Air travel and families

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Keep your kids safe, happy and healthy during air travel

Heading out for a short trip in the family car is pretty manageable. If the kids don’t behave, you can always turn the car around and head back. Flying with kids is not so simple, but arm yourself with these parent-tested suggestions and enjoy your family adventure.

Traveling with kids can be a testy experience, but even more chaotic for parents is sending the kids to travel on their own. Before you put your little one on the plane, read our Kids Flying Solo Guide.

Health and Safety in the Air

Many infants and toddlers experience ear pain when changing altitudes, which can cause cabin-rattling screams. Help them swallow by giving them a bottle or pacifier, which should reduce infant ear discomfort dramatically. Especially if you have an infant, ask your doctor for further guidance to keep baby happy.

Cheapflights air travel expert Jerry Chandler offers the following tip to ease earaches in the air:

“Airplanes inevitably land and when they do kids start to scream, most likely because their ears are hurting. Alleviate their misery (as well as yours and those of your of fellow passengers) by asking the flight attendant to soak a couple of paper napkins in very, very hot water. Wring the napkins out and stick them in the bottom of plastic drink cups. Put the cups over your kids’ ears. It creates a vacuum, and reduces the pressure fast.”

Read our Kid-Friendly Airport Diversion Guide for more information on keeping the kids happy when traveling.

Quick Tips for Flying With Kids

  • For short-distance flights, book direct, non-stop flights if possible. For longer flights, layovers might be a good idea to give kids a chance to run off some energy in the airport.
  • On international flights, try to travel at night so children can sleep.
  • For international air travel, reserve a bassinet for infants up to 18lbs.
  • Pre-board the airplane when the airline asks for families and those needing special assistance.
  • Arrive at the airport early and request bulkhead seats.
  • Be flexible and keep your itinerary simple.
  • If you need child seats in the car, you probably need child seats on the plane. Call the airline to see if they provide child seats – if not, bring your own.
  • Keep in mind, you may be required to place car seats in a window seat during the flight.

Before You Go

Don’t forget: Since the laws changed, each child, no matter how young, needs a valid individual passport for international travel and can no longer use his or her parents’ passport. For more information on passports and other tips, see Before you go and Getting a Passport.

Search for hotels that let children stay free or provide free meals for kids. Ask about babysitting services, cribs, kids’ clubs and facilities for children when you book. The more the hotel caters to children, the more enjoyable your trip will be.

Keep Children Occupied in the Air

The most challenging task when flying as a family is keeping kids busy. To keep your kids occupied in the air, choose an airline with seat back movies and video games. Discount airlines like Frontier and jetBlue have digital diversions that will keep most kids glued and happy.

Make room in your carry-on for every toy, gadget, pacifier and book your kids might possibly enjoy. Bring crayons, paper, books on tape, cards, stuffed animals, etc. But don’t hand them all over at once. Offer a new diversion every hour, but only if they are bored.

Bring Food and Drinks for Your Kids

Though the airline might provide snacks, children aren’t always the best at waiting for a meal. Bring food and plenty of water or juice with you. Children can get dehydrated during air travel just as easily as adults. Bananas, raisins, rice cakes, juice, dried fruit and small boxes of dry cereal are great items to bring.

(Featured image: sigfridlundberg)

Air travel and families was last modified: July 14th, 2015 by Melisse Hinkle
Author: Melisse Hinkle (367 posts)

A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has traveled throughout North America, biked through rice paddies in Bali, seen the Northern Lights in Iceland, walked alongside llamas in Machu Picchu and made her way around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Head of Content and Social Media for North America at Cheapflights.