How To Fly With Kids: Don’t

Want to know how to fly with kids? Perhaps my advice will deter you, but it’s a tried and true list of tips to help you survive flying with your kids. Check it out here!

by Laura Onstot | Laura Onstot, registered nurse and mom of 2 young kids, rarely pees alone, only frequents restaurants with Kraft Mac N Cheese, and blogs at Nomad’s Land. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids watch endless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Her parenting advice is questionable, but at least she’s honest. Follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.

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My largest piece of advice for those wondering how to fly with kids would be this: don’t do it. Maybe you think I’m cynical. Maybe I am cynical. But I’ve also caught vomit in my hand while in the middle of a flight. I watched in horror as my two-year-old licked the airport bathroom floor as I released an unstoppable stream of pee after a long flight. It happened in slow motion, and thanks to my lack of dedication to keggle exercises, there was nothing I could do to stop her. One time, I flew with a case of food poisoning. The kind that comes out both ends…at the same time… in a projectile manner.  

amazed daughter and mother in airport hallway
Photo by Gustavo Fring on

Listen, all of these nightmares happened because I traveled with kids. My own, unfortunately. But if my warnings cannot convince you otherwise, I will share my best, tried and true, tips for flying with kids.

  1. Anticipate that your child will go through one activity per minute.
  2. BYO snacks so you can have your favorites AND save money. But, if you bring your own snacks, your child will not want any of them, even if they were their favorite snack yesterday. So, still plan on paying $289 in the airport stores. But don’t you dare eat one of the BYO snacks that child refused to eat- because if you do, after you swallow the last bite, they will want it.
  3. Bring Clorox wipes to wipe down your seats. This is a good kid activity that kills 3 minutes of time. 
  4. Bring hospital-grade puke bags, and keep them within reach at all times. For me, this means in the seatback pocket. Because if you get any warning at all before the volcano erupts, it won’t be much time. And whatever you do, do not freeze in panic… you must act quickly.
  5. If you have a puker, talk to your pediatrician about what medication will work best for your child. Zofran was a game-changer for us.
  6. Bring a change of clothes and underwear, even if your kid is potty trained. If your kid is in the process of potty training, or newly potty trained, bring pull-ups, just in case. And bring a change of clothes for yourself. Because bodily fluids have a way of spreading onto parents. Heck, bring a change of clothes for everyone sitting within 20 feet of your child!
  7. If the plane has seatback screens, invest in a pair of headphones for your child that is compatible with the headphone jack. (In our cases, it’s been the old-school round headphone jack, not the newer iPhone kind.)
  8. If the plane doesn’t have seatback screens, may the odds be ever in your favor. Consider investing in tablets and bring headphones that work with the tablet.
  9. Give up all parenting rules. Let them have unlimited screen time. Bribe them with M&M’s. Whisper, “sit the F down”.
  10. Exchange sympathetic glances with other parents on the plane. They are your allies.
  11. If anyone glares at your kids, sic your kids on them.
  12. Check the weather at your final destination before you pack.
  13. Prior to your trip, discuss the number of times it is socially acceptable to open and close the seatback table. Answer: twice. Remind them that if they play the game, “open and close the seatback table”, it will annoy the person sitting in front of them. Not that your child will care. 
  14. Lower your expectations. It makes everything better.
  15. Bring a ziplok bag to stick in your seatback pocket and use for trash. In the horrible scenario where your child vomits, you can stick the puke bag into the ziplok and seal the stench.
  16. Make your kid carry their own stuff. Make bets on how long they will last before complaining about how heavy it is. When they do complain about how heavy it is, carry it for them. Because your spine health doesn’t matter. 
  17. Have a family meeting prior to the day you travel. Provide anticipatory guidance on what might happen, and think of potential problems and solutions. Example: “When you are on the airplane, your ears might hurt. If they do, you can eat an applesauce pouch, suck on a lollipop, or swallow to help with the pain.” Or, our usual main spiel: “You might feel grumpy while we are traveling. If you do, you can watch a show, take a nap, or snuggle with me. You can tell me you are feeling grumpy, but it is not okay to throw a tantrum. If you do, the TVs on the plane might stop working.”
  18. Limit fluids so you don’t have to go to the tiny, germ-infested, airplane bathroom, multiple times. Have you ever thought about the logistics of the mile-high club? I can barely fit in that bathroom with my two-year-old. One of my greatest life accomplishments is fitting in an airplane bathroom with my five and six-year-old. Any time we needed to move, it was like a game of Tetris. In retrospect, I took them with me because I was afraid they would be abducted. But I guess they couldn’t be abducted on an airplane. 
  19. Suck up to the flight attendants, that way if things get really out of hand, you can request a seat away from your children.
  20. Expect big emotions. From your spouse.

May the odds be ever in your favor. And just remember, planes carry alcohol for a reason.

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