Stress-free airline travel with children

Every parent, at one point or another, has had to fly with their children. It can be a stressful endeavor for parents, but it doesn’t have to be. Below you'll find expert advice on how to keep your sanity when traveling with your little ones.


Cartoon with check mark

  • fly nonstop
  • pack smart carry-ons
  • make advanced seat reservations
  • unwrap a package every hour
  • pre-order a kid’s meal

Cartoon with x mark

  • travel on “big” travel days
  • change planes in mega-airports
  • try to start new rules
  • forget your child’s favorite toy or doll
  • book a red eye flight – in most cases

Mathias Friess‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do fly nonstop

Often times, the worst part of traveling is actually getting to the plane. By the time you sit in your seat, the race is almost won and you just have to make it through a few hours of sitting and entertaining your kid in a confined space. The last thing you want is to change planes, even if you are able to save a few dollars by booking a flight with a layover at one of the airline’s hubs.

A plane change automatically means you will have to take your kids, along with all of your stuff, and go through the hassle of finding the connecting flight. This may require terminal changes and train rides to get from one gate to the next. If your children are little, you may not even have access to your gate-checked stroller – this is especially true on international flights.

The hassle is exasperated if the first flight you are on is late and you don’t have enough time to catch the next flight (which is tough enough as a single traveler, but try doing that with kids).

Now imagine you miss that connecting flight and have to stand in line at the airline’s transfer counter to be re-accommodated. If your missed flight just happens to be on a peak travel date where flights are full, there is a very good chance that you will not get on the next couple of flights and perhaps not even out on the same day. So get that nonstop flight whenever possible and cut your unnecessary stress level down to a minimum!

Do pack smart carry-ons

Assume the worst when you pack your carry-on of baby travel items. Make sure you have ample diapers, wipes, baby food, and extra clothes, not only for the kids, but an extra shirt for the parents just in case of a random spill or sudden illness. Just think of a flight which was planned to be three hours, but gets delayed a few hours, so the travel time all of a sudden doubles or triples. You do not want to be caught off-guard without enough diapers or food.

Also, if you are still bottle-feeding, you may want to consider investing in an instant bottle warmer which will heat the milk without the hassle of troubling a flight attendant for boiling water. There are a number of options that you can carry on like the Instant Bottle Warmer Pack from BambinOz.

Do make advanced seat reservations

For air travel with kids, try to make your seat reservations early to ensure that your whole family sits together. Having your partner sit two rows in front while you sit in the back with your kids won’t make your travel experience any better. The best time to make a seat reservation is when you purchase your ticket. If the airline won’t let you do that, check in 24 hours before online and grab seats together. Even if the airline charges you for an advanced seat reservation, it’s worth it just to be on the safe side.

Do unwrap a package every hour

f you plan to fly for over four hours, particularly if you will be traveling on an international flight, head to the local dollar store and buy little treats for your kids and wrap them up individually. Then every hour, get one gift out and have the kid unwrap the gift and explore the kids and wrap them up individually. Then every hour, get one gift out. Have the kid unwrap the gift and explore the toy.

Do pre-order a kid’s meal

Airlines do not typically advertise this great option, but almost all will offer a vegetarian or kids meal if ordered 48 hours prior to departure. Most of the time, the meals are more accessible to young taste buds and, most importantly, special meals are always delivered first. This can be extremely valuable if your children are hungry, exhausted and an afternoon/evening sleep is due.

Mathias Friess‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not travel on “big” travel days

Traveling with kids, big or small, comes with a heightened level of tension and stress. There is no need to add additional levels of stress by opting to travel on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Avoid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving if you can. It is better to depart a few days earlier on Monday or Tuesday and return from your family visit on Friday evening or Saturday, but steer clear of Sunday travel. Not only will it reduce stress, but also has the potential to save you 30-50 percent in airfare.

Do not change planes in mega-airports

If you can’t get a nonstop flight to the destination you are traveling, try to book flights that connect in a smaller airport and avoid the busy, large airports like Atlanta and Chicago. If you are traveling to an international destination, try to change planes in the United States and continue nonstop to your international destination. For example, let’s say you want to fly to Munich, Germany. Your best bet would be to take a flight with a U.S. connection (e.g., JFK in New York) and take a nonstop rather than flying into an international hub (like Paris) and connecting from there.

Do not try to start new rules

Traveling is not a good time to start new rules or new consequences. Air travel for kids is a new and confusing experience that can be stressful. Creating new rules and becoming an authoritarian parent can add more levels of stress for the child and for you as a parent.

Instead, explain exactly what will happen when traveling. Explain the security line, trams, and the behavior that is expected of them on the plane. Start explaining the travel procedures to your child at least a week in advance to fully prepare them. This will alleviate fear and stress from your child and will allow for a smooth travel experience.

Do not forget your child’s favorite toy or doll

It can end up to be the worst trip you have ever had in your life if you forget that favorite stuffed animal, doll, or toy that your kid carries around all the time (or even worse, if they can’t fall asleep without it.) Make sure to pack their security blanket to save you avoidable heartache and stress.

Do not book a red eye flight – in most cases

If your children are not good sleepers and have a strict sleeping routine, it is probably not a good idea to take a red eye flight. Nothing is worse than having an upset child who cannot be settled while everyone around you is pointing and giving dirty looks as they are trying to sleep.

However, there are a few red eye flights that are the exception. Some of the eastbound flights from the West Coast are packed with young families who opted for the direct red eye flight to avoid an early morning layover and plane change. For example, the red eye flight from Los Angeles to Tampa is packed with babies and, as a parent, you don’t have to worry about “what if my child screams for four hours.” It’s OK because there just are not many business professionals on this type of flight.


Using a few of these great tips can save you a lot of unnecessary headaches. You might even be able to enjoy the journey just as much as you will enjoy your destination. Now you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

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