Tips for Flying with Kids


The thought of taking your children with you on a trip, let alone navigating the airport, can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips for flying with kids that might help ease your mind and give you the confidence to travel.

Best Time to Fly

I find that it is best to fly with littles when they are happiest. My family prefers the earliest flight. Since we live 2 hours away from MCI, this often means we are getting up in the middle of the night to get to the airport with ample time. Often kids 3 and under will fall asleep in the car ride on the way. Then, you can change their clothes at the airport, and you’re ready to start the day. For kids 4 and older, it’s a toss up but they can regulate emotions easier and fall asleep as soon as we get to the destination.

Layover or Not

I prefer non-stop! Once we’re on the way, we are getting to the destination, there’s no turning back. Also, to be able to cut the travel time down on travel day is almost priceless. We once had a lay over in Memphis with our then young 2 year old, and there was a cookie meltdown — from then on our family chooses non-stop routes whenever possible. I will say, after age 3 kids seem to be more flexible. If we do have a layover, I always look up the terminal map and find any entertainment or play structure for toddlers. It is hard to sit at a gate and do nothing any age! For infant travel, a layover can be welcomed to have extra space to change diapers, feed, and walk.

Airport Parking

Parking options are garage, economy, or private options close to the airport. I like to use a private company like Parking Spot, Park Air Express, Park N’ Go. These companies havetheir own shuttles to take you from their lot to the door of the airport. They also park your car for you, and you do not have to remember where you parked when returning from your trip. It seems to be faster than taking the bus from the economy lot. Check their websites for coupons an offers; I usually get at least one day free!

Check-in Logistics

If possible, have one parent do baggage check in while everyone else waits. This is also a good time to make sure all IDs are easily accessible for upcoming security point checks. I carry a backpack with all of our documentation in the top pocket, my husband can easily access them without me even taking off the backpack. For U.S. flights, you do not have to have ID for children 18 and younger. I still travel with a copy of their birth certificates, but have never been asked to provide them for U.S. flights. For international flights, you will need a passport. Remember for kids, they expire in 5 years instead of 10.

Going through Security with Kids

While getting through security it helps to let your child know what to expect. There are of life skills to be learned while traveling with kids, how to navigate security and gates is one of them! Most of the time, the TSA officials are great at helping instruct what needs to happen. The kids are helpful of throwing their backpacks onto the belt and putting electronics into a bin. This point during the airport can be overwhelming because it takes time to get all the bags, strollers, car seat, adult shoes, and everything situated onto the belt. I use to feel like I was an inconvenience to those behind me who possibly want to get to their gate quicker but the reality is, it’s an airport, there are lines, and most people are patient. After flying a few times, your family will run smoothly and the kids know exactly what to do.

Bottles of formula or breast milk have to be tested because they are over the liquid allowance. This is a fast process, and you can watch the agents test the bottles. I travel with a icepack bottle holder so our bottles are cold all day until we need them.

After everything is through security, take an extra moment to make sure you have everything. We left our Doona Carseat cover at security in Pensacola. Thankfully, that is a small airport and they called us over their intercom to come retrieve it.

While waiting at the gate with toddlers it’s time to let them walk and be free for awhile, this is where airport play structures are nice and hard to come by. Check your airport map to see if anything is available. If not, watching other planes and talking about them passes the time. This is also a good time to have a diaper change, fill up your toddler’s favorite cup, and reorganize any backpacks to make toys easily accessible on the plane.

Airplane Entertainment

These are my favorite ways to keep kids on a plane entertained by age.

  • Infant: if bottle feeding, have an extra bottle more than what you need for the duration of the travel time plus time to get to your hotel/VRBO. There are suction cup infant toys that work well for airplane windows, but also change toys frequently, they also seem to like standing and looking around at all the people. For newborns, consider ear muffs! Babies are easy because they can not move and all they want is you!
  • Toddler: fidget type toys are great, especially if they are new to them. Also reusable stickers and sticker books go a long way. Dry erase and Water-Wow books have also been a favorite. A movie or toddler game on a tablet can be helpful too but they will need earphones.
  • Preschool and older: this is where we use electronics as our secret weapon. Judge me if you want but they greatly help us get through travel day with ease. At home, we have a strict 1 hour per day iPad time, but on travel day, it’s loose, and we all survive.

Plan and GO!

There will never be a perfect time to travel, schedules will always have to be changed but if you make it a priority, you will not regret it. Children may not remember all the details but YOU do. Seeing their reaction of something new and exciting is good for the mom soul. You will be greatly surprised a couple years later of what they do remember, and it is awesome. A lot of times they remember more than I do!

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Nicole Wainwright
I am a Kansas native and an optometrist by career but my best job is being mother of three to Austin, 10, Adam, 6, and Adley, 1. After finishing optometry school in Houston with my husband, Kyle, we settled in Manhattan and practice optometry at Wainwright Eye Care. I also own MHK Fitness along with my husband, we work really well together getting business and kids taken care of. Outside of work, I can often found at many youth activities. We enjoy taking trips as a family, I often plan and coordinate those details. I start each day with a made at home latte and often ask our kids each morning what they're grateful for! I am looking forward to this community group and brining moms together, MHK is great!


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