Flying with Kids…Forget the Benedryl

John and I believe in exposing our kids to the world. We want them to get used to eating at restaurants, behaving in public and interacting with others on a regular basis. We also want to allow them to see the world…this means we travel. Last week, John had to travel to San Diego and Tijuana for work. I decided to bring the kids and to tour San Diego while he worked. This meant we had to fly, for the second trip of the year.

While many people worry about flying with kids (you’re not alone, I’m right there with you), I see it as an opportunity. It’s a chance to introduce kids to the way things work, to allow other people to see that sitting near kids on a plane doesn’t have to be a disaster, and to see how things go. I take things one step at a time…traveling is no different.

I’m not going to lie, we had a few meltdowns. Our 18-month-old is fairly terrible at being stuck in one place. He likes to be on the move. Our oldest gets motion sick, we experienced this in the worst possible way. We also had our share of looks walking onto the plane with 2 kids under 3. But, overall, it went great. We took two flights each way (one 2.5 hours, one 4.5 hours on the way there, 4.5 hours and 45 minutes on the way back). We didn’t leave the plane hating each other and for the most part, we were proud of how our kids did. We even had some fun.

Since this wasn’t our first go, I thought I’d share a few tips. We heard “just give them drugs” and “ohhhh goooooood luck” so many times leading up to the flight that I realized that there’s a huge taboo to taking kids on airplanes. What works for us might not work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot. Check out a few of these tips to make your next flight as painless and enjoyable as possible. Allowing your kids to see the world is a gift, don’t let the fear of flying with them ruin that opportunity.

Colin Flying

(Colin right after boarding…ready to go!)

1. Confirm Your Seats

We requested specific seats upon booking. But, just to be sure, I called United the night before to confirm. I’m glad I did…they had moved us all over the plane (our 3 year old was solo). While customer service over the phone and after a trip to the airport said there was nothing that could be done, I went to Social Media. With a quick Twitter exchange, I was able to work our seating that made more sense. A little stressful? Sure. Worth the energy ahead of time instead of the morning of? Absolutely. Confirm as much as possible before take off.

2. Stay Organized

I’m a planner by nature. Travel is no different. I create a folder for each trip that includes all confirmations, printed directions, restaurants to visit (that I’ve reviewed for family-friendliness), all reservations and any printed tickets. I keep this handy throughout the travel process and use it as a place to store all boarding passes throughout the process. When we’re assigned boarding gates, I take the time to learn the airport we’ll be traveling through to be sure we know where we’re going. The less confused and frazzled you are, as a parent, the less stress your kids will pick up on and emulate.  Organization is a way to avoid a lot of unneeded stress.

3. Explain, Explain, Explain

Most kids aren’t a fan of the unknown. Things that they don’t understand cause reactions that are less than desirable. Each time we travel, we take the time to watch videos on flying (many kids shows have episodes that center around this, one we keep on DVR is Bubble Guppies’ episode 46). We explain what flying is and we prepare our kids for what’s coming. During the flight, we tell them what they’re hearing and what they’re seeing. We keep it calm and exciting…this is a challenge for me. I have an intense fear of flying, but, I don’t want my kids to experience that so it goes to the backburner so the kids see flying as something to be excited about.

4. Purchase the Extra Seat

Kids under 2 do not need an individual seat. While this may look like a great option from the budget standpoint, think about it. If your child doesn’t have a seat, it means they’re sitting on your lap (not the safest when turbulence hits) and has no room to move around. If you want a happy child, purchase the seat. Look for travel deals to make it possible. The extra seat means less hassle.

5. Entertain. 

On most airlines, travelers are entitled to one carry on and one personal item (a purse, laptop case, etc). This means there’s a lot of space to pack entertainment for your kids. My rule of thumb is something new for ever 15 minutes. It sounds a little excessive, but, it’s not a car ride. You can’t pull over when things go wrong. Entertained children are happy children. Things we used:

  • an iPad preloaded with cartoons and movies (this was our last resort, for when all else failed),
  • dry-erase crayon boards,
  • magna doodles,
  • snacks (purchase drinks and snacks ahead of time, after going through security, waiting on the beverage cart is not always a viable option),
  • a metal tray and magnets that stuck to it,
  • play-dough with cookie cutters,
  • toy cars,
  • coloring books and crayons,
  • sticker sheets, and more.

Rule of thumb: buy doubles when possible when flying with multiple kids, this cuts down on jealousy meltdowns.


There are lots of ways to make travel enjoyable and totally doable. To me, drugging my kids wasn’t the answer, I wanted the experience to be as pleasant and natural as possible. What tips have you taken advantage of? How do you travel with your kids? Share!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: