While it may seem like a daunting task, traveling with small children is actually not difficult. Based on my experience with three small kids (ages 6, 4, and under one), it was completely doable! I’m excited to share some of my best tips and tricks for traveling with kids as well as some of my favorite travel items to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
My Best Tips for Traveling with Kids
1. Try to Book a Non-Stop Flight
The number one piece of advice that I would recommend is flying on your cheapest option that allows you to get to your destination without having to switch airplanes. Having to get out of an airplane, maneuver through an airport, and then get back onto another airplane is always challenging. If that means spending a little bit of extra money to get a non-stop flight, I recommend doing it.
2. Book Strategically to Get The Whole Row
For my family, we need four seats and also have a lap infant. We have discovered a booking hack that potentially allows us to have the entire row – giving us more space with our kids and the possibility for them to actually lay down. When booking our own seats, we booked on a plane that had six seats across. We booked two window seats and two aisle seats further back in the plane with the hope that nobody would book that middle seat. If somebody has to book a middle seat, they’re going to book one closest to the front of the plane. The further you are back in the plane, the more likely that nobody is going to book that middle seat and you’ll have the row to yourself! If someone does end up booking that middle seat, you can offer them the window seat, which will still give you two aisle seats and two center seats for your kids. You always want to have an aisle seat when you have small children so that at least one of the parents has the ability to get out and take care of business if needed.
3. Consider trying Spirit Airlines
Don’t be fearful of Spirit Airlines! We flew Spirit Airlines on our last flight, and we got ridiculously cheap tickets and had a fabulous experience. It does require you to plan a little bit more because drinks and snacks are not free and everything does cost extra. They only allow you to bring one personal small bag, so be strategic in how you pack to avoid paying for extra carry-ons.
4. Bring a Baby Carrier and a Stroller
If you have a child that is under the age of two, I recommend bringing a baby carrier and a stroller. You’ll most likely want your stroller at your destination, but put your baby on your back so that you can be 100% hands-free in the airport. This also allows your older children to potentially be in the stroller so that you can move through the airport as quickly and efficiently as possible. You might have a 3 or 4-year-old who doesn’t usually ride in a stroller, but sticking them into the stroller while maneuvering the airport can be beneficial so that you’re not having to worry about them keeping up with you.
When you have a baby on your back in security, you get to walk straight through the old-fashioned metal detectors. You don’t have to go through the 3D ones like everybody else does. Be aware that your stroller will have to get manually checked in security, so make sure that you let somebody know of that right away so that you’re not standing around waiting for someone to do that. In the stroller, make sure that everything you have with you is packed inside something. If you have a bunch of freestanding stuff in the bottom, you’re going to have to pull that out and put that into buckets to go through security, which can be time-consuming. Make sure that everything you have has a place so that all you have to do is pull your bags onto the conveyor belt and go through security.
5. Bring Your Cheap Car Seat
You’re most likely going to need your car seat, so one option is to get your car seat at your car rental place, however, that’s not always a guarantee. If you bring your car seats with you, just make sure you send your car seats right at the beginning. Don’t carry your car seats through the airport. It’s a waste of time and a waste of energy, and they can easily put those car seats in the belly of the airplane right off the bat. I do also recommend bringing a cheaper option because no matter where you put your car seat in the airplane, the potential of it getting busted is completely possible. It doesn’t matter what kind of luggage you have, they are not very gentle with your it.
6. Board Your Flight First
Most airlines allow families with small children to board first, and I recommend doing that. There’s nobody else getting onto the airplane quite yet, so it gives your kids the opportunity to say hi to the flight attendants and the pilot. It just allows them to get to know your kids, and they always find that to be pretty awesome. Once you get to your seat, it also gives you a chance to just settle in and get your stuff up into the overhead bin before everybody else. You’ll most likely need to get into your things in the overhead bins several times throughout the flight, so this helps make sure it’s in an accessible spot for you.
7. Pack a Change of Clothes
Make sure that you have that change of clothes in case one of your kids gets sick on the airplane. You can easily get a bag from the flight attendants to put the dirty clothes in, but you want to make sure you have a change of clothes for yourself as parents but also for the kids. If your kid is prone to getting sick while traveling, consider bringing more than one.
8. Bring Lollipops or a Bottle
Another trick is to bring Dum Dum lollipops or bottles for your kids during takeoff and landing. One of the biggest complaints of small children on airplanes is the taking off and the landing processes because the change in elevation hurts their ears. The older kids can have a lollipop to suck on during that time, and small children can have a bottle or nurse during that time, which helps to solve the problem.
My Favorite Travel Items
Pottery Barn Kids Mini Backpack
I am a huge advocate for kids carrying their own stuff and having a big ol’ backpack traveling through the airport is not conducive to that! Pottery Barn Kids has a perfect solution and it’s their mini backpack. We have had these for each of our children since they were at least a year old. Our son, who is our oldest, has actually had his since birth. Once they are able to walk, they can carry their own diaper bag. The mini backpack is also perfect for packing on an airplane. For an older child, you can pack a change of clothes, tablet and headphones, some arts and crafts activities, snacks, water bottles, and you can even put a stuffed lovey in the front. For small babies, you have the opportunity to pack more than one change of clothes, snacks, diapers and wipes, and many things that you would potentially need in a smaller backpack option. When packing kids’ clothes, pack something that can be as small as possible. For my kids, I packed rompers so it was just one small item.
Keep in mind that they are frequently on sale – you can almost always find one of them on a clearance option for really cheap and then you can get them engraved with their initials. We always do our initials because we don’t want anybody to know our kids’ names while traveling.
Thermos Kids Water Cups
They do not leak and they keep beverages cold for a significant amount of time. Remember, you cannot go through security with liquids, so we just keep those water bottles empty until we get through security. All of the water fountains in international airports (and I’m assuming regular airports too) have a water bottle fill-up location next to the water fountain. As soon as we get through security and find the first bathroom, we fill up all of our water bottles.
You don’t want to have a whole bunch of freestanding snacks in your bag. Snack Spinners are one of my favorite things for traveling, and even just regular day in and day out snacks with my kids. It’s a small snack container that has five little compartments with a lid on it. Only one of the compartments is open at a time. In the center, it spins around and the kids can change which snack that they are accessing. You can include multiple snacks for your kids and they can pick and choose what they want to eat. Pack things like fruit, goldfish, candy, pretzels – small bite-sized options for the kids to pick and choose from during their trip.
Magic Ink Coloring Pages & Disney Grab and Go Books
These are just coloring pages that have a marker with them that doesn’t have any color in it, but when they color on the pages it turns to colors. It’s basically like painting with water, but there’s a marker included. The other thing I like to take is the Disney Grab and Go coloring booklets. They come with a coloring book and crayons, stickers, and other activities. They’re small little packets that fit very easily into their backpack.
The other thing I recommend is bringing a tablet along with downloaded options on Netflix or Disney+ or some downloaded games. Because of that, you need to make sure that you bring some form of headphones. We have full-blown headphones that we found for a great price on Amazon that folds up into a smaller size. You can either use those on your tablets or hook the headphones right into the system that the airplane has.
I have linked a really cheap option for three different spinners. They suction to windows and they just simply spin and kids have so much fun with them! Not only can you hook them to the window of the airplane, but you can also hook them to the tray table or the windows on your rental car. They are a quick, easy, and fun activity for kids to play with.
I highly recommend having your kids take Airborne or some kind of multivitamin in excess of what they normally take. This just helps boost their immune systems during the flight.
The last thing on my travel list is kids’ masks that come with a little bag. They have 10 disposable masks that they can bring on their trip and put in their backpack and it doesn’t take up a ton of space.
Don’t miss out on amazing vacation memories with your family! With a little planning and time management, you can easily travel with kids. These tips and tricks should make the experience even easier, and using some of the items on my travel list will be a big help too. Let me know in the comments what your favorite travel items are! Is my list missing anything?