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Traveling with kids on an airplane

Kids on an Airplane

So you might be considering traveling with kids on an airplane this holiday season, or pretty much any time. You might wonder what is actually required to travel with kids on an airplane, and some suggestions for what to take to make the trip manageable.

Here’s what we learned a while back.

Airline requirements

Under two years of age can sit in your lap. You’ll need to have proof of age in the form of a birth certificate for any minor traveling with you. They do usually check them.

stash your child in an overhead bin
Sadly these don’t exist any more

If your kid turns two years old while you’re on the trip you’ll have to purchase a seat for them. It’s not clear if you have to purchase a seat in both directions or only the two-year-old direction, but probably just the two year old segment. Call if you’re in this situation as I don’t know, the wording on most sites is unclear.

If you’ve purchased a ticket for a child, you’re entitled to use an FAA approved car seat in the seat you reserved.

On most airlines you can check a car seat for free:

customers are allowed one (1) stroller and one (1) car seat per ticketed passenger. Both items may be checked at the ticket counter or one item can be checked at the gate and one at the counter. These items are checked at no charge, when traveling with a child or to adopt.

SnugRide® Classic Connect™ 32 Infant Car SeatHere are links to car seat/stroller checking info for American Airlines, United, Delta, ??Frontier??. Of these only Frontier seems to be vague on whether there’s a charge. Your airline will vary, so check their website or call first.

What you should bring

  • Something to chew on for altitude changes (paci, turkey leg, cat)
  • 4x the amount of snacks/milk/etc you expect to need
  • Change of clothes for you and infant
  • Clothes should be in a plastic bag in case child vomits into the bag, which happened to us
  • Stickers. Lord, kids love stickers
  • Pre-loaded video entertainment (never expect the WiFi to work)
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Wipes
  • a few sheets of paper towel for vomit mop up
  • Something to charge your pre-loaded video entertainment device
  • Headphones for said device (over-ear preferable)
  • 50 pack of earplugs if you expect your kid to be annoying neighbors – pass them out
  • Wristband with your phone number in case toddler bolts for it
  • Night diapers, or extremely absorbent ones. We missed a connection because we took four minutes to change a drippy diaper while running to the gate
  • Little plastic bag for trash, soiled clothes

On the plane, traveling with kids

infant restraint on an airplane
there still are no good little one restraints included on an airplane

If you’ve got a walker, they’re going to want to walk. You might want to remove their shoes as these will somehow come off and get lodged under someone’s seat. I don’t know how this happens but it does.

If you’re holding a baby, try and face them forward as much as possible to prevent motion sickness, or at least direct the vomit stream away from you.

Whatever disgusting is in the seat pocket, your child may want to destroy. Maggie decided it was going to be Skymall shredding time our last trip. Any magazine there that says take it with you, feel free to shred. I think everyone around will forgive a shredding over a shrieking.

Most people don’t mind a kid walking a little bit. Kicking however doesn’t go over well. If your kiddo has to flex their legs, and the fasten seat belt light is off, do what you have to.

Stickers and band-aids are amazing distractions.

Got any suggestions?

We’ve only done this a couple of times so appreciate any suggestions in the comments. Our nice short 7-hour trip once turned into 17, we ended up stuck in the wrong state, our luggage was delayed, stroller was MIA for an hour, and we got in with an extremely cranky infant.

Also the old Children’s Benadryl technique is frowned on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan their diet for an energy lull about 20 minutes into the flight. Then again, with flight delays being what they are it feels like it might be useless to bother with timings/

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.