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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.

Takeaways

  • 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.

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Family Friendly Flying.
  2. University of Maryland Medical Center. Motion Sickness.

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Comments

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  1. I have had good luck every time except for one flight home. My daughter threw the biggest tantrum because she wanted to sit on my lap during takeoff instead of being in her seatbelt. I got some dirty looks from nearby passengers despite my apologies. Longest 5 minutes of my life. Was so happy to get to an altitude where I could let her sit on my lap. It was definitely a lot easier when she was a baby.

    1. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another!

  2. Thankfully we haven’t flew yet with kids but would love to. Great tips that I will keep in mind for when we do.

  3. I didn’t have to fly in a while , the youngest my daughter was 10 months and it went great. The older she got , he worst it was!

    1. I think new parents don’t realize traveling with young babies isn’t so bad. It’s when they get old enough to be mobile that it becomes a challenge!

  4. I am nervous about flying with my 17 month old. I am an anxious traveler anyways, so I have avoided it! I’m sure it would probably go way better then I think it would! We have been taking vacations within driving distances. I think we will try airplane travel in the next year or two.

  5. I’m going to be flying alone with my toddler and have lots of anxiety about it. This article helps.

  6. Babywearing to get through security/airport and just “running” the toddler up and down empty aisles help us survive flights!! We actually had to switch to flying during non-nap times because our toddler is way to interested in everything going on to sleep!!

    1. Yes as my little ones got a little older, I also found it much easier to schedule travel around their naps. Once they get to a certain age, they are much too curious to sleep!

  7. Great article! Thanks for the tips!

  8. Great Article! I’ve flown a few times with my daughter and snacks and toys are a must!! The staff is usually great with helping us since we need extra time to get seated and situated.

  9. I always travel with my son by myself, now that he’s a toddler I’m a bit scare because you never know with a toddler! Yikes

    1. It is definitely easier to travel with children before they become mobile!

    2. Good luck!

  10. Thanks so much for this article, we’ll be flying with my toddler for the first time in October and I’m dreading it a bit!

    1. Booking early is best so you can get your choice of seats, but of course that is not always possible! Having a bag full of toys, games, markers, etc. to keep them entertained usually does the trick for me. I always add in a few new things they have never seen to hold their interest.

  11. We like to get to the airport a bit earlier than we should so the kids can play (our airport has a huge playground) and tire themselves out. Movies and lots of snacks make for great flyers with my kiddos.

  12. We have always bought a seat for our daughter and traveled with her car seat. Not only is it safer, but it makes the trip much easier as she can’t get up and walk around. It feels like the car, which she is used to, making it easier on us all.

    1. Oh no! What a bummer that his first long walk happened during your porrty break. :(

    2. That’s so adorable but so bummed you couldn’t witness it!