If the thought of flying with little ones makes you want to cringe, know you aren’t alone. Flying with little ones is no easy task. It involves lots of planning and lots of flexibility. When you live in the midwest and you want to make it down to Walt Disney World, sometimes flying ends up being your best option for saving time and, sometimes, saving money. Therefore, you need to grit your teeth and praying for the best.
As a tried and true travel veteran with little kiddos, I have some tips that have helped to make my flying trips go (mostly) smooth.
My first tips is kind of a no-brainer tip. It’s something you know that you need to do, but doesn’t always happen. You know that if you give yourself more time to get to and be at the airport, you won’t get super stressed when your bag full of snacks needs to be meticulously investigated by the TSA. (Been there, done that!). Plus, having ample time allows you to nurse a baby one last time before boarding a flight and gives you extra time to gate-check your stroller and carseats. It also just gives you peace of mind in general.
In a perfect world you’ll have ample time and you’ll feel somewhat calm and collected prior to boarding your flight.
In reality, we all know that the extra time seems to vanish in thin air as you are trying to heard your littles out the door and into the car in order to make your flight in time. As a matter of fact you’re grateful, if you make it to the airport with all of your kids (and your reading glasses-any Home Alone fans out there?).
Unofficially Change Your Flight Time
Let’s say you would like that extra time to help you feel more together at the airport. How are you going to get it? The best advice I can give? Pretend your flight is an hour earlier than it really is. The trick: tell everyone in your house the flight time is an hour earlier. Then somehow trick yourself. Write the new time in your day planner, google calendar, your dry erase calendar and whatever other calendar you have at your house in order to get everyone on the same page.
Then, when the day of your flight comes, just make it happen. Yes, you’re lying. However, if you told everyone the newly adjusted time, even yourself, it’s not like you left anyone out. The best part, you’ll probably have time to use the bathroom at the airport instead of having to use the online flight bathroom. Not that the on-flight bathroom is a bad one, but we all know how hard it is to get out of our seat once the plane starts moving. Getting out of your seat without all of your littles following you to the bathroom that is…
Board Flight Early
For a majority of flights with littles, you will be able to board early. This isn’t the case with all flights. Yet, I know that with Delta airlines, if you are traveling with infants or kiddos that need more time, you’ll be able to board early. There are exceptions and often if the plane is heading on a direct flight to Orlando this offer might not be extended to you. Often these flights are heading to Walt Disney World and many of the passengers on board are small children.
However, if the offer is extende, be sure to take it! You’ll be one of the first passengers on board and the flight attendants might be able to help you juggle your luggage. Then you’ll have all three of your hands to try and strap your two year old into his or her seat. Because it does take three hands and I DO wish I had a spare.
Stroller in the Airport
When heading to Walt Disney World the questions of whether or not to bring a stroller often comes up. In short, yes, it is recommended that you bring a stroller with you to Walt Disney World and can see my reasons why right here. Without reciting my previous blog post, one of the most important reasons to bring a stroller? To be able to navigate through the airport without carrying a child. The stroller allows you to cruise through the airport with your baby(s) on board and your luggage being pulled behind you.
Besides, if my first suggestion of giving yourself ample time at the airport doesn’t happen, you’ll be able to save a few minutes by power pushing your stroller to the gate. Bonus: Most airlines, including Delta, allow you to gate check your stroller so you can have it with you right after you land at your destination.
Gate Check Carseat and Stroller
As briefly touched on above, you can gate-check your stroller at your gate. If you bring and opt to not use your carseat on the airplane, you are able to gate check your carseat as well. This is super convenient for when you land. You can load your kiddo into the carseat and either snap it into your stroller, like Graco carseats allow. Or you can load your kiddo into the carseat and pull it through the airport by adding this handy device. Either way, the stroller and carseat combo allow you to free your hands from carrying little kiddos who may be too little to walk through a large airport.
Ages 2 and Under are Free
On many airlines, including Delta, you are able to have your kiddos ages 2 and under fly free. Flying free means they do not have a designated seat and need to sit in your lap for the duration of the flight. I have found, in the majority of flights I have taken with kiddos two and under, they do not spend much time in a seat anyhow. Not having to pay for a seat that they don’t ‘plan’ to use is a very nice bonus. Be sure to check with your airline to confirm this to be the case.
Bring Lots of Snacks
I cannot emphasis this tip enough. Bring lots and lots of snacks. When you think you have packed enough snacks, bring even more. My kids go through food like they are never going to eat again when on an airplane. If it is edible, they will consume it. We have gone through a huge ziplock bag full of trail mix, three packs of peanut butter crackers, 4 apple sauce pouches, several Larabars and a few mini-bags of pretzels all on a 2 and a 1/2 hour flight. That’s not even including any of the food myself or my husband ate. My kids are only 4 and 1, can you imagine what they will eat when teenagers?
Bring Lots of Toys
This goes along with the suggestion about food, you can never have enough toys to keep your kiddos busy on a flight. The toys that seem to have the most success for my family on flights include toys that are interactive and those that provide a reaction. I’m talking along the lines of travel games, etcha-sketches, magic wonder coloring books, magna doodles, Melissa-and-Doug Water Wow! Booklets, mini puzzles. Basically, anything that allows my kiddos to create provides and gives them opportunity to stay actively engaged while flying.
Don’t underestimate the power of bringing along some of their favorite toys as well. For my boys this includes anything with wheels. They love cars, trucks, planes, you name it. If it moves, they love it. You might think this isn’t the greatest plan while on a flight, but those little tray tables provide good ‘driving grounds’.
If you’re stuck for ideas you can always hit up the dollar spot at Target. There are often great little felt activity books for littles to play with while on a flight.
If the food and game entertainment has run out, never under estimate the power of a little visual entertainment. This can come in the form of a personal kindle or ipad, both preloaded with shows or games. Or it can come in the form of the tablet device loaded into the back of the seat in front of you on the airplane, if available on your flight. Regardless of where you stand when it comes to screen time, this might be a good time to bend the rules a little. If your little one will pay attention to a tv show or movie, this might be a great way to buy yourself a 1/2 hour or two.
When flying, I suggest approaching having your little one sleep with caution. I say this because best laid plans often go astray. If you are timing a flight to happen during nap time, your little one might be too stimulated by all the new sights and sounds to be able to sleep. This can result in a super tired kiddo later on.
Alternatively, if you don’t give your a little at least a tiny nap before you board your flight, he or she might become overtired on the flight. We all know what being over tired results in: a super cranky, crabby little one. I’ve been in both situations, flights with a kiddo that won’t nap and flights with an over-tired kiddo. They aren’t fun, trust me. Therefore, do your best to help your little one get some shut eye before your flight.
Flights are hard when you are little. You are expected to stay in one spot for several hours and stare straight ahead. You can’t get up and move around and you can’t mess with the people in front or in back of you. Heck, flights are hard when you are an adult. Help your little to have a successful flight by following a few of these tips.