7 Mistakes to Avoid when Flying With Kids

As parents who have traveled with our toddler for 9 months straight, taking 39 different flights around the world, we can’t help but notice when there are parents attempting flying with kids for the first time. It’s easy to spot the newbies: there is a sense of panic before boarding, their children are hungry, and they are not not working as a team.

Don’t get us wrong — Aarav has had his tantrums and we have certainly had our moments. But with all of the trips we have taken, we now know what to do, and what not to do when flying with kids.

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Aarav entertaining other passengers in the plane
Aarav entertaining other passengers in the plane

Here are seven mistakes you can avoid:

1. Not Bringing Snacks

Young kids get hungry, and even if a flight offers meals, it doesn’t mean your kids will like them, or that they will be served when your child is hungry. Always carry your own snacks on a flight, and especially be sure to have your own milk. Snacks can make it through security, but if you have breast milk or milk, you are allowed to carry more than 3.4 oz if you declare it at security prior to inspection. We suggest you also purchase additional milk after you get through security so you have backup on the flight in case of delays or lack of milk.

2. Relying on the Plane to Provide Entertainment

Even if your plane touts an entertainment system and movies, never rely on a plane to provide the entertainment you need. No one knows your child like you do, so be sure to download your child’s favorite movies and shows, bring his or her favorite toys, and have some “surprise” toys, in case of an emergency. We discuss ways to entertain your children, and provide our favorite educational apps, in our book, How to Travel with Kids Without Losing Your Mind.

Flying to Patagonia
Flying to Patagonia

3. Thinking You’ll Be Seated Together at Check-in

Airlines are making it much tougher for families to travel on a budget. The seats that do not include extra fees are often middle seats, and to ensure your family of three or four are seated together, you should book your seats when you make your purchase. Trusting the airline to move passengers to give you seats together — or other passengers to give up their seats for your family — is a mistake. You’ll not only be stressed, you may get separated. Even if you choose to gamble and wait until after your purchase, be sure to check in as soon as the 24-hour check-in window opens so you can be some of the first to grab seats together.

4. Not Finding Space Enough Space For Your Family

When booking seats for your family, be mindful of what you book to ensure that you have enough space for a more comfortable flight. If you have a lap infant, we always recommend booking the bulkhead seats as they provide more legroom and often have a bassinets so your child winds up with his or her own space. If you have a child who has started to crawl or walk, we recommend to book a separate seat for him or her so they more space to spread out. We have also found numerous seat configurations that gave us extra space for FREE when flying with kids, and we highlight all the different scenarios in our book.

Getting ready to fly to Zurich from New York
Getting ready to fly to Zurich from New York

5. Taking a Day Flight for Long Journeys

It’s difficult enough to fly with kids, so booking a trip when your child is most awake and active is a big no-no. If it’s a quick trip — 2 hours or less, we don’t mind a daytime flight. But, we try to book night-time flights for long hauls whenever we can, because Aarav can sleep on the flight.

6. Not Exhausting Your Kids Before a Flight

Speaking of sleeping on a plane, if you don’t wear your child out pre-flight, you’ll be stuck with a child who feels trapped while he or she is wide awake. There are plenty of ways to tire your child before a flight, including playing in airport playgrounds, having him or her walk through the airport rather than sit in a stroller, and keeping them awake until they get on the plane.

7. Assuming Your Partner Has It Under Control

When flying with kids it is possible your child is going to take endless bathroom breaks, have a meltdown or just be restless. And in such a situation thinking your partner has it under control is a mistake, especially if you are both relying on the other to step up when things get harried. Have a plan for who will do what, and give each other a break. 

Avoiding these mistakes are not guaranteed to make flying with kids painless — there are never guarantees when we are doing things with infants and toddlers. However, it will definitely be harder if you don’t avoid them! Get How to Travel With Kids Without Losing Your Mind, where you’ll find more tips on traveling by plane with children such as ways to dealing with adjusting sleep schedules for travel, ways to have a safe journey and much more.

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