Make it exciting
A few weeks before your flight, get your little travelers excited about where you’re going and the fun you’ll have on the way. From the special snacks and activities you’ll bring to the meals and movies on the plane, there is a lot to look forward to for kids. Limit screen time, snacks and sweets - most of the time or at least leading up to the flight - and pitch the trip with even more ways to get them excited.
Make it clear
As you explain what’s in store, also outline the good behavior you expect along the way. Provide a preview of what will happen before, during and after the plane ride. Then continue to reiterate to set expectations, especially if you plan to fly overnight. One way to review might go something like...
Parent: Where are we sleeping tonight?
Kids: On the airplane!
Parent: Are we going to play quietly on the airplane?
Parent: Are we going to cry or yell on the airplane?
Parent: Are you going to make daddy drink all the wine on the airplane?
Make it easy
Take only what you can easily carry and remember our nine things to leave behind. At the airport, keep kids in a lightweight stroller and babies in carriers to breeze through check-in and security. If you don’t have access to your airline’s club, consider buying a one-time pass like United’s for $59. It’s a small price to pay for a place to relax when delayed, clean bathrooms and changing tables, and free snacks to restock. Some even have family lounges with toys, cartoons and comfy couches for kids to nap.
Make it collaborative
If you’re traveling with multiple kids, get them on the buddy system. Potential “airplane buddies” might be two older kids; one parent and one high-energy kid; one parent and one baby, etc. If you’re traveling alone with multiples, empower the older kids to help you take care of their younger sibs.
Make it late
If you can, book overnight flights for longer trips. Ten hours flies by when you’re all sleeping instead of trying to entertain your toddler in a tiny space for a full day. Flights at or just after bedtime are best. Make sure to equip the kids with their favorite overnight supplies to keep in their carry-ons.
Most overnight flights serve a meal and small dessert. Let kids taste everything. Then brush teeth, put on their comfiest pjs, break out the blankies, and let them watch their favorite in-flight entertainment. If your tots have trouble sleeping beyond their beds, stay tuned for our sleep anywhere tips.
Make it comfy
If you’re traveling with a baby, book a bassinet at the bulkhead in advance. For bigger babies and toddlers, create a cozy nest in their seat or even under the seat in front of you with a plane-provided blanket as a base, plus your own clean blanket or coat, so that when the in-flight fun slows, they’re ready to snooze.