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  • Writer's pictureKristin

The REAL truth about flying with kids

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I get it! It's your first time #travelingwithkids and you're Googling everything you can to figure out how to make it as enjoyable as it can be. What non-screen toy options should you pack? What snacks should you have on hand? Is there some magic pill to make my children angels? Jk, that’s not real. But gummy melatonin is and you should get some for overnight flights and to help your children (and yourself) get over jetlag by sleeping through the night when it’s nighttime! *always try it at home first, and here is some more information about usage.

I've been there!! We had never flown with our children until we moved to #Thailand. The kids were 4, 2, and 5 months old at the time. I researched all the different toys, games and activities to do on the plane. Our older 2 kids had their own little suitcase full of stuff… you name it and they likely had it. I felt prepared and ready to fill any empty time with something. But can I just say… don’t do it!!

Don't fill your carry-on luggage with 15 different kinds of games & activities that your toddler will only look at for 10 minutes. Don't rummage through your bag for another toy or sticker pad (which will inevitably end up everywhere) or everything else possible just so your child will maybe stay quiet. Chances are the more you keep pulling something new from your bag every time they make a little bit of a fuss the more they'll realize Mommy's got better things in her bag and it’ll backfire. Keep activities and toys simple. A pad of paper and crayons, dry erase activity pads, UNO or matching games for layovers. Let them choose 1-2 small toys they want to play with such as cars or miniature dolls. It needs to be minimal so you can keep track of it, and realize it may get lost and left behind.

Do pack lots of snacks and its even better if they are already portioned in small zip-lock

bags. I’d venture to say #snacks will be a greater help than most toys. And remember, at some point you’ll be carrying all their stuff and them, so don’t pack more than you can move. We love using our double stroller at the airport and gate-checking it for this exact reason. We use our stroller everywhere we go, it is 5 years old and its AWESOME. {I'll review some of our favorite items in the near future. But if you don't have kids yet, or are expecting your second child, I highly recommend this stroller! I waited until we were pregnant with our second to get it, but I wish I'd splurged with our first.}

In regards to baby food, always pack what you will need for the actual travel and then some. I always travel with baby refillable food pouches and silicone mouth pieces. Because chances are you will at least find plain yogurt or applesauce at hotel breakfasts, and I use the pouches daily at home as well. If you're traveling in Europe or America, you could easily just pick up baby food upon arrival to your destination when you need it, but in Asia I've found it is best to pack as much as you will need because it's not always easy to find.

Now, that advice is geared to families with young kids. If you have school-aged kids who can independently pack a bag with books and items they want, carry that bag on their back and entertain themselves, then let them! Someday we will get there, but that’ll be in a few years.

As we’ve recently completed our 37th flight as a family, can I just say… let them watch movies and play educational apps on a tablet. If the airplane doesn’t have in-flight entertainment, please consider packing an iPad, tablet, or even an old phone would suffice along with kids headphones. We limit screen time at home, yet when it comes to traveling, there are exceptions to the rules. During our 30+ hour trip to move across the world we quickly realized how efficient the screens were at keeping the peace for our kids over 2 years old. In our experience a one year old is the most difficult age for flying. They are busy, don’t understand the concept of time, don’t stay engaged in most activities (or movies for that matter) and can’t communicate as well as older kids. If that’s the boat you’re in, I’m sorry. You’ll make it to the destination regardless of how squirmy your little one is.

I'm sure you've seen posts about putting together little goodie bags with snacks and earplugs for people sitting around you on a flight. The more we travel with young kids, the more I cringe at the idea that adults have to be bribed in order to sit near young children without complaining. Don’t buy into that. We parents are burdened enough by keeping these little humans alive day in and day out to not willingly add the responsibility of other passengers' happiness as well. In our experience people are generally very kind, helpful and smile at our kids. Even if they’re not friendly they usually have headphones on while watching a movie or using their phone and don’t pay attention to them anyways. I will say we have been spoiled by flying in Asia. Everyone is so sweet and kind. They love kids and are always offering to help. Young families rarely have to wait in line at the airport check-in, get to go through priority security screening and short lines at passport control.

Traveling with kids definitely has its hard moments. And by moments, I mean when our 1 year-old screamed for hour #11 out of a 14 hour trans-Pacific flight. Or carrying our 5 year-old off the plane kicking and screaming because we woke her from the first time slept in over 20 hours. There will be times you want to wear a sign around your neck saying “we’ve been traveling for over 24 hours” just to help people understand why your kids are behaving as the tired children that they are.

As much as you try to prepare, sometimes you just have to jump in and realize you can’t control everything. The calmer you can remain the better it will be for your kids who look to you for cues on how to respond to uncertain situations. Give them extra grace.

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