys/books and wrap them in tissue paper. Because attention spans last about as long as an ice cube on the sidewalk, we give her something new every 20-30 minutes on the flight. It keeps her occupied and our fellow travelers get to enjoy a fairly quiet flight.
Kelly Luf, Meriden, CT
And remember: kids have a hard time clearing their own ears, so try to keep some juice or chewy snacks on hand during takeoff and landing.
For bottle feeding babies, don’t feed them until takeoff. Swallowing milk will eliminate the ear popping.
Rebecca Myers, Boston, MA
As I’m sure you’re well aware, your trip doesn’t end when you land in a strange airport with a kid who’s been sitting patiently still (or not so patiently still) for hours.
If possible, try to wait and get off the plane after everyone else has already left. It will be far less stressful than trying to juggle all your bags and children while a line of people stands behind you. Plus, if you checked luggage or your stroller at the gate, you’ll need to wait for it to be unloaded anyway.
And you know when you get off an airplane, and you’re kind of sweaty and miserable? Your kids probably feel like that, too. A quick once-over with a cleansing wipe (for you AND them) will make everyone feel slightly less uncomfortable and help you start your trip off on the right foot.
When I travel with my one-year-old (editor's note: that's her above - can you stand how cute she is!?), I always make sure to buy a few of those First Aid cold packs (the kind you crack and shake to activate). This way if we end up standing in the heat for too long, I can quickly cool her down. It works on overheated husbands too, and was a lifesaver for ME in Southeast Asia.
Kelly Luf, Meriden, CT
The last thing your kids probably want to do after being cooped up is wait patiently at baggage claim, but try to remind them that you’re almost there.
If you are traveling to major cities and have very active kids, bring a Frisbee. Take them to a park and play Frisbee. This will help to zap some of that excess energy, give them some exercise, and a Frisbee does not take up room in a suitcase
Susan P Fitzgerald, Eatontown, NJ
Cut yourself some slack.
Most importantly, keep in mind – you’re doing your best. As over-prepared as you might be, sometimes your kids will still have a meltdown or get sick. And that’s okay! Just try to take it in stride, and remind yourself you've totally earned the right to tell that story to their prom date one day.