Five Road Warrior’s Tips for Flying with Small Children

Snuggled up on last flight home
Snuggled up on last flight home

I’ve travel a lot. Part of my work involve being in the air getting to client’s offices all across the country.  Next week, I embark on a 5-day 4-city hop across three time zones.  It will be hectic, but normal for any seasoned road warrior.  So, you may have a question: How did this road warrior manage traveling with young kids?

Well, having done several transcontinental and international flights, with my kids as infants and toddlers, both alone and with my husband, I figured out our own personal successful tips that work great for us.  I hope this helps you.


#1: Book Early Flights

I mean early – like 6 am early. This may sound intensely painful, but it actually makes things easier in the end, especially if you’re on a transcontinental flight.  When you have a flight that early, you will have to get up before 3 and depending on your commute, out the door around 4 so you can arrive at the airport by about 5.  For 6 am flights, don’t try to get to the airport before 4.  Many airports don’t open counters and security before 4 or 4:30.  Check with your local airport on their opening times.

With very early flights, your kids will be so sleepy, they’ll sleep in the car on the way to the airport.  When you get to the airport, they’ll usually fall asleep in the stroller and will be pretty groggy and for the most part chill through security and on the first part of the flight.  They might even fall back asleep on board the air craft.  But if not, they won’t be all wound up with adrenaline and instead will be ready to eat and play games, read stories, or do other more quiet activities.


#2: Schedule Long Layovers

This may seem counter-intuitive, but is rather logical.  When I flew to Jamaica for my cousin’s wedding in January, I intentionally booked a 4-hour layover in Miami.  My reasoning is that after a 5.5 hour flight from SFO – MIA, the kids will need to run.  And boy did that work out.  First our flight was late getting in, so we didn’t have to worry about missing our connection and secondly, the kids got to nap and run and play.  So by the time we had to get on our 2nd leg, they were excited to get back on the plane.  Fortunately, the flight from Miami to Kingston is not that long, so even though it was end of day and they’re rather cranky, it was short enough that we could get by with intense entertainment and distractions.


#3: Pack Lots of Snacks

My kids snacking in-flight.
My kids snacking in-flight.

This is pretty normal for a parent to pack snacks, but it’s even more crucial on a flight.  There’s nothing worse than a hungry toddler trapped on an aluminum jet 30,000 miles in the air.  It goes without saying to avoid sugary snacks.  The only other worse predicament than a hungry toddler is a hyper-toddler.  Plus, it will save you money than paying for overpriced airplane snacks.


#4: Toys and Games

Yes, pack lots and variety of toys and games and stuffed animals and finger puppets and anything else you can think of to keep them occupied.  Don’t bother to pack your favorite magazine or current book.  When you’re in flight and the kids have nowhere to go, you’ll be their entertainment 150%.  Plan on being on parenting over-drive.


#5: Stash Some Rewards

Excited for Take Off to Jamaica
Excited for Take Off to Jamaica

One of trick I’ve learned is to hide some rewards in my purse.  My preschooler loves stickers, so I give him challenges and goals to meet so he can earn his sticker.  This is a great way to buy some time in flight and keep him occupied.  My toddler who was 13 months when we traveled to Jamaica, didn’t play on her own as much, but she understood the concept of earning her reward and certainly wanted to get her reward.

So, what will your carry-on luggage look like?  A lot. Just try to remember to consolidate.  Remember you’ll have to wrangle kids, stroller and luggage.  Packing is an art, and even I still haven’t mastered that art form just yet.

Safe and Happy Travels!


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