Flying with Kids: The Ultimate Survival Guide

Published by FareCompare Spotlight on May 1, 2012

Ugh, the airport – every parent's worst nightmare. It's bad enough you're visiting the in-laws, but tack on airport security, baggage claim, screaming babies and the dreaded glare from judgmental passengers. Just be glad you found that cheap flight. You tell yourself, they're obviously not parents. Why should you care? But you do. And that's why we have this survival guide for your next trip.

Family Traveler Statistics
Thirty percent of all adult leisure travelers are family travelers – meaning parents or grandparents traveling with children – and take on average 4.5 trips each year. (Source: travelhorizonsTM, July 2009).

How to Fly with Toddlers (and Enjoy It)

Planning & Packing
When you pack, think about whether an item is something you can check or should carry on. Only bring the essentials in your carry-on bag.

Bag for On-Flight
Depending on your child's ages you'll need to carry on different items. Here's a list of on-flight essentials for all ages:

  • Snacks
  • Sugar-free gum or lollipops to help with pressure
  • Water or juice (after airport security)
  • Coloring books with crayons
  • An age-appropriate toy
  • Portable DVD with your kids favorite shows or movies
  • iPad with games
  • Bottle, pacifier, diapers, formula, ready-made-bottle
  • Comfortable stuffed animal or small pillow
  • Small blanket

How to Travel Light

If you're children are old enough, have them plan, pack and carry their own bags, with your help, of course.

  • Tell them how long the trip is, show them the size of their backpack or roll bag, and have them write a list of everything they think they'll need. It's a good idea to tell them a limit on the amount of games or toys they can bring.
  • Have them find everything on their list and lay it out on their bed.
  • Proof their planning.
  • Have them pack their backpack or roll bag.
  • Ask them to carry or roll their bag at the airport.

The day before your flight, give your children an overview of what will happen at the airport and on the flight. Be specific on what you'll need help with such as having them carrying their own bags, removing their own shoes through security, displaying grown up behavior on the plane, etc.

Airport Security
Having everything packed properly before you get to the airport security will make the process much easier. Just before you get to the airport security area, tell your kids what to expect and that they'll need to remove their shoes and jackets.

  • Put all small liquid bottles in a clear zip lock bag.
  • Remove electronic devices from your bag and place in a tray.
  • Remove your shoes and your children?s shoes and place in a tray.
  • Remove any baby holders.
  •  Have all tickets and identification in hand.

New TSA Security Measures for Kids Under 12

Airport Waiting
Chances are you'll have arrived to the airport early to give the family time to jump through all the hoops. If you have extra time before the flight, take your kids on a walk around the airport showing them the planes and other neat stuff.

Or if you prefer to wait near the gate, encourage your kids to move around or play. This will help them burn extra energy to make them calmer during the flight.

The 10 Most Kid-Friendly Airport Terminals

Boarding & In-Flight
Generally, families with children are allowed to pre-board to give them time to put the bags in the overhead bins and the children comfortable in their seats.

Give your kids the window seat if available so they can watch take off and landings. Make sure they have all essentials items available in the seat front pocket so they can grab them if needed. Show them how to use the seat belt, tray lock, seat recliner and radio.


About the Author

Darcie Connell is the CEO of, a fun travel site that helps you find travel destinations based on when you want to go and who you are. She's also the co-founder of, where regular people can access information to start a travel blog. From 10-day muted meditation courses in Leh, India, to continuous Spanish school conversations in Antigua, the California native enjoys sharing her experiences through her writing. Follow her on Twitter.

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