Flying with Kids? 11 Ways to Keep Them Happy (and Save Your Sanity)

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Flying with kids is not a walk in the park. Babies cry, toddlers get restless, and even older kids can get bored out of their minds on airplanes. It’s not pleasant for the kids, for you, or for your fellow passengers. But thanks to technology, airline customer service, and a few old tricks, there are plenty of ways to make flying fun.

1. Entertainment

Providing in-flight entertainment for your kids is a no-brainer. iPads, streaming services, and fun apps make it a breeze to keep children still and occupied… at least for a while. Before you depart, download some of their favorite movies or episodes of TV.

Depending on your child’s age and the length of the flight, you might be able to get away with just the tablet. If your kiddo tends to enjoy hands-on activities or if you’re flying for an extended period, bring some scrap paper and crayons to keep their mind busy. For younger kids, try going a discount store and picking up a few toys and handing them over every couple of hours. Books and travel games are a great way to keep older kids occupied.

2. Pack a separate bag for the older kids

Are your kids a little older? If so, think about packing them their own bag for the flight. That way, they can keep their collection of books, handheld games, headphones, and whatever else they want during the plane ride all in one spot so you’re not digging around in your stuff every five minutes.

3. Food

Peanuts and pretzels don’t always cut it for adult in-flight snacking, let alone for feeding a growing child. Come prepared with some of their favorite snacks so you won’t be dealing with a hungry kid.

If you’re on a long flight, call the airline ahead of time to see what’s on the menu. Sometimes airline food won’t be appealing to your kid, so see if they have alternatives or bring your own cuisine. Flight-friendly snacks include crackers, trail mix, and small meal kits. Just be sure they can make it through security!

4. Get to the airport early

Speaking of security, this point cannot be stressed enough: get to the airport early — way earlier than you would if you were flying without kids. Children are usually excited for their trip and can be difficult to wrangle. It’ll also take extra time to go through security, especially since younger kids aren’t versed in the process and you’ll have more carry-ons. You’re also going to want to allow more time to check strollers or extra baggage.

Flying out of DIA? Here’s how early you should arrive.

5. Overpack diapers and wet wipes

You can never bring enough diapers and wet wipes! You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a long flight with a cranky baby in a dirty diaper… and the people around you will appreciate it if you came prepared. Even if you have a potty trained toddler, consider packing supplies in case of an accident.

No matter how prepared you are, though, things happen. Flight attendants sometimes have extra diapers and wipes in their secret stash.

6. Bring an extra set of clothes

On the subject of overpacking and coming prepared, make sure you bring an extra set of clothes, not just for you, but younger children as well. If you don’t, chances are Murphy’s Law will kick in an you’ll be stuck with a dirty child the whole ride!

Also remember to pack layers for your children, just in case they get uncomfortable with the temperature in the cabin.

7. Tote along their favorite blanket or toy

Your kid’s favorite blanket or toy can do wonders for their stress level. It might take up a little extra room in your carry-on, but you’ll be happy you toted it around if they start to get cranky! They can also use it if they get a chilly or as a pillow when it’s time for a nap.

The wonders of a favorite blanket or toy go beyond the airplane — these small pieces of home can help children sleep better in unfamiliar places.

8. Remember to bring medication

Sick kids are unhappy kids. Pack your arsenal of medications that soothe stomach aches and help with uncomfortable “flying ears.” Remember, flight attendants cannot administer meds in most situations.

Not sure what you can bring on board? Here are TSA’s tips for flying with medications.

9. Take frequent potty breaks

Even if your kid swears up and down, “No, I don’t have to go right now,” take frequent bathroom breaks while you’re still in the airport. Going to the bathroom on the plane is a pain, especially because the lavatories are small and unfamiliar. Remember that there are always a few minutes at the beginning and end of a flight when the lavatory is inaccessible. Your kids will be more comfortable during takeoff and landing if they go before you board.

10. Fly during naptime or bedtime

This might be the best trick to keep your kids happy during a flight: fly during a time they usually sleep! With a little luck, rigging your schedule this way will help younger kiddos get much-needed rest before your vacation.

11. Care for yourself

You can’t take care of your kids if you’re not taking care of yourself. Stay hydrated, don’t let yourself plunge too deep into hunger, and try to get some rest. If you stay calm and happy, it’s more likely your kids will, too. And if all else fails, try to teach your child the wonder of flying and let them look out the window. It really is incredible to think about traveling at 39,000 feet!

Not convinced you have what it takes to fly with little ones? Check out these 21 family blogs for a little inspiration!