Flying with a child can trigger both excitement and dread in any parent who is planning a trip. Traveling together can be a fun time to bond and form lasting memories with your family, but it can also be extremely challenging, especially when things go wrong (as they often do). While you can’t control the airlines, you can still carefully plan to make the experience as smooth as possible.
For many flights, you don’t have to buy a seat for a child under the age of 2 as long as the child remains on your lap throughout the flight. If you prefer to keep your infant or child in an FAA approved child restraint device, you will need to purchase a ticket. If possible, choose window seats or seats by the aisle to avoid being pressed on either side by other passengers. Breastfeeding moms may want to choose a window seat for added privacy.
It may be helpful to book your flight during a time when your child usually sleeps or takes a nap. If your flight requires a layover, choose a flight with a longer layover, even though this makes your travel time slightly longer. The additional time will help you stay organized, allow for bathroom stops, and leaves time for snacks or a meal. This extra time also makes it easier for an older child to walk around and burn off some excess energy.
Choose window seats or seats by the aisle to avoid being pressed on either side by other passengers.
Be sure you have plenty of baby essentials, and double check to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything vital. Have extra bottles, pacifiers and nipples, wipes, diapers, snacks, and toys or books to occupy your child. Always pack an extra change of clothes for both you and your child for the inevitable diaper leak or spit up.
If you’re concerned about your child’s ears, there are a few ways to ease ear pain. Babies should be offered a bottle, breast, or pacifier during takeoff and descent to help equalize the pressure in their tiny ears. An older child may be able to drink from a sippy cup or eat a snack during this time to encourage swallowing.
If your child is prone to motion sickness, make sure to offer plenty of fluids during travel and give your child a snack before the flight. Short flights or flights with layovers may help your child feel better. If possible, choose seats near the front of the plane or over the wing for less turbulence.
If your child starts to feel ill, aim the air vent toward the child’s face. Have the child recline with eyes closed. Relaxing while breathing in cool air will help your child feel better. Antihistamines, like Benadryl, are sometimes recommended to deal with motion sickness but you should discuss this with your child’s doctor before giving any medication. If your doctor suggests this, don’t forget that it may make your child sleepy. This may be great for the flight, but difficult if you need your child to walk once the flight is over.
Sometimes, even with the most careful planning, you can’t avoid a cranky child. Try not to get too stressed out about it. Apologize to the people around you and do your best to comfort your child until you have landed. Having a good attitude goes a long way towards ensuring that you and your child make it to your destination in one piece.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, January 2019
- Book your flight for when your child usually sleeps or takes a nap.
- If your flight requires a layover, choose a flight with a longer layover.
- If you’re concerned about your child’s ears, babies can be offered a bottle breast or pacifier; older children may use a sippy cup.
- Antihistamines, like Benadryl, are sometimes recommended by doctors to deal with motion sickness.