Flying With Children: Take The Stress Out Of Flying With Your Young Ones

So you are looking to tackle the perceived trial of flying with your children, is it as traumatic as some would have you believe?

Inevitably there is lots of running around prior to heading for the airport; arranging washing, sorting out domestic responsibilities (pets, parents/ grandparents, house security etc., order unintentional), packing cases and ensuring your husband hasn’t forgotten his sunglasses! 

Adding anxiousness about the welfare of your children during the the flight, or that of the other passengers if your loved one(s) have an ‘off day’, is only going to raise levels of stress to unnecessary heights. Take a breath you’re going to make it!

The following advice will hopefully help you embrace the experience.

As with most things in life success depends on effective preparation, taking the time to think and plan ahead will reduce the chances of undesirable outcomes. Sometimes though even with the best laid plans things don’t run smoothly. Long haul flights can be a bind but most people empathize with families with young children so don’t worry.

Booking Flights

If you can book a flight where you are all comfortably together, having parents and or siblings split almost always leads to one wanting to be sat where the other is. It is a good idea if you can have set seats and seating arrangements are agreed prior to leaving. That way you can refer back to the ‘signed up’ agreement at take-off when window seats are particularly coveted.

When flying with a baby you will need to check the airlines policies and whether you need to pre-order cot etc.

There is a school of thought, understandably so, that booking flights around the children’s normal bed times will help them to settle down as the flight begins. This is not always a luxury you have when booking fights and if you are flying to significantly different time zones it will take a day or two for body clocks to adjust in any case.

There is a school of thought, understandably so, that booking flights around the children’s normal bed times will help them to settle down as the flight begins. This is not always a luxury you have when booking fights and if you are flying to significantly different time zones it will take a day or two for body clocks to adjust in any case.

Girl in Airport with case

Arriving At The Airport

With the times of advised check-ins seemingly getting earlier the period at the airport prior to departure can be a considerable amount of time. The obligatory pre-flight meal, maybe that’s just me, can only occupy so much time so further simulation is required.

Retail therapy doesn’t cut it either for a toddler so what to do. Most of the sizable airports will have family areas that include a play area that are good to blow off a little steam prior to boarding. I think the main thing is to give a little slack before the flight and the inevitable restrictions on movement etc. that it brings.

Passing Through Security

I don’t mind admitting that passing through security sometimes gets me nervous; I think it is flashbacks to Florida where my husband had a number of security personnel shouting at him to get his arms up when he tried to remove a credit card from his pocket that had set off the scanner alarms – he hasn’t done that again!

Anyway I digress, it is a bit scary and I know our children were quite anxious when they first encountered it. Having to remove belts and shoes doesn’t help and only adds to the feeling this is a bit out of the ordinary.

Plenty of smiles and reassurance usually suffices to ease a worried child. I use to try to think of a ‘nice’ back story as to why the scanners were in use but failed to think of anything that didn’t have sinister overtones in its own right. Maybe you have some colorful suggestions for a child friendly fictional explanation.

As an aside the scanners are totally safe and do not use any radiation.

We will talk about what to pack in your child’s carry on luggage but obviously packing unsuitable toys is a no no. Having to explain why Johnny has a toy gun in his luggage may be an unwanted diversion!


Carry On Luggage

Before we tackle the children, it is worth considering what carry on luggage you as a parent are using. Whilst a conventional roll on cabin luggage is a perfect solution where you have reasonable parent to child numbers the bigger families may find a suitable backpack is more practical as it allows you to be ‘hands free’ when checking in and boarding and allows greater flexibility when herding, sorry escorting, your young ones.

It is a good idea to immerse your youngsters in the whole travel experience so having their own kid’s luggage enables them to share the packing experience and decide, with your guidance, what they want to include for flight entertainment. While they may want to fill their bag exclusively with sweets what else should be packed in their, or your, hand luggage.

Involving your children as much as possible in planning and handling their own luggage will help fully immerse them in the vacation experience.


Pack any medication your child may need throughout the time frame of your journey (allowing additional supplies for delays etc.).

Cabin air quality is not as healthy as being outside in a forest but how good or bad it is has been subject to lots of conjecture. A recent European study by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) concluded that ‘the air quality on tested flights was similar or better that that observed in normal indoor environments’.

That being said there may be instances where sniffles and colds are picked up in the relatively unusual environment so a child’s cold remedy should be carried to lower any temperatures and hopefully nip any sniffles in the bud.


Blanket & Clothing

Most airlines will provide a blanket but children like to snuggle up in something familiar so if they have one so it is worthy of inclusion especially when flying with a baby, infant or toddler. With the best will in the world illness, spillages and mishaps will happen from time to time and it is best to be prepared with an additional set of clothing.

This will make your child much more comfortable should an accident occur . Whilst most airlines are very good at helping people who have mishaps the child will undoubtedly feel happier and less stressed if in their own clothes.

Sweets & Food Supplies

We are not trying to put our children in an e number induced haze but sweets do have their place in your on flight strategy. Apart from short infrequent interludes sweets, and in particular sweets they can suck (no hard sweets for children less than 3), are invaluable at take-off and landing.

We will have all experienced our ears popping when air pressure changes. Simplistically the pop experienced is the inner ear air equaling pressure with the outer air. This is achieved by air escaping through the Eustachian tubes that connect the inner ear drums to the throat.

In children this can be more painful and difficult because their tubes are narrower. Problems can be exacerbated if your child has a cold and/or is congested. The best thing to do is swallow, so sucking enthusiastically on a sweet helps with this.

Babies and very young children should be encouraged to suck on a bottle or dummy (pacifier) as this will help. Along the same lines staying hydrated and drinking water encourages the swallowing action.


What to Pack for your child when flying

Being prepared when flying with children will help keep them entertained and also provide some comfort should accidents occur.

Electronic Entertainment

Probably already a staple of the modern child the inclusion of an ipad or other tablet is invaluable. Typically long haul flights have some form of entertainment, games etc. but whether your young child will be completely satisfied with this offering is questionable.

For shorter or no frills sites then they are more valuable. Remember though provision of Wi Fi is not a given and especially not free Wi Fi so some consideration should be taken at home as to what could be downloaded onto the tablet to satisfy your child’s veracious appetite for content.

Good Old Paper and Pencils

If you young ones means of entertaining themselves haven’t been totally surpassed by electronic gadgetry then they probably still enjoy coloring and creating their own masterpieces. If you can introduce some craft project that won’t have your child creeping under the seats to retrieve a rogue button or decorating the plane in glitter then that is a good way of entertaining your children.

It does help if you have seats with a reasonable amount of legroom or even better those coveted positions with no one in front.

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