If you have an upcoming flight and are looking for some tips for flying with children under two, you have come to the right place! Here are 26 tips for flying with children under two!
Let me start by saying our first time flying with our then 6 month old involved 4 flights (each way), with the longest flight being 15 hours and the flights in total taking over 24 hours. So I have to be honest and say even though I am completely comfortable and confident in flying with our daughter, for the big ol’ journey I just mentioned, I do still get a bit nervous thinking about our next trip home with our near two year old… We have only been home (to Australia) once since our daughter was born and it was actually our first experience flying with a child, at that time Little R was only 6 months old. She has now been on a total of 13 flights, these flights were a mix of short and long haul flights.
I remember the nervousness that I felt before that first trip we took though, its so unsettling not knowing what to expect and I spent a lot of time researching and talking to people to try and prepare myself as best as I could for the big trip! Now having done a few trips, and having flown on both short and long haul flights I feel like I have pretty good feel for the complexities of flying with children under 2. First off let me say, that I actually think there is a big difference in approaches for flying with kids based on age. So I wanted to limit this post to provide advice for parents flying with children under 2 – as I am sure once kids reach 2 it is again a whole different ball game!
- Consider the length of the flight. We have done both long haul and short haul flights with our little one. For example our shortest flight has been 1 hour and our longest around 15 hours. In my opinion flights under 3 hours are considerably easier to prepare for that those over 3. I have made special mention below for tips for longer flights to help you with those preparations!
- Consider the time of day your traveling. Does your little one nap on the go? If not, perhaps try and get an earlier flight so that your not traveling (or at least not having to drag a tired child through airport security and all of that) over your child’s nap time (or too far over).
- Confirm with the airline. Once you have booked, give the airline a call and let them know your travelling with a child under 2. Find out about their requirements, what sort of seating options you have, their stroller policy, luggage policy, and even ask them if they have any advice for you.
- If possible travel with more than one adult. Sharing the load can be a lifesaver on flights. If you think you might get to the point where your little one just wants to be with mumma, communicate with hubby beforehand and ensure that he knows that his job is to then look after you!
- Request the bassinet seat. If your on a long haul flight with a baby probably younger than 6 months. As soon as you book your flight call the airline and see if their bulkhead seats are available. These are the seats that give you access to a bassinet. Just be aware that you will have to put your luggage above as there is no seat in front and check the weight limits for the bassinets offered. Our little one was already too big by 6 months.
- Select seats with a spare seat in between. Again for long haul flights, if the bassinet seat is not available or not suitable. Call the airline and see if you and your partner can sit in the window and aisle seats with the spare seat between you. If your lucky no one will be assigned that seat, but if they are, you can always ask them if they wouldn’t mind switching with one of you. I am sure they will no want to be stuck between you for the duration of the flight!
- Consider sitting near the back. This is not a confirmed tip, but as far as I know and my friends feel the same, there is usually more vacant seats up the back. So if your wanting a bit more space, especially if your thinking of taking the previous points advice you might have more luck sitting up the back.
- Try and protect your kiddies ears. Giving them something to suck on during take off and landing can help those precious ears deal with the pressure. Our doc did tell us that the build up of ear pressure shouldn’t be a problem till they are older, but in my opinion it’s better the safe.
- Pack yourself a spare set of clothes! I have not personally dealt with this yet but have friends who have… In case of a poop explosion or a little vomit mishap, you might find yourself needing a change of clothes. Probably more relevant on those longer flights… but there it is just in case!
- Pack as light as you can for carry on. I feel a bit silly even saying this, but try and limit your bags for you and bub. I keep mine at 2 for us both. Some people might be able to do 1, but that is still a feat I am yet to reach! The simple fact is, that you don’t want to be lugging too much around the airport and being worn out before your even on your flight.
- Pack a carry on that you will need in flight and one you can put away. With only that tiny amount of foot space, you don’t want too much being shoved down there. In keeping with my 2 bag limit, I pack 1 bag with the idea that I won’t need any of the items in flight (i.e. my spare clothes, or extra diapers that I am hoping I won’t need but have packed just in case) and put it in the overhead luggage space and the other bag with everything I want on hand during the flight I keep at my feet for easy access.
- Have your diapers and wipes in a separate pull out bag. This one was a life saver for me! You don’t want to be searching through your bag to find a diaper and wipes when you have an unhappy baby with a dirty diaper. Being able to just grab and go, and having these at your immediate disposal is a must.
- Pack yourself a little inflight kit. If your like me, I have some must have items I need for every flight. They are usually – water, paw paw, earphones, IPad, tissues and snacks. If it’s a longer flight this increases to ear buds and eye mask. Whatever yours is, if you can have a convenient little pull out pouch (or zip lock bag) to put in front of your seat, you won’t have to be stressed looking through your bag, finding what you want with a wriggling child on your lap and no room to see… Can you tell I’ve been there?!?
- Pack your child a little inflight kit. The same thing goes for bubba, if you have a convenient pull out pouch/bag. With a couple of your go to items for amusing bubba and stash this in the seat in front even before take off, I promise it will make your life easier!
- Get set up before the plane takes off. Get everything you think you need set up and know where everything is before the plane takes off. If your traveling with a partner ask them to hold bubba while you get sorted!
- Read up on airlines policies for travelling with kids. When you travel with kids, your often-allowed additional luggage items like a stroller. So be sure to read up on the airline policies that you are travelling with to take advantage of the luggage allowance!
- Taking a stroller. We have always travelled with our stroller, we purchased a compact stroller mainly for travel. When our daughter was younger she would nap in it, but for our most recent trips it was quite honestly used just to hold the luggage. Little R has never been much of a stroller gal, so she would usually want to be carried by one of us. Which wasn’t too bad, as we would then just put our carry on in the stroller. Most airlines will allow you to gate check your stroller (just confirm on the website before booking). So you can simply take it all the way to the door of the airplane and fold it up for them to put under the airplane and once you have landed they will bring it back up and have it waiting for you as you leave the aircraft! We have only had once instance where the airline did not let us gate check our stroller and we had to check it in with our luggage. It just so happened at this time Little R was asleep in it, and it was after our 3rd of 4 flights… which was pretty frustrating but all’s well that ends well.
- Baby carriers! This one is probably more relevant for long haul flights, but if your not taking a stroller on short flights, you might want to instead take a baby carrier for the sometimes LONG airport walks. Also probably more relevant for younger kids, but depends on how much your child likes baby carriers (Little R would not go near one after about 8-10 months old). On long haul flights with younger kids, popping your baby in a carrier and taking laps around the airplane can work wonders on getting those hard to sleep kids to sleep!
- Prioritise sleep. Again more for long haul flights, but this is the one that hubby and I failed on for our first set of flights with Little R. I was thinking ahead too much about the timezone change and when Little R would wake up after 2 hours of sleep 5 hours into our 15 hour flight, I let her stay up. Whereas I should have immediately tried to get her back to sleep. For the 15 hour flight it wasn’t too bad, but we had two flights to go after, and come those next two she was over-tired and upset. It took so much effort to get her to sleep and all of my effort not to cry myself. But on the same 15 hour flight back, I made sure to try and get her back to sleep after she woke from those shorter naps and it was like travelling with a different child! Even other passengers commented on what a good traveller she was… if only they knew hey! – Just smile and nod people. Smile and nod.
- Board last. This is kind of contrary to what the airline asks (and what some people might prefer to do…), most airlines ask that if your travelling with kids to board first. Although I have heard this isn’t common practice among most American airlines anymore. Sometimes we do board first, but often I wait. If your travelling with a partner send them on first, give them your carry-on luggage and stroller. I find that by waiting till most people have boarded (providing you are traveling with a partner who can secure your luggage in the overhead bin – before there is no room left…) it’s less time for the bubba’s to be in a confined space. Sometimes you can be sitting on the plan 20-30 minutes before boarding is finished so it can make a big difference to flight times!
- Milk and food. This one is probably a bit difficult to give advice on because there are a variety of factors to consider. Put simply, consider what you need for milk and food. If your exclusively breastfeeding it’s super simple. Just bring your boobies (this is also really helpful for getting bubba to sleep on the flight!). If your exclusively bottle feeding, airlines make allowances for this at security. So pack what you need, check the airlines specific information and you know what to do. If your bubba is onto food already, you know what your bubba likes to eat, so bring enough of it and all the utensils you will need (plus plenty of wipes) and drag the eating thing out. If you’re on a 3 hour flight and you can do the yoghurt thing for a whole half hour. That is a half hour of entertainment right there for you!
- Baby essentials. Clothes, burp cloths, diapers, wipes – all of those things you can’t leave the house without (you know what they are…) pack em. Write a list and consider the length of your flight, the re-do the list to make sure you are only packing what you need and packs away!
- Baby gear. Entertainment is one area to really think about pre flight, what entertains your child? Will they want to watch a TV show on the IPad? If so load it up. Or are they into books only? In that case peek-a-boo or interactive books are great! Try and keep these entertainment items as small and compact as possible, mix it up with the trusty at home favourites and some well thought out new toys/books to keep those kiddies engaged and entertained. We try and use food as an entertainment trick as well and even a cup of ice cubes can be 10 minutes of fun for the little ones.
- That last 30 minutes! No matter how long your flight is, the last 30 minutes always seems to drag on. Little R starts to get antsy after we have landed, but we still have to taxi to airport, wait for the doors to open and then wait for everyone to leave. So this my little go to tip that works for us and I hope will work for you. Get out your phone or tablet and browse through pictures and videos of your kid (or their pets), Little R LOVES to look at herself and her puppy. This, I swear keeps her happy without fail until we are ready to leave the airplane!
- Consider how friendly your airline is. In Canada my first choice is always West Jet and in Australia it is Qantas. This is just based on my experiences with how friendly customer service is and the fact that they put in the effort to make the whole flying with kids experience a little better.
- Buy your kid a seat. We likely know, you are not required to buy a seat for your child under 2. You can have children under 2 as lap babies, this is awesome and I take full advantage of it but everyone should consider this individually. If your child is close to two and you have a 6-hour flight, you might want to look into the cost of a ticket for them to have the convenience of getting them their own seat (AND FOOD!).
In my experience, whenever we have travelled Little R has mostly wanted to be with me during the flight. She was always more calm and settled when on my lap. So hubby and I have always taken the approach that I look after bubba, he will take her off my hands if I need a break, but it is usually not long before she wants to be back on my lap. So hubby has always been responsible for making sure I have what I need and sourcing anything I need during the flight. We have gone as far as him applying lip balm to my lips, feeding me food, water and wine while Little R slept and I didn’t have access to my hands! This was during our first round of flights to Australia, we made a few mistakes the first time round, but definitely learnt from them for future flights! So hopefully with the tips above you won’t have to learn the hard way, you will be pro’s before you even take off!
Most importantly, be as prepared as you can be and try not to stress too much. Many of the parents I have spoken with fear the worst for their first flight, but often it is much more pleasant then they thought. And hey, if it’s not, it’ll be over soon right?!? And you will have deserved that big ol’ glass of wine once you reach your destination!
So what about you? Do you have any tips to add? Feel free to share as much as we can so we can help other new parents be prepared and confident for flying with their kids.
Did I miss anything you would like to know? Drop me a comment below and I’ll be sure to answer your question!