We all love to travel. Not many will dispute that, but there are many who see air travel as a necessary evil to get where they’d like to go. Especially if their kids are in tow. When my daughter Lucy was born I would barely leave the house with her for the first six months, but I would jump at the chance to get on an airplane with her. That probably sounds crazy to most of you. I actually see air travel as a great way for families to spend quality time together. Yes, you read that right. You’re away from your daily distractions and you’re sitting close to one another for the duration of your flight. Let your kids know that they will have your undivided attention and they will see this as good thing too. Be sure to bring lots of activities like card and travel games and/or art supplies to do together during the flight. Still not convinced? Here are my best tips to get your kids and you ready to fly:

  • Prepare them. I have always let Lucy know when we were coming up on a travel day. I literally get on her level and let her know what that entails. No detail is spared, from letting her know if we’re getting up earlier than usual to what going through security is like. This is especially important with toddlers who thrive on their routine.
  • Let them know it will be ok. I also let her know that even though our day is different and mommy or daddy may seem stressed, everything is ok. Use whatever language your child understands, but don’t get caught up in it. They will get the over all message.
  • Skip the kid size suitcase for the toddlers. Lucy and I shared a suitcase until she turned five. Those kid suitcases are cute, but guess who will become the pack mule? It is best to get a teeny tiny back pack for the under five crowd and let them carry light weight toys inside for the plane.
  • Involve your children with the packing. This will get them excited and help them understand you are going on a trip.
  • Pack the right things in your carry-on. This can make or break your flight. Check “here” for some recommendations.
  • Do a little research with them. Have they ever flown? Think of how exciting air travel can be for little people. Use age appropriate books and stories to get them excited. And, don’t forget to stop by the flight deck while boarding your flight and say hi. Most pilots welcome young kids up front to visit while the aircraft is on the ground. Great photo op too! If you are going somewhere new you can also learn about your destination.
  • Give yourself loads of extra time. Take many deep breaths. Remember, if you’re stressed your kids will be too.
  • Make going through security a game. Play “I Spy” or other games you can play while waiting in line. Lucy and I have a tradition of saying, “hard parts over!” and high fiving once through to the other side.
  • Bring gifts for the crew! We always bring something even if it’s just a bag of chocolate. The crew loves it and Lucy gets treated like a rock star!

What is your best advice for preparing children for air travel? Please share in the comments below. I love to learn from other parents. Also join me on twitter, facebook and pinterest for more ideas and conversation.

Happy Flying!

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  1. Reminds me of our first flight with our 2 year old – what should have been 13 hours DFW-ORD-MAN turned into 24 hours DFW-ORD-CPH-MAN – in entire story in itself – I am surprised my wife was willing to fly to England again after that!

    Top Tip – if you are bringing any electronics – make sure they are fully charged – and even better try and bring some sort of portable battery backup. If you are loading up with Movies/Shows – pack a headphone splitter so you can both watch.

    Experience means I agree 100% on the Kid Carry on – tiny size b/c you will be hauling it otherwise!

    If 2 adults are going have the child be in the middle when they go through security – I go through first, then Mom can encourage him through the scanner and I am there to safely greet and give the high 5.

    Question – love the idea on a gift for the crew – what is considered appropriate? and when is the best time to hand it over?

  2. Duncan Faber @ 2013-02-25 22:28

    Here’s a tip for traveling with kids. Audiobooks and lots of them! You can fill up your iPod at lots of sites, but we found one where you an download original children’s stories for free. Original is the key word here. How many times can I possible listen to Little Red Riding Hood?! Anyway, here’s the link if anyone is interested. http://www.twirlygirlshop.com/stories-for-kids. Also, chewing gum! Hope this helps.

  3. What’s your advice for dealing with flying families where the parents haven’t read your tips, and you are seated directly in front of them? Here’s a description of our last flight:

    I hope you don’t think I’m too much of a curmudgeon. Honestly, as the mother of two boys, now ages 29 and 25, I’ve been there, done that.

  4. I never thought of flying as a great family time experience. We always focus on the dreadfulness of it all that it is actually a fun thing to do. I do agree about the kid-sized luggage. They’re not that efficient so now that my so in 7 I let him pack a backpack the HE agrees to carry. It also does help to involve him in the packing so it eliminates the whining haha. He’s my tips on fly with a little one (http://chitownandallaround.blogspot.com/search/label/flying%20with%20a%20little%20one)

  5. Lorie McGraw @ 2013-03-16 09:31

    For small kids wrap up toys in colorful paper and keep the surprises coming! I would go through the toybox, wrap the large Lego blocks, medium sized plastic animals (dinosaurs are a favorite) and finger puppets. When they start to get bored with the last toy, bring out a securely wrapped one- the unwrapping takes a while and they can add to the collection. Familiar ones are greeted with joy, too! Don’t make them too small- tiny ones are lost in the seats.