Tips for the Airplane When Traveling with Children
My Little Travel Bug
Flying with children can seem like a daunting task, however a little preparation can free you of anxiety and make your trip go smoothly. Here are our recommendations:
Before Your Trip
1. Review the website for the airline you are flying. Check the airline luggage policy, so that you know how many bags can be checked vs. how many bags and what size you can take on the plane with you. Many airlines offer extra allowances when traveling with a child on your lap and some will allow you to ‘gate check’ items such as a stroller. This means you can keep it with you in the airport and literally check it at the door to the airplane.
2. Some airlines offer children’s menus and allow you to pre-order meals. If you have fussy eaters, this may be a good option and means you will have to pack fewer snacks in your carry-on.
3. For infants, airlines often have bassinets available, particularly on long flights. They can sometimes be pre-booked by calling the airline. Carefully review the airlines policy for age and weight restrictions as you may be denied if your child does not meet the criteria. Some airlines will not allow you to use if your baby can sit up on their own.
4. Purchase saline drops for infants or saline spray for older children. If they have any congestion, this can cause their ears to hurt while flying and saline solution is a safe remedy for this problem. Drops should be instilled 30 minutes prior to flying. Further tips to relieve air pressure can be found in the ‘During Your Flight’ section.
5. Pack your carry-on bags with the following items:
a. Saline Drops
b. Children’s Dimenhydrinate (Gravol, Dramamine) for motion sickness
c. Any other medications your children may require.
d. Books, games (see games for the car), small toys
e. Diapering needs
f. Change of clothes
g. Empty bottles of water, sippy cups etc to be filled once you have passed security.
i. Pen for filling out customs forms
j. All important documents, credit cards etc.
k. Camera and any other valuables you can’t live without!
l. Neck pillows, eye covers and ear plugs for the kids or adults if there is more than one adult traveling, you can take turns getting some rest
6. If possible, reserve your seats in advance. You may want to request bulkhead seating as there is more room for the children to move around and play. If traveling with an infant, they will often place you here automatically if the space is available. Although this is usually the best place for families, it sometimes means you are right in front of the television screens and there may be variations in different planes, such as armrest movement and the location of your tray. If you are traveling with more than one child on an adult’s lap, make sure there are enough oxygen masks in your aisle.
At the Airport
1. Review the airport website, prior to departure, to familiarize yourself with the layout. Find out where you need to go to check-in, security, washrooms, restaurant areas etc.
2. Most washrooms have baby change stations available and some even have private rooms.
3. Restaurants or coffee shops will often provide you with a cup of hot water or microwave for heating baby food or bottles.
4. Most airlines will offer pre-boarding to families traveling with small children. This can allow you some extra time to get settled and discuss any special needs with flight crew before the rest of the passengers get on the plane. It does however mean that your children will be ‘stuck’ on the plane that much longer, waiting for take-off, so you should decide if this is the best option for your family.
During the Flight
1. When you get on the plane, ask for blankets and pillows if you think your children will use them. Ask early as they often don’t carry enough for all passengers and can run out.
2. Most washrooms on the plane will be equipped with a baby changing station.
3. Flight attendants, usually provide seatbelt attachments for children traveling on your lap.
4. Check the pocket in front of your seat, for a motion-sickness bag and keep this bag handy just in case you need to grab it quickly!
5. Some flights will have movies or television channels appropriate for children.
6. If your child has any problems with ear pain or pressure, try to get them to yawn, chew gum, or drink something. Infants should be fed a bottle (or nursed) on take-off and landing to equalize their ear pressure. As mentioned above, saline drops can help break up any congestion which may be worsening their problem.
7. If you are flying overnight, or during a time when your child normally sleeps, try to create a relaxing atmosphere to get them to stick to their schedule. Use the blankets, read stories and do any bedtime rituals, you would normally do at home.
8. Make sure all family members drink lots of fluids during the flight to help fight jetlag. Get up and walk around frequently (every 1-2 hours, more if you are pregnant) to keep your circulation going. Stretch calves and legs whenever possible.