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The Bright Side of Flying with Kids

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Most families I know have schedules so jam-packed with work, school, and extracurricular activities that they barely have time for family dinners anymore. Why not look at your flight as a way to spend some quality time with your children? Here are some tips to actually enjoy flying with kids!

The Bright Side of Flying with Kids

Sara’s daughter, Lucy (age 2), is pictured above reading the safety information card before takeoff

Before You Go

Before you leave home, get your children excited about flying, especially if they have never flown before. Start talking about your trip a few days beforehand. Point out airplanes as they fly by and tell them that you will soon be on an airplane….up in the sky! Young children may not understand at that very moment, but they will eventually be able to piece it together as you get on the plane and then take off.

Take kids to the library or book store to get age appropriate books related to flying. Use this as a learning experience and choose books on the history of flight or maybe a book related to your destination.

One of my favorite activities for kids of any age is to keep a travel journal. I started my daughter Lucy’s journal on her first trip. She was only 3-months-old so I did the writing, but now at age 2 she scribbles where I write, and eventually she will take it over. We’ve also saved every boarding pass from our trips together.

Inflight Activities

It’s a good idea to have a couple of surprises ready. Dollar Tree and other discount stores are a wonderful resource; you can buy a bunch of new things without breaking the bank! Also, be sure to check out our picks for best travel toys and travel games for kids.

A coloring book with pictures of airplanes is fun. Be sure to pack some triangle-shaped crayons, like those made by Crayola. You don’t want to spend your flight picking up crayons that rolled off your tray table.

You can also play games in flight. One example is “Pack a Suitcase.” Start by saying, “I’m packing a suitcase and bringing a ____.” Then your child repeats the sentence and adds another item. Keep going back and forth until someone forgets something. Then start over. You can find more ideas on “games” to play in the card set 52 Things to Do on the Plane.

Preparing to Board

Give yourself oodles of time. Kids feel your stress, which is pretty inevitable on travel day. I usually have to take moments out while packing, preparing or loading the car to bend down and talk to Lucy to let her know everything is okay. You won’t be in your normal routine and your children will need some reassurance. It really helps if you take time to set their expectations instead of rushing nervous, possibly tired, anxious kids out the door…not a great stage to set for travel day!

Allow your children to help in whatever way possible. If your children are big enough, let them pack and carry their own little suitcases or backpacks with their activities. This will get them excited and ready to go!

Onboard the Airplane

Be sure to have your camera ready while boarding. As you board, point out the flight deck to your kids. If your children are interested, ask the flight attendant to check with the pilot about your kids popping in to the cockpit for a quick visit. I have never met a pilot who wouldn’t take a few minutes to allow a child to take a quick tour. Now get that picture!

Also, ask your flight attendant for a pair of plastic wings. They make a nice souvenir of your flight.

Once at your seats, let your child sit in the window seat if possible. Of course if you have two children, you can divvy up window-sitting time. There is the return flight, or one child can have the window for take-off and the other can sit by the window for landing.

Take the safety information card out and explain a few things. You don’t have to tell them it’s for an emergency. Keep it age appropriate. Show your kids the picture of the passenger buckling the seat belt and explain that, like in the car, they will need to stay buckled. Let older children buckle their own seatbelts so they feel involved.

Now, sit back and try to enjoy that flight you were dreading…it may just turn out to be fun!

Do you enjoy air travel with your children? Do you have tips for flying with kids? Let us know in the comments!

Sara Keagle is a flight attendant and author of The Flying Pinto, a blog that gives travelers a look behind the galley curtain and provides tips on how to make the most of their inflight experiences. She has a daughter, Lucy (age 2) and a stepdaughter, Bethany (age 12).

  1. Paulette Eframson says

    I vote for The Flying Pinto, Sara Keagle.

  2. Captain Doug Morris says

    As a pilot, father, and observer of passengers with children, Sara’s article is a great read.

    Captain Doug Morris

  3. Jeanne Valentine says

    Excellent! I especially identified with the reassuring the child that everything is okay and to keep your cool – it is easy to forget your child when you are rushing around with last minute things and with worry about getting to the airport on time. The triangle crayons are great – no rolling!

  4. Joanna Jenkins says

    Terrific article. I VOTE for THE FLYING PINTO. Play doh is a great idea!

  5. Star Villanueva says

    Great Article! =)

  6. janice warren says

    I vote for THE FLYING PINTO. I love some of the travel tips especially a trip to the dollar store. What a great idea without breaking the bank. I will have no problem leaving the dollar store items behind at the hotel. I never have enough room in my travel bag with all the souveniors I bring home. The article is so upbeat what a joy.

  7. Hey, I vote for theflyingpinto…I have 4 kids and boy do I need advice, I had my wife read these articles and she agrees…we will be taking this advice.

  8. Heather Poole says

    Love this article! Good call on the triangular crayons. Would have never thought of that, and yet I spend so much time hunting for crayons. Also love the dollar store idea, which is exactly what I did on my last layover – visited a Japanese dollar store and bought a few things for my 3 year old son because we’ll be traveling this week! We play “airplane” before a trip so that makes it exciting as well.

    Heather poole

  9. I vote for flying pinto, cause I have a niece. and her piece is great

  10. Another vote for Sara! Great job!

  11. IsabellesTravel says

    Whaw! Great tips! I vote for Sara!

  12. Debra Collar says

    Great story Sara!!! I vote for theflyingpinto!!!! 🙂

  13. Steven Frischling says

    I cast my vote for Sara as well! I have also written about flying with triangle crayons in the past good call on that one.

    You have some great tips for flying with kids!


  14. Nice blog! You have some excellent suggestions…I’ll be sure to employ them on our next trip….

  15. Very nice and helpful article! Good luck in the contest…you got my vote!!

  16. I agree with Sara. Play dough has saved me on many flights, and entertains the kids for hours. We usually bring some to share with other kids on the plane. When the fun runs out, yes, I pull out the candy stash!

  17. I vote for Sara. Read the article very informative and includes a lot of ideas I would never even think of.

  18. The Flyingpinto is the greatest, I vote for Sara

  19. Great tips! I vote for Sara.

  20. Great article. Sara has my vote!!!

  21. My vote is for The Flying Pinto. Great ideas… especially like keeping a travel journal for your child.

  22. Thanks! I will recommend this to all my friends.

  23. Christina Baita says

    It’s amazing how many people come on board with their children and have NOTHING for them to do! Not even that DVD player.

    I am a flight attendant and also love the Dollar Store! Target’s dollar area is good too. i pick up coloring books and carry crayons for the kids. I also try to have small toys when I can for a well behaved child. It helps the children, the parents and the other passengers.

    Sara’s blog is fantastic. If you haven’t cked it out, go there now.

  24. yann eimberk says

    This is an interesting post. Thanks.


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