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Flight with Kids – Advice Needed!

Plane Boarding

Alright…a reader question is in, and since I am definitely NOT an expert here, we are turning to you guys! An MMB reader has asked for advice from the moms who are seasoned flyers with kids. She is heading on her first flight with her very busy toddler who would rather be running around than sitting and reading, coloring, or watching a movie (boy does THAT sound familiar!!!). The flight is about 3 hours, but as we all know – 3 hours with a cranky child can seem like an absolute eternity!


Please please please share your best secrets!



Beth DiPasquale - September 10, 2012 - 8:17 am

Even though he might not want to do those activities at home bring them with you anyway! I’d suggest a new toy to keep his interest and some favorite snacks. What I have found is that sometimes if you are sitting next to a stranger the child actually might be to shy to make to much of a commotion! Best of luck and remember that these days everyone flys with children and most of us have been in your position at one time or another!

Amy Kossoff Smith - September 10, 2012 - 9:49 am

I LOVE this topic — and love that this mom is reaching out for help from other moms…First…I agree with the first comment that these days are fleeting…that they don’t last forever, and that you won’t forever be “that mom” that gets the stares as you’re carrying a screaming kid down the aisle…In fact, any other parent that gives anything but a sympathetic glance is really forgetting that he/she went through the exact same thing! I do have some tips…I wrote an article on “the business of traveling with kids” that has a lot of tips (full link –

My all-time favorite tip is #6 in that post — to keep a “restaurant bag” which could EASILY be applied to an airplane as well.

Good luck, happy travels, and enjoy these precious days!

Anne - September 10, 2012 - 11:53 am

As I just flew back and forth with TWO toddlers (ages almost 3 and 15 months) from a three hour flight (LAX-DFW and then the trip back home), I can tell her things NOT to do:

1) Don’t think you can manage without a stroller. Stroller will keep the kid(s) in check, unlike mine, particularly the older one who kept running free and happened to run through security as well as the jetway before our boarding passes were checked. Arggh.

2) Don’t insist you can manage not checking your bags in order to save money. Yes, the airlines suck at charging, but it will suck more when you don’t have a free hand, or your arms are very full and your kid keeps running free. I had my younger one in a Bjorn (Lucky for me he is a skinny guy) but I had bags too and my husband was supposed to have my older one, and yup multiple times running free.

Things to do to keep them occupied:
Bring their favorite books, games and even a new toy that is shiny and new and SPECIAL. My baby (15 months) loves our Thomas the Tank Engine sticker and coloring book and played with it for hours. My boys are both very active too, but once they find something interesting enough they will sit for a while and be engaged. I know all kids are different, but that’s what’s worked for me. I downloaded a few preschool apps as well on my phone which kept my older son busy which I kept on talking up and saying “I have a surprise for you on the plane!”, and his favorite movie which they both watched for a time on the plane. An activities and snacks bag is a must, and if they have a sippy cup that they drink out of regularly, that helps a lot too!

Also, prepare yourself for crankiness. Prepare that crying and whining will happen. Hopefully it won’t, but if you mentally prepare, it will make things smoother. And yes, you will hear snarky comments and even dirty looks even if your child is acting like a perfect angel, but if you mentally prepare for it, it will be easier and less stressful for all of you. We had two late flights and the boys were getting cranky towards the final hour of both flights as they wanted and NEEDED to sleep. On our flight home, my older one happened to fall asleep, while it took a while for my 15 month old to be comforted before he finally passed out and could sleep through without crying intermittently.

I’m pointing out the things that didn’t go well, but it really wasn’t that bad the majority of the time, as I’ve been on flights where young toddlers have cried the whole flight through! And you will of course have other passengers that are nice and compassionate and will try to comfort your child and play with them as well. Last year, my older son and my husband flew to NY (6 hours!) and an elderly passenger bought him a toy airplane because she was so enamored with him, and that was his toy that he played with during the flight. :)

jenn - September 10, 2012 - 8:37 pm

A bag of fun interesting snacks that they usually would only get as a treat. Brand new sticker coloring book with fancy crayons and a bag full of tricks. You need to keep everything brand new and not let them see it until you are on the plane. Even new toys work. Only pull out one thing at a time (as needed). You will be surprised they will do fine. There is so much around them and so many new things to look at. I took my kids on planes young and trust me mine are VERY active (7 and 3 now) they were fine!

Polly - September 11, 2012 - 12:56 am

We’ve been travelling back and forth from Singapore to France every 6 months with our almost 3 year old and 15 months for the past 6 years which makes for an interesting 16 hours.

Kids are great there is something about getting on a plane that blows them away and keeps them fairly chilled (but yes not always).

Things I also recommend:
1) Keep the pram for all the reasons said above
2) iPad/iPhone, we don’t really use them as Singapore airlines has an amazing selection of things to watch and the bright colored headphones for kids are such a novalty
3) Have a good rest and eat(as you might not get the opportunity) before you fly so you are full of energy for strolls in the plane and the patience to negotiate creatively
4) I take extra clothes for all of us as once one of our kids threw up so much we were all covered in puke for the rest of the journey
5) If one is small enough to fit in an ergo take it as between the ergo and the pram you will be able to divide and conquer 😉
6)Toilet is a tricky one if they are both potty trained…If on my own I normally introduce the air hostess to the kids and vice versa as at one point they might need to stay with her for 5 minutes while I take the other to the toilet

Have a safe flight

Christine - September 11, 2012 - 1:54 pm

Agree with most of what was posted already.

Stroller is a must. And checking bags is also a must. The less to carry the better.

The ipad has been our savior. Load it up with movies, cartoons and games.

If they are small enough bring the baby carrier. easy to walk around in and they might just be cozy enough to fall asleep all snuggled up on your chest.

We have traveled with and without the car seat (for the younger ones) and found that the car seat provides a nice familiar spot for them to pass out in.

Snacks, snacks and more snacks!

Extra changes of clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, small toys.

We have also been lucky enough to get a quick check-up from the doc right before we travel to make sure everyone’s ears are all clear for traveling.

Megan - September 12, 2012 - 12:28 am

Agree that you should have a large supply of NEW toys and snacks, and 100% reinforce that you should only pull them out one at a time as needed – let him fully exhaust one before moving on. But also, don’t pull the first one out untl you have exhausted everything already on the plane: looking out the window, the seat back pocket (airline magazine, sky mall, even the puke bag!). Flying is an adventure, so you milk that for a while first. We got small travel play-Doh toys, coloring stuff, lots of new iPad games. Also, offer drinks during take off and landing to help with the pressure changes. Plus, if you’re really worried, Benadryl… Our pediatrician offers it as an option, so it’s not horrible to “drug” your kid.

Kristin Hackman - September 12, 2012 - 7:19 am

Tylenol. Kidding. Kind of? (Seriously though, our pediatrician told us that giving tylenol right before you board will help to calm them and to help with any pain and pressure the flight may cause to their ears…which is often why they cry on planes.)

Please don’t turn me into CPS for that comment…

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