Travelling with Babies & Kids – Airplanes 101

By Patricia • • 15 Aug 2013

 

One of the biggest challenges in travelling with babies and young children is the airport and plane ride itself. If this is your first time, there are many unforeseen obstacles you should be prepared for. We have been travelling across the ocean and back for the past 4 years, with one baby at first and as the years passed with 2 kids – the second baby and the now preschool child. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way, some things to avoid and ways to make your trip as smooth and enjoyable as possible!

Airport:

1.  Have a helping hand. If possible, have the person that drops you off (maybe a grandma or friend) stick around until you get your bags checked in. This process is sometimes lengthy and it’s hard to do while chasing after young ones, trying to watch your luggage and talking to the airline attendants.

2.  Packing – this should be in a separate category of packing at home, but just a quick tip on the carry-on packing. Have extra sets of clothes (warm clothes, even if it’s the middle of the summer, airplanes and airports get very cold) and socks at the top of one of your carry-ons. Especially with young children and babies, you never know when accidents will occur. One time we arrived in Detroit and as we were in line at customs and my husband was holding our one year old, following a long and exhausting overnight flight, we realized that he had peed through his diaper, pants and onto my husband’s shirt. The customs officers told us with an utmost serious expression “it happens”.

3. Food and drinks – bring your own. The rules of liquids and food do not apply to babies and toddlers. We have travelled throughout the US, Canada, Costa Rica and multiple countries in Europe and have never had food/drinks that we brought from home for the kids taken away. Be smart in the types of things you bring and of course don’t bring 2 L of pop and expect to have no problems. We brought things like soy milk boxes, squeezable yogurt, gluten-free home made banana bread (for those with Celiac), water bottles, cookies and cheese sandwiches. They will definitely check the drinks and sometimes ask you to take a sip or will test for a chemical reaction but they’ve never given us any trouble. If you are unsure, check ahead of time with your airline/local airport. As a caution to this, make sure you pack the food at the top of your carry-on where is it easily accessible as you will have to take it out when going through security.
4.  Playgrounds. Look for indoor playgrounds near your gate to keep the kids occupied and burning some energy while waiting for your flight. Many airports have these small areas and they are lifesavers especially if you have a long layover. Here are some links from other websites regarding specific airports with playgrounds.
http://playgrounddad.com/kid-friendly-airports/
http://www.familyvacationcritic.com/10-best-kid-friendly-airports/art/

5. Sitting together.  If you were unable/forgot to choose your seats ahead of time, do so at the gate prior to boarding. We’ve had a few instances where our seats were assigned scattered throughout the plane. This is easily solved if you ask the flight attendant prior to boarding time at your gate to assign your family’s seats together.

Flight

1. Seating – the middle is the best. If you are able to choose your seats ahead of time try to get them somewhere in the middle. Avoid seats near the back and near washrooms (usually this is also in the back). The lights in the back stay on even when the rest of the plane is dark and this has awakened our sleeping babies on numerous occasions. As well as the noise and the congregation of the people near the washrooms which is very disturbing for your little ones if they are sleeping (and probably you as well).

2. Order special meals. Most airlines have special meals for kids. This helps in two ways. One, you will receive your child’s meal before everyone else’s. This goes hand in hand with sitting in the back, those people get their meals last and if you have a hungry child watching the flight attendants bringing food for everyone else and not them – well it’s not fun. Secondly it makes the meal look more “child friendly” for some of those picky eaters. This is also another reason you should bring your own food, sometimes the airplane food just doesn’t work for kids (or adults for that matter). And always double check by calling the airline a few days prior to departure to ensure that they did receive your request.

3. New books and toys. This has always been a lifesaver for us. We usually go to the local Dollarama prior to the flight and buy new books and toys that we do not show the kids until we are on the plane. Colouring pencils (not markers) and activity books are great for older toddlers and preschoolers. Reading books and puzzles work great as well, and lastly bring a tablet or laptop with their favourite movies since not all planes are equipped with a personal TV and might not have a movie they enjoy.

4. Emergency toys and treats. This is usually for take-off and landing, when our toddlers absolutely hated having to be strapped into a seatbelt and needed to be distracted. Choose their favourite candy or cookies or even chocolate (try to keep it as mess-free as possible, so chocolate is usually not the best choice), a drink to sip on if their ears are popping. Bring their favourite stuffed animal or a new toy that you know they will love and save it for this exact time when you just can’t comfort them and keep them from screaming their heads off.

5. Lastly, try to enjoy yourself and the amazing feeling that you are actually flying

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