Traveling with Kids: 15 Tips for Navigating Air Travel

Welcome back for day two of my three day Traveling with Kids mini blog series. Here's what will be covered:

Today's post is focusing on navigating air travel with kids.... as if it's not already stressful! :) Here are 15 tips I found useful when traveling with my two little ones last summer. I hope you find them handy too.

1. Pack Snacks... Lots of them

I packed a large amount of snack items for the airport and the flight because 1) it's a way to corral everyone 2) hangry is a real thing and I try to avoid it for everyone 3) Airport food is the worst for the budget!

I packed chips in soap containers for the kids because I knew that if they got crunched it would be a nightmare to eat in a tight space. I also packed pouches for decent nutritional value, fruit snacks, suckers (when you need them to just be quiet for 5 minutes ha!), snack bars, and I also packed sandwiches. We were flying throughout the day so the sandwiches were our lunch and a huge budget saver. I snagged condiment packs from a fast food place before we went and packed mini appetizer utensils that can be tossed after using. They were a big help and didn't take up much space!


2. Bring NEW Books

I say NEW emphatically because they need to be able to keep your kiddos' attention for a couple minutes and ones they know by heart can't compete with the sights/sounds of a plane.

3. Prepare Activities

I bought a pill holder and put little goodies in each slot. My son got to open a couple every 30 minutes or so as long as he was good. I cut up individual stickers, put little candies (M&Ms fit perfectly), and these pop out sponges.

Check out these 10 Tips from Delicious Baby too.

I also grabbed some sticker books and coloring books to try out while on the plane. I will say that if you are sharing a seat with a little one (allowed for kids under 2) then putting the tray down might be difficult.... No surprise there considering how little space each passenger gets!

4. Use a Car Seat Rolling Bag

I bought one of these on Amazon and it was a big help not to lug it around. Plus I had one seat for each kid! It would be impossible to get around if I wasn't able to roll it and stack things on it too. I bought one bag with wheels and stacked the second on top in a separate bag. It worked out nicely. 

5. Run and Explore as Much as Possible Before Boarding

Wear your kids out. Yup it's that simple. Play games, explore, run around, and keep them stimulated. We counted gates... ran up and down the wings counting gates and looking out the windows at planes. The HOPE is that when you board the plan they will be worn out and may, if you get lucky, take a nap. 

6. Wear Your Baby and/or Toddler

I have an Ergo and a Beco carrier which work great for babies and toddlers alike. Seriously you will want a carrier to help you get through the airport hands free (or at least hands on bags and strollers instead of kids). I have also worn both at the same time which is the ultimate workout (55#) and I am completely hands free! My 2 year old will go up on my back for a little bit and it's nice to not have to worry about where he might run off to while I am checking in at Security. You can wear a baby during your flight too but it is not allowed during take-off and landing. This worked great for my 4-month old to nurse and sleep for most of our flights. 

7. Change Diapers and Go to the Bathroom Right Before Boarding

Have you seen the sorry state of those teeny tiny bathrooms on the airplanes? I have changed a blowout diaper in there and I wanted to cry. The changing table is small, the bathroom is small, and it already stinks in there! Obviously nothing ever works perfectly but we usually make a bathroom trip when they call first class seats and finish just in time to board during family boarding before they call the group seating. 

8. Have a Tablet Loaded with Movies/Games

We have a small tablet with a flap case which my husband preloaded with some movies. I did a quick sew job on a tray cover and added a zipper where the tablet flap could slide in. It worked pretty great! If you want to make your own I suggest a fabric that does not stretch and a zipper that is at least one inch longer than the length of your tablet. I added ribbons to the bottom to make sure it would secure to the tray. Here's the tray measurements I went by: 10" x 17". Width is a little more important than height for this project.

The handy thing is that this tablet holder doubles as a tray cover since they are one of the germ-iest places on this planet... no lie! They NEVER get cleaned. 

9. Pack Lavender Essential Oil

I brought a small sample bottle of lavender essential oil for when we needed to calm down and de-stress. There was one point on our return flight that my son was just done with traveling and really, so was I! He was clearly discontent and crabby and I knew we were minutes from a meltdown and we were only five minutes into our 90 minute flight. I whipped off his socks and shoes, rubbed lavender on the bottom of his feet, and put his socks back on his feet. He was asleep in less than two minutes and a meltdown was narrowly avoided!!! I'm not lying and was a believer of lavender essential oil after that. Plus the plane smelled wonderful. :)

If you are interested in learning more about Essential Oils and/or would like to try a sample please email me for more information!

10. Make Sure You Have Drinks for Take-off and Landing

Little ears have trouble with the change in pressure as the plane lands and/or during take-off. One of the best ways they can alleviate the pain is by drinking. I brought a sippy cup for my son and bought a bottle of water once we were through Security.... DO NOT use airplane water. They recirculate water and it is not guaranteed to be filtered or even sanitary. I barely like to wash my hands with it. My daughter nursed and that worked perfectly too!

11. Bring a Travel Buddy/Partner

If you can bring someone to help you out then you really should. Honestly, I would not have made the trip with two kids under 2 if I didn't have someone to help me. It would have been so much more difficult, doable but hard. It was also nice to be able to switch kids every once in awhile... we sat apart. They get a change of scenery and don't get tired of just hanging out with mom. 

12. Have Treats for Those Around You on Hand

This isn't necessary but it is a nice gesture. I would only bring them out if my kids were being monsters... crying/screaming. Just a little something to let those around me that I do care, I feel terrible that my child is being a monster, and that I hope their flight/trip isn't completely ruined by a screaming child. I didn't actually have to get these out at any point (thank you Jesus) but they were in my carry-on and ready to go! I kept it simple with Ghiradelli squares. I had about 10. And since I didn't need to give them away I went ahead and ate half as a reward to myself for keeping it all together. ;)

13. Talk to Your Gate Agent

Your gate agent can be really helpful throughout the boarding process. As soon as we found our gate I would check in with him/her and ask a few key questions:
  • Do you allow families to board early? If yes, when?
  • Do I need a tag for the item(s) I gate check (i.e. stroller, carseat)?
  • Is the plane running on time? Helps to know how much time you have for #5.
  • If you are putting your little ones on your lap (did not purchase them a ticket) then that is a perfect time to ask if there are any open seats. If so you should ask to have them for your child's car seat. These days it is rare, unless you are on a red eye, to find a flight with open seats but it has happened twice out of a total of eight flights with our little ones. It is so much easier and safer to put them in a seat in their carseat. 
  • Lastly, ask them how their day is... They deal with so many people who only care about themselves all day so it is a great opportunity to brighten someone's day, especially if they just helped you through all your questions!
14. Bring a Stroller + Travel Bag

A stroller is useful for a couple of different reasons. 
  • You can strap your child in
  • If your child is walking you can load it up with all of your crap
  • It's useful at your destination too!
The bag is used to cover it to keep it safe when you gate check it. Sometimes things get tossed on top of it and that is just an added layer of protection. My advice- take a cheaper stroller. If it gets broken, oh well. I still liked a cup holder and basket at the bottom but found a lightweight, cheap stroller second hand that worked great and I didn't care that it got beat up on our trips.

15. Keep Your Child's Immunization Record Handy

This is especially important if you are bringing a child that will sit on your lap and does not have his/her own ticket. Most airlines require it though not all request it and/or verify their age. For our eight flights we got checked 3x. That's enough to make it a hassle if you don't bring it. Plus a piece of paper doesn't take up much space. You can also bring a birth certificate but I prefer the shot record because it doesn't cost to replace it. :)

Phew... that was a long post! Thanks for sticking it out with me!! Let me know what you think of these tips and check out the other two posts in this series:



  1. I like your ideas for traveling with kids. I will have to share this with my sister as she still has little ones. Mine are now young adults. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Angela! I hope your sister finds some useful tips here :)

  2. Every traveling parent should have this list ... as a frequent traveler, myself,I thank you!

    1. Glad to have you here Carol! I am glad you enjoyed it. :) I hope others can learn from my misfortune and travel mishaps. These are the 15 things that helped us have a smooth trip last summer! Hope to see you stop by again soon!

  3. new books, new little toys or activity books - ok , maybe not so much for a 2years old, but for a 3-4 years old it should work.
    And I agree on the snacks - you just can't run out! :)

    1. Yes snacks are the secret weapon ha! My son is obsessed with books so even before 2 he loved the touch/feel and flap books. We would read them over and over and over again!! But so true that you have to know your kiddo's personality and play to it. You are a bit at their mercy when you're in a 2'x2' space on a plane! :)

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