Travel Tips for Flying with Young Kids

flying with young kids

My Story

As I write this, my husband and I think we’ve been on over 20 planes as a family of six—and we’ve only been a family of six for 20 months! When our twins were born, we also had a two-year-old and four-year old. We’ve been flying with all of them since the twins were newborns, and before that we traveled plenty with our older two. Before that, we traveled extensively internationally with just our oldest. We think he has about a dozen different passport stamps! Travel is embedded in our family and we have found it to be a great blessing to our kids as we adults persevere through the perceived difficulty of flying with young kids.

Here are some basics to get you started:

Preparing for Flying on a Plane with Kids

Pack Light

If there’s one tip you take from this entire article it should be to pack light. Early in our travel life, we learned from others gone before us how to pack carry-on only, even for 3 months overseas. Packing carry-on only means each person gets one suitcase (at maximum) and one personal item (I’d recommend a backpack). In our family, packing carry-on only means all six of us share two carry-on sized suitcases and everyone old enough gets a backpack. The two principles of this are that you must:

  1. find a way to do laundry at your destination. (Even Asia has places where you can inexpensively pay for others to do it all for you.) To accomplish this, I usually pack four outfits for each person and do laundry every 2-3 days on our trip.
  2. pack enough diapers, snacks, and basic daily supplies to get you through the travel + your first day on the ground. After that, plan to go to a store and live off the land!

Here’s Why:

Here Are Some Caveats:

There are times my husband and I have disobeyed our own carry-on only rule. When traveling on budget airlines that make you pay for every suitcase, we have found it often less expensive to pay for one checked bag and pack our whole family of six in that one bag. Again, each person gets four packed outfits and we do laundry every 2-3 days. We’ve found that domestic airplane itineraries with only one airport connection or none at all, our checked luggage usually makes it through. We still usually pack extra clothes or at least an extra shirt in our carry-on so if luggage gets lost we aren’t completely lost for the whole following day while we buy new supplies. When our kids were really little, it also helped to check the suitcase before security so that was one less thing to carry.

A Packing List for Flying with Young Kids

Prepare the Kids and Practice

I have found that our kids fly well because they’ve done it before. They sleep well in other places because we’ve taught them to do so from the time they were infants. I would highly recommend getting your kids used to varied schedules, varied sleeping arrangements, and varied routines before you travel with them so that they are more flexible while you’re on your trip.

For example, I trained our babies to sleep in the sleep tents I recommended above before we ever used them on a trip. I first put the tent in their crib and they slept in it there. Then I put it on the floor in their room, then I put it on the floor in a different room. When I put them in it when we were on our trip, they were able to sleep well rather than being afraid! (I’ll be honest, my twins don’t love the tent. But it’s a better night’s sleep for all of us than if we had no pack n play, no crib, no tent, and their only choice was to be in bed with my husband and me.)

How to Survive the Airport and Plane Ride

Car Seats and Strollers

Parents flying with young kids have the option to bring and/or check car seats and strollers for free. My husband and I normally check our car seats at the check-in counter (since we have four of them!) but we usually bring our double/quadruple stroller through the concourse and gate check it. That means, we use the stroller up until the point when we actually enter the plane, and we leave the stoller (with a gate-check tag on it) in the jet bridge for the agents to move under the plane at that point. We then pick it up in the jet bridge at our arrival gate before we walk onto the concourse as a family.

I would also recommend:

Baby Formula and Milk

You probably already know that since the early 2000s, TSA limited travelers to liquids in quantities of 3 oz or less in carry-ons. But it’s so important for parents to know that official TSA guidelines allow parents to travel past the security checkpoint with liquids that are greater than 3 oz if they are for your infant (child under 2 years old). This means, you can bring prepared baby formula, a full water bottle to mix with powdered formula, baby food pouches, juice, milk, and whatever other liquids you need as long as they’re for your baby (or child under 2 years old). I will say, every airport is a different experience and at some check points we have waltzed on through with no comment, and at others my husband and I have endured the full body pat down in order to be able to pass with our necessary liquids. Be prepared for that experience, but stand your ground on what is allowed.

How to Survive the Trip with Kids

And finally, my best advice is to the parents. Stay calm! Kids read the room. If you’re stressed out, they will be too. If you’re calm and joyful, they often will be too. Let’s be honest, that’s good advice for your general parenting life as well!

Do you Want to Do What We Do?

You may be wondering why my family travels so much! It’s because we are full-time Christian ministry workers with Live Global. We travel internationally to interact with national believers who are leading their own ministries. We travel domestically to interact with North American churches who want to connect to one of our national friends in another country for the purpose of serving them as they do ministry.

Do you want to do what we do? I’d love to personally connect with you. Send me a message!