Five Ways to Survive Flying with Small Children

Every parent faces the same fears when boarding an airplane with a small child. What if they scream the whole ride? What if everyone on board hates us by the end of the flight? No one wants to be the ashamed parent dragging their crying child off the plane. Use these five tips to make air travel smooth for you and your little one.

Snacks and Drinks

No matter how long your flight is, you never know how long you’ll actually be in the airplane. You may get stuck on the runway or have to make an emergency landing for weather. You should always have plenty of snacks and drinks with you. It is easy to get dehydrated while flying, so you need to ensure you have plenty of liquids on hand. If your child doesn’t normally get to drink juice, you could bring juice with you as an extra treat for sitting nicely in the airplane.

One type of snack you may want to have is chewing gum or lollipops. Your children can use these to keep from having their ears pop during takeoff and landing. A very young child could also use a pacifier to help with this.

Having snacks and drinks may require a visit to a snack stand before boarding your airplane, so build in enough time in your itinerary to do so. You’ll also need to keep in mind that drinking a lot may require more potty breaks. If your child is not reliably potty trained, then you should put them in a pull-up to avoid unnecessary accidents.

Portable DVD Player

Some airlines have individual TV screens for you to watch movies and tv shows, particularly if you are traveling far distances. Many airplanes do not have such luxuries, though. In case yours does not have a screen, you should consider bringing a portable DVD player with you. You can find relatively inexpensive ones or try borrowing from a friend.

A portable DVD player can be a great distraction for a child who might otherwise want to jump around and not sit still. Bring their favorite movies and television shows, and let them watch as much as they want. While you may normally limit screen time, an airplane ride might be a special circumstance to allow extra tv time.

Keep in mind some portable DVD players have to be charged, and can only operate for a few hours before needing to be re-charged. So, your DVD player may not last the whole flight.

Activity Bag

Bring an activity bag full of fun items your child hasn’t played with yet or doesn’t get to play with often. Fill the bag with items that will take up substantial amounts of time. You can pack:

Try to avoid bringing items your child gets to play with all the time as that may not keep their attention for long. More novel items may help them sit still longer.

Use a Car Seat

Some parents are tempted to bring children under age two on their lap. Then, they don’t have to pay for a ticket. Unfortunately, this means that these parents may have to pay with their sanity. Unless you have a very small baby who will just sleep in your arms, many children under two will grow weary of sitting on your lap after a while. They will want to play and crawl around. Restricting them from doing so will result in tantrums and meltdowns.

Children of this age are used to traveling in a car seat, so allowing them to ride in their car seat can solve this issue. Purchase a ticket for them and install your car seat for the ride. They will be restricted and have their own space, which will make for smoother travels.

Prepare Your Child

Your child will handle the flight better if they are prepared for it. Talk about your trip often before you actually go on the airplane. Talk about how fun it will be and what it will be like to be on the airplane. Tell them about your plans for when you get off the airplane. Whether it’s visiting family or going on a vacation, they will be more excited about the airplane if they know what comes next.

If your child is particularly anxious, a small reward may help out. Tell them about how if they sit quietly on the airplane, they can get a special treat when you land. They will feel proud of themselves when they earn the reward.


Flying with children can be difficult, but it can be made easier with plenty of planning. Try to get to the airport as early as you can, and take advantage of early boarding to get your child situated in the airplane. Arm yourself with plenty of snacks and activities, and you’ll be ready to ride with your child.

For strollers that are great for air travel, read this article.

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