A few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that I had to book a flight to Michigan to visit family and friends before baby #2 arrives. The last time I was in Michigan was during Christmastime. Since I had a flight credit, I hopped on the phone with a Delta representative and the next thing I knew I had a flight booked for our son and myself.
It was going to be his first flight.
He is obsessed with airplanes.
I either knew that this adventure was going to be super fun or super stressful.
So, I did what any parent would do and did tons and tons of research on ways to make flying with kids easier and exciting. Traveling with a two-year-old while seven months pregnant … what was I thinking?!
Thankfully, he is 1000% into airplanes so I had a feeling that he was going to love the entire experience.
Thankfully, after arriving in Michigan we had plans to stay at my parent’s house all weekend. My parent’s house is fully equipped to accommodate the toddler lifestyle. From a pack-and-play to a whole room full of toys to a carseat to a stroller, they have everything covered and then some. As a result, all I had to do was pack a suitcase full of our clothes and toiletries and check the bag (one less thing to worry about while boarding the flight). Then, I packed a backpack full of items that I knew he would love playing with during the flight. That was it.
I knew that if we were traveling anywhere else, I would be weighed down by all sorts of big, bulky items that can cause stress while checking in, boarding a plane, and waiting at luggage claim. Words cannot express just how thankful I was to be traveling to my toddler-friendly parent’s house.
As I said earlier, I knew that traveling with a two-year-old kiddo was either going to be enjoyable or stressful. When it comes to our kiddo, we call him the Mayor since he waves at everybody everywhere we go, loves to make friends, and is pretty chill when in public. So, I had a feeling that we were going to have fun together … and I went into the situation with that mentality.
Sure enough, he proved me right.
After parking our car in the long-term parking, we boarded the shuttle to head to the airport. He loved listening to the notifications on where the shuttle was and how soon it would arrive. A few minutes after boarding the shuttle, a woman boarded and sat across from us. I noticed her because she kept looking at us and smiling. She ended up getting off at the Delta stop with us.
While we were waiting in line to check our luggage, she was next in line so naturally Mr. Mayor decided to make friends. He started talking to her, hugging her, and telling her all sorts of stories. I swear, this kiddo doesn’t know boundaries yet but it is seriously the cutest thing.
Her and I quickly chatted and soon discovered that we were both heading to the same city. We departed ways and headed to the security line where my son soon made friends with the TSA man and even gave him a high-five as he walked through the security screening.
After my son and I arrived at our gate (it took us quite a while since he wanted to stop and look at every plane), the young woman walked over to us and my son’s eye lit up. He was so excited she found us. He immediately grabbed her hand and walked her around to show her the airplanes. Her and I became fast friends as I apologized to her, learned that she babysits a boy who has the same name as my son, and found out that she lives in the neighboring town (and loves to babysit). We soon knew so much about each other and I actually took down her phone number. Leave it to my son to make a new girlfriend and me a new babysitter.
While boarding the flight, he insisted on holding her hand, was invited into the cockpit to meet the pilots and get his wing pin, and proceeded to walk down the aisle as people gave him high-fives and he greeted every person along the aisle.
During the flight, he took in every moment while he colored, snacked, cuddled, and looked out the window. He didn’t let out a peep.
And on the way home? He fell asleep during takeoff and slept for a majority of the flight.
10 Tips for Flying With Kids
Due to the research that I performed prior to our flight, as well as the experience that I shared with our son during our flights, here are 10 tips for flying with kids that will help make the experience enjoyable and less stressful.
1.) Pack Lightly
Only pack what you absolutely need. The last thing you want to do is haul around items that weigh you down, make you break out in a sweat, and could potentially cost you money (hello, baggage fees). Consider what you need during the flight and what you will need at your destination. Packing the essentials will help keep the stress levels to a minimum.
2.) Arrive Early
I love to arrive at the airport just before the flight takes off. I really don’t like to waste or spend a lot of time in the airport. But, when traveling with our son, I wanted to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. I also knew that he was going to want to check out every aspect of the airport. So, I gave us plenty of time to park the car, check the bag, walk through the airport, and arrive at our gate. The last thing I wanted to do, especially while pregnant, was to run through the airport while carrying our son. Arriving early helps reduce stress levels by a ton. Trust me.
3.) Pick a Special Treat
Prior to boarding the flight, I had our son pick out a special treat (animal crackers) and I also picked up a few yogurt parfaits (which he thinks is ice cream … parenting score!). Throughout the flight, he snacked on his animal crackers (it was a large bag that took him a long time to enjoy). At the beginning of the flight, I gave him his “ice cream” to help keep the excitement alive and calm his nerves. Plus, he devoured it so the spoonfuls of yogurt helped to keep him quiet.
4.) Pick a Special Toy
Even though I had a backpack full of our son’s favorite toys, I made sure to stop at the airport store to have our son pick out a special toy prior to boarding the flight. He picked out a Finding Dory coloring book package that came with a coloring book, crayons, and stickers. I didn’t break out the book until halfway through the flight. It was his special toy that was being saved for a special moment during the flight.
5.) Be Patient and Supportive
Because it was his first time flying, I made sure to explain everything to our son to help him understand what we were doing and what was to be expected. During the flight, the airplane encountered turbulence. When that happened, he looked up at me, reached for my hand, held my hand, and looked down at our hands. I would lean down, tell him what was happening, and give him a hug. That seemed to help him fight through his nervousness.
6.) Don’t Board Early
Even though your boarding group might be called first, don’t board until the last possible minute. The last thing you want to do is board the plane first and then sit there for 30 minutes or so while you wait for the other passengers to board. Be sure to board the plane with the last of the passengers so that you don’t have to stress and keep your child entertained on the plane for any longer than you already have to during the flight.
Walk around the gate area, help your child release the last of his/her energy, and wait it out until the last possible minute.
7.) Make Sure Clothes are Comfy
Nobody wants to sit in clothes that are not comfy, especially during a long flight. Hit the restroom prior to the flight, change diapers if need be, and make sure clothes are comfy to ensure the your child is as comfortable as possible. In your carry-on bag, be sure to pack extra clothes just in case any spills might occur before, during, or after the flight.
8.) Choose Toys that are Interactive
Sticker books are always fun whether you’re traveling in a car or in an airplane. After our son woke up from his nap during the flight home, I took out a Halloween sticker book. By the end of the flight, he was covered in pumpkin stickers. He loved it.
You can also consider PLAY-DOH, a deck of cards, coloring books with crayons, etc.
9.) Spread Out the Entertainment and Snacks
The last thing you want to do is break out all of the entertainment and snacks during the first five minutes of the flight. Be sure to spread out the entertainment and snacks. Also, bring snacks that take a long time to eat. Tell your kids that they can only have a new toy every 15-30 minutes or so. You can also package the toys separately and bring them out of your bag one-by-one so that they don’t see all of the toys and beg for everything at once.
10.) Bring Electronics
When all else fails, be sure that you have electronics in your bag. You can pack headphones and keep your electronics in airplane mode so that the kids can enjoy music, games, movies, etc. during the flight.
What are your favorite tips for flying with kids?