How to fly with Children

Navigating the hallways. By Scott & Elaine van der Chijs (Flickr)

We’ve all been there … boarding a plane, getting ready to jet-set and meet up with family. Then, just as you settle in and the plane lifts off, that sense of serenity vanishes as a sweet child suddenly starts bawling their eyes out. Embarrassed, the mother frantically tries to shush their red-faced snotty-nosed little angel before the other passengers rouse a mutiny.

Is this a familiar scenario for you? Then read on to find out some of the best tips to keep your little one happy from take-off to landing the plane, and avoid any embarrassment.

Advice before take-off
Waiting at the airport for a flight to somewhere nice!

  • Book your tickets as soon as possible, and arrive early to be on the first boarding. This will give you time to settle in properly, and make sure that your child is comfortable.
  • Also, it should go without saying, but a passport / birth certificate should be brought with, for your children – this is often not required, but you don’t want to miss your flight because the airline insists you provide these items and you don’t have them on you.
  • Extra blankets, socks, nappies, and eye masks are never amiss.
  • Books, portable DVD players, crayons and paper, puzzles, or other entertainment items are must-brings as they will keep your active child occupied on those extra-long flights.
  • Strollers and high chairs may need to be stored during your flight, unless they can be folded up quite small and stored in the overhead bins.
  • Remember that even if your children are young, they’re not stupid. Teach them about the flight process and things like staying seated while the seatbelt light is on, playing quietly with their toys and watching movies while flying.
  • Popular foods are often sold out quickly and flight attendants will not be able to assist you with that extra packet of chips or bottle of milk. To avoid this, bring your own food items with, although it is suggested that you buy these after you’ve cleared security to prevent them being thrown out.
  • Most airlines will allow you to bring clearly marked infant formula or breast milk bottles, but you will most likely be subjected to a baggage search due to the new 3-1-1 flying rule from the TSA.
  • If you are travelling with an infant, stick to your normal feeding, sleeping, and play schedule, as much as you possibly can during the flight. This way, though they are having a new experience, the usual routine is not interrupted and you can plan activities when you land.
  • The most important thing to do if you are travelling with a toddler is to make them go to the bathroom to ‘potty’ before the plane takes off.  If you are potty training, they may become frustrated as things aren’t like they are at home. A solution to this is to make your child wear a disposable nappy and change it frequently.

Take off and In-flight

Ensure that your child is seated away from the aisle to lessen the chance of them pulling a Houdini on you during your five-minutes of blissful shut-eye.

While you’re seated and before the plane leaves the ground, breast feed your child. If they’re past breastfeeding then give them a bottle; or if they’re older, give them something to eat upon take-off. This will help prevent their ears from popping and lessen the likelihood of them crying from pain. If they have a cold, take a prescribed decongestant along.

Crying baby on a cheap flightFear is another reason children start to cry during take-off, this is new and scary for them! Calm them down and don’t be afraid to bribe them with treats when they behave well, or if they look as if they’re about to lose it.

Keep your little one well hydrated during the flight. The air-conditioning and recycled air can be very dry, so it’s advisable to keep a moisturiser handy.

If your angel starts to misbehave, handle them in an appropriate manner. Don’t over-react because you’re flustered; keep calm and ascertain why they’re acting in this manner. Are they over-tired? Do they need the bathroom? Are they feeling claustrophobic? Are they crashing from their sugar-high?


When the seatbelt sign flashes on again, let your child know you’ll be landing soon. Chances are they’ll be as good as gold, until you have to disembark.

Author Bio: Roseanna McBain is a writer for TravelGround, a South African accommodation and booking website. She loves long hikes in the veld, babysits frequently for friends, and is slowly learning the art of cooking multi-cultural cuisine.

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