Spring break is right around the corner! For many that might mean a vacation, a road trip, or a chance to see relatives who live a little further away. For my family, it means traveling to sunny Arizona to see the grandparents, and a week of fun in the sun. If I am lucky, it might mean a few naptime afternoons reading a book by the pool. A girl can hope, right?
Before those coveted pool days begin, we have to get there. That means I am taking all three of our kids on a plane by myself. You read that right! With family far away, my kids have been traveling by airplane since they were itty bitty.
After dozens of plane trips including a vacation to visit family in Australia with 2 young children, we have figured out a few tips and tricks for air travel.
Here are my best tips for flying with kids:
The number one thing to pack is snacks. Airport food expensive, and the options on board an airplane are limited especially for pint-size, picky flyers. I always bring a bunch of granola bars, fruit leathers, cracker sandwiches, fruit pouches, and trail mix packs.
I pack a snack bag for each of my kids to put in their carry on backpack. Always pack more than you think you will need just in case there is a delay or cancellation. I generally pack a full quart size bag for each kid and an extra gallon-size bag of snacks for my bag.
Technology devices and a pair of headphones are a must. Fair warning: kid headphones have limited decibel outputs so they won’t be loud enough on an airplane. We use adult headphones, specifically the kind that look like ear-muffs and are adjustable.
Load up their devices with a few new games. There are plenty of free apps out there from coloring to building with legos. If you are flying on a major carrier, there may also be audio-visual devices in the headrests. You can check your ticket to see what amenities will be on your aircraft, but you will still need to provide your own headphones or pay a fee to buy their ear buds!
Each of my kids brings a backpack. We start out packing the snacks, technology, and headphones. Then, I help them pick a few things to add to their bag, like a special blanket or stuffed animal, small toys like a play phone or cars, or card games. We love Sleeping Queens, Spot It!, Crazy 8’s, Hearts, Old Maid, and Go Fish. Coloring supplies are also on the list. We love those magic marker coloring packs as well as anything else that is compact like sticker scenes or magnetic to-go packs.
My kids each carry their own backpack, so I always make sure to remind them they have to carry what they pack. They always like to leave a little room for a souvenir from the trip!
Don’t forget to pack an empty water bottle for each kid to fill up once you are through security, and some gum to chew for both take-off and landing to protect those ears. For littler flyers, pack a pacifier or nurse your young child to help their ears with the change in pressure.
What about mom’s carry on? I always have additional snacks, extra wipes, an extra water bottle, a book to read, and a pair of headphones. Dress in layers and pack a blanket scarf that can be used a pillow for a sleeping child, a blanket to keep you warm, or a sarong if you run out of clothes (that’s never happened, but good to be prepared). I also fold up two reusable bags. Use one to put all the coats in so when we get on board I can stow them in the overhead bin, and the second one as an optional extra carry-on for on the way home!
I have learned the hard way that if you get stuck overnight in an airport, they won’t always give your checked luggage back. I got stuck in Denver alone with my two kids ages 2 and 5 months. It was a memorable trip to say the least! I learned to pack extra baby food, extra formula if you don’t nurse, and extra clothes in case of a blow-out, spill, or overnight stay in the airport. Baby items are not available for purchase in airport convenience stores.
The last thing you need to remember is grace and patience. Your kids will respond to your response, so take a deep breath and know it’s all going to be ok.
Get excited! Traveling with kids is a really fun adventure and soon your kids will be old pros.
Have a great spring break and happy travels to you and yours!