What Are Tips for Traveling With Little Kids on a Plane?
To help you navigate the challenges of a 4-hour plane ride with little ones, we asked six leaders, including CEOs and founders, for their best tips. From ensuring car seat comfort and safety to tiring the kids out before your flight, here are the top six tips these experts shared on how to make your journey smoother.
- Ensure Car Seat Comfort and Safety
- Use Multiple Strategies for Child Entertainment
- Plan Fun Offline Activities
- Utilize an iPad for Long Flights
- Choose a Kid-Friendly Airline
- Tire the Kids Out Before Your Flight
Ensure Car Seat Comfort and Safety
Use a car seat. It may be a hassle to carry through the airport, but it’s worth it. It significantly eased our travel when we switched to that.
Our daughter sits higher so she can see out the window, which she enjoys. She can’t unstrap herself. And the seat is far more comfortable, so she can easily sleep while strapped in. A window seat must be reserved for a car seat, for safety reasons, to not block emergency egress.
Regarding the hassle of carrying the car seat through the airport, we’ve ordered a small, folding luggage cart, though we’ve not tested it yet. We have a canvas bag for the car seat that acts as a backpack or hangs on the back of the stroller. But on the stroller, it bangs our shins, so we’re looking for a better, wheeled option.
We’ve flown 10+ times with our 2-year-old since birth. Our typical flights are from Wichita to Dallas (1 hour) and then from Dallas to Philly, Cleveland, Boston, etc. (3-hour flights). Having flown around 1 million miles, I have a fair bit of travel experience.
Use Multiple Strategies for Child Entertainment
As a father of two small children under 3, flights can be pretty stressful. Here are some strategies my wife and I have used to conquer longer, 4+ hour flights.
1) Avoid nap time at all costs. Sleeping on a plane is tough for adults. Throw in all the added excitement for a small child, and you are looking at a recipe for disaster. Usually, we try to book flight times that are during waking hours.
2) Download movies ahead of time to devices, but remember, Wi-Fi on flights can be spotty. There’s nothing worse than the Wi-Fi failing to work halfway through an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
3) Pack books and toys in a carry-on. As soon as our oldest could carry a small backpack, we had her carry on a bag full of her favorite toys & books.
Plan Fun Offline Activities
As a father of four, my best advice for traveling with little kids on a four-hour plane ride is to plan some fun activities for your child. It’s hard for young children to sit still for four hours. A suitable solution is to download their favorite cartoon or game on your phone.
Remember, you might not always have internet access on the plane, so make sure the cartoon or game can be used offline. This way, your child will be entertained, and the flight will feel much shorter.
But remember, every child is different, so what works for one might not work for the other. The key is to be prepared and have a variety of options available.
Utilize an iPad for Long Flights
iPads are a modern-day savior for long flights and dealing with children. An iPad can entertain a child for hours and do it in a quiet, simple way.
Is it the best parenting strategy to just hand your children an iPad when you want them to be quiet? Maybe not, but for a four-hour plane ride, it is effective and works.
Download some shows before the flight takes off and find a pair of headphones that fit the child and they won’t mind wearing. Between the downloaded shows and games you have on the iPad, they should be entertained for a good portion of the four-hour plane ride.
Choose a Kid-Friendly Airline
Virgin America is probably the most kid-friendly airline in the U.S., especially if they’re still in diapers, as their rear lavatories always have diaper-changing stations—a godsend on a longer flight.
If you have a kid under five, you also get priority boarding, and your kids can have their meals pre-ordered. Overall, they will be more accommodating to parents, so I’d recommend finding one of their flights to take some of the stress out of traveling.
Tire the Kids Out Before Your Flight
Assuming this isn’t a red-eye flight, my suggestion would always be to get them nice and tired out before the flight.
Spend some time running around, get them nice and full, and wait for the inevitable energy crash a few hours afterward. Time it correctly, and they’ll sleep right through the flight. Just be careful not to get tired out right along with them!
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