I don’t give advice very often. But if there’s one thing I’m a self-proclaimed expert in, it’s flying with kids. We don’t live near any family, so we have to take tons of obli-cations all over the country every year. I've been flying with my daughter several times a year since she was 6-months-old. My kids have been on A LOT of flights in their short lives, and if I do say so myself, they’re pretty awesome little travelers (except when one of them stinks out the entire jet with poop).
Here are my best tips for flying with kids:
- Time your flight well. Some people swear by traveling during nap time or bedtime so the kids will sleep on the plane, but I think those people are CRAY-ZAY! Unless your kid is some kind of miracle sleeper who can sleep anywhere, I say don’t risk it. My kids aren’t easy sleepers, and the one time we traveled during nap time, my daughter screamed the whole flight. I always try to book flights in the morning when my kids are at their best.
- Expect the worst. That way when your kid only has 4 meltdowns during the trip and you only end up with pee instead of poop in your lap, you’ll consider it a success!
- Wear dark clothes to hide spills and dirt so you’ll look slightly less disgusting upon arrival.
- Bring a change of clothes for the kids and yourself. Because odds are your kid is going to puke in YOUR lap, not his, and you don’t want to walk through LAX smelling like Barferella.
- Bring a crapload of Ziploc bags. You’ll need them for dirty diapers, vomitty clothing, poop-stained undies, half-eaten bananas, used chewing gum … you know, all the nastiness that comes with having kids.
- Bring lots o’ hand sanitizer. Because kids are just ew. Planes are just ew. And kids on planes are double ew.
- Try to get your kids to poop and pee before you leave for the airport. Baaaaaa haaa haaaa! NEVER. GONNA. HAPPEN. But try. And then try to make them poop and pee AGAIN before you board the plane. If you don’t, guaranteed they're going to have to poop when the seat belt sign is illuminated and I’m here to tell you, the flight attendants don’t give a crap (no pun intended) if your kid has to doodoo during takeoff. Trust me on this one. BTDT!!!!
- If your poop machine is still using diapers, bring one for every hour you’ll be traveling (add a few in case of delays). Because it's inevitable that the minute you board the plane, your kid is going to have one assplosion after another.
- Splurge on a bunch of cheap, new toys for your kids (the smaller the better to save space). I hit the dollar store or even vending machines for little doodads. Wrap the toys and hand them out one at a time when the kids start to lose it. The wrapping paper will buy you at least 10 seconds of silence (hey, every second counts) and the novelty of something new will keep your kids occupied long enough for you to read the What’s In My Bag page in US Weekly.
- Load up your phone, iPad or computer with tons of your kids’ favorite apps, TV shows and movies and let them gorge on screen time. TV is the best babysitter on earth. Especially at 35,000 feet.
- Bring tons of snacks and food. Like TONS. Airplane food is nasty and odds are your “I only eat mac n’ cheese” kid isn’t going to like the cardboardy chicken they serve on the flight, if you’re lucky enough to even be on a flight with food. (Which you won’t be, cheap bastards. $300 and we can’t get a piece of cardboardry chicken???!!!!) Do not, however, bring anything juicy (ie- peaches) or sticky (ie- peanut butter).
- Bring a brick of baby wipes even if you’re no longer wiping your kid’s butt. You’ll need them for … everything.
- Make your kids carry their own crap. If your kids can walk, they can lug one of those featherweight rolly bags filled with their essentials. (Oh, and make sure you check exactly what your kid considers “essential,” because if your kid is anything like mine, he'll try to bring something like this on board. AK!)
- Don’t board the plane early. Minimize the time your kids are going to be cooped up in that tin box as much as possible. If you’re traveling with another adult, have one grownup board with the bags first so you can score your overhead bin space for your carry ons, but keep the kids off the plane until the 11th hour.
- Dress in layers. Planes go from being freakin’ freezing to boiling hot and you don’t want to hear your kid whine about her lack of temperature control for 6 hours. Trust me.
- Don't drug your kid. A lot of people give their kids a dose of Benadryl so they’ll pass out on the flight. Not me! I’ve never done this because I’m a neurotic freak and I’d be stressed my kids would have some crazy reaction in the air and start to foam at the mouth and die or WORSE, get all hyper and bounce off the cabin walls for hours (Benadryl makes some kids nutso). Not worth it.
- Try to book the bulkhead if you have a crawling baby or really young kids. It’s got more legroom and the kids can crawl/sit on the floor and play like little manicas during the flight. The only downside is you can't store your stuff under the seat in front of you, so make sure you grab anything you’ll need before the seat belt sign goes off. Just hide it under your butt so the flight attendant doesn’t notice it and make you put it back.
- Use a backpack to carry all your crap. It’ll free up your hands and give you a youthful “I’m still in college” glow. Awww, no it won’t, you’ll look tired and haggard after flying with kids, but it will free up your hands!
- Warn your kid ahead of time that his lovey or teddy bear is going to have to go through the x-ray machine. We once had a total psycho meltdown at security because my son didn’t want Smelly (his lovey) to go through the machine.
- If your kid is too young to chew gum, let him suck on a lollipop, bottle or pacifier on the way up and especially down. The sucking and swallowing helps alleviate ear pressure in the same way chewing gum can. If your kid is nursing, pop him on the boob during takeoff and landing. Make sure to get him nursing as soon as the plane starts to descend so you can catch him before his ears start to hurt. Otherwise you’ll end up with a screaming baby who won’t latch. Again, BTDT.
- Be nice and apologetic to the other passengers. A little “I’m so sorry” goes a long way when your kid is kicking the back of the seat of the dude in front of you for 4 hours.
- But if that dude or anyone else on the plane is a judgmental jerk, ignore them! Everyone should understand that you’re doing the best you can to keep your little life suckers in line during the trip. Traveling with kids is hard, yo! And lest we forget, all those jerks were once screaming, pooping little kids themselves so they can shove it.
Got any more tips for us? Add them in the comments below!