Are you considering to flying with children? But you are afraid to do so. Or did you book a flight and don’t know what to expect while flying with children? I cover these and many questions below.
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1. What are you looking?
The first question I tell myself is “what do I want to get out of this vacation since I will be flying with my children?”
Do I want to be in a hotel that serves us all the important meals? Or shall I rent a house for ourselves and maybe family/friends and have a bit more freedom? But be responsible for cooking and cleaning.
If you choose a hotel…
Now, if you book a hotel, especially in a foreign country, you run on their schedule. Which might be challenging if there is a time difference. If breakfast is served between 8 AM to 10 AM that’s when you will have to be awake and ready to go. However, you don’t have to worry about making breakfast or any other meal for your family.
I don’t like the thought about booking a hotel room for my 1 and 3 yr old, who go to bed at 7 PM, because I would be stuck in the hotel room with them after bedtime. I could let them be awake longer, but that wouldn’t be a good time for any of us; temper tantrums would be guaranteed.
If you choose an Airbnb…
If you book an Airbnb (or any other form of vacation rental) you have a lot more freedom. You can eat whenever you want and the kids could go to bed at any point throughout the night. Without anyone staying behind with them. You simply watch them on your baby monitor or check on them whenever you please since you’ll are in the same house.
However, you will be in charge of cooking and cleaning during your stay. Now, if you do have picky eaters cooking for yourself might be a better option than finding something they would eat at the hotel buffet. And you will be less likely to overeat. Or that might be just my problem 😉
Just a few things to think about! We have been so pleased with every house and/or apartment we have booked through Airbnb, but I don’t think a hotel is a bad choice either. Just think it through and talk to your partner about it.
2. Be careful while booking your trip!
Usually, when we book a trip we simply look at the price and try to save as much money as possible.
Not anymore!! Sorry!!!
I hate to break this to you, but now you also need to be considered of your children and their schedule. Obviously, you already are since you are reading this guide. Good job. 😉 Anyway you will thank me later. I promise!! Flying with children doesn’t have to be difficult.
Flying with Children with Lufthansa
Before my husband and I had kids we didn’t really care which airline we used to go to Europe. However, since we have two small kids we prefer to fly with our kids to Europe with Lufthansa.
Lufthansa has one of the biggest bassinets in their Airbus that you can find around any airline. It fits kids up to 14 kg (30.8lbs) and 83 cm (32.6inches). My almost 2-year-old fit comfortably in the bassinet on our way to the US. This makes flying with children so much easier.
Simply call Lufthansa to reserve the bassinet in advance. Absolutely worth the $35. Plus, the bassinet row has more room for you and your family. I advice you to be there early to check-in to make sure that you have the row available to you where the bassinet is attached to the wall.
Everyone recommended to us to book an extra seat for the overseas flight for my almost 2-year-old child. Of course, I didn’t listen because I wanted to save money. Yikes!
We did reserve a bassinet on the longer flights (US to Europe, Europe to US). And my daughter slept in the bassinet on the way home. Now, on the way to Europe she didn’t want to sleep in the bassinet and stayed on my lap for the entire flight. Which was fine, to be honest.
Now, when you have a lap child and the flight isn’t completely booked (which was the case for both flights) Lufthansa will give you an extra seat. So, we ended up having an extra seat for both ways including the bassinet.
It is up to you if you want to stand this chance or not. But let me tell you it was helpful to have this extra space for the kids. Also, I know a lot of families who bring their car seat on board and have their child stay in the car seat overnight.
In addition, Lufthansa gives you the chance to order kids meals in advance. Which is a great choice for picky eaters.
For instance, we just went to Europe and usually I pick a later flight around 6 or 7 PM. Not this time, because by the time they would turn off the lights on the plane it would be 10 PM. Way past bedtime!
Instead, I booked a flight ($20 per ticket more) at 4:30 PM. Let me tell you spending that extra money was so worth it. Because after boarding, drinks, and dinner, they turned out the light around 8 PM. Perfect time for my kids to go to sleep.
Now, people ask me a lot about nap time… I’m not too strict about traveling during nap time, but I am aware of it. What does that mean for flying with children?
I travel during nap time and I made sure to bring a stroller or carrier. For instance, during our Europe trip, we had a layover during nap time. I put my little one in the stroller and pushed her around until she fell asleep. However, on the way back she didn’t want to nap and I left it at that. It worked out just fine.
However, if you have a kid that can’t live without a nap be aware of it. Bring a carrier. Most kids will take a nap after a little fight in the carrier. 😉
3. Preparation is everything before flying with children!
There are two important things to bring when flying with children:
You can’t bring enough snacks. LOL! But seriously, snacks are very important. Now, during takeoff you want your kids to suck on something. If you have a baby it could be a pacifier, a bottle, or you can nurse your baby.
If you have older kids I can highly recommend these lollipops (bare with me here). These teeth cleaning lollipops are delicious and they do not cause any cavities. However, they do not replace teeth brushing. Letting my kids eat lollipops always made me nervous in the past because they are terrible for their teeth. Since I discovered these lollipops I feel a lot better about them eating a lollipop every so often.
I created a list of essentials to bring on a plane. Please feel free to download my complete list for more snack ideas and more for flying with children. But whatever you do make sure you and your kids stay hydrated.
There are two things I always recommend to parents! Bring something new and something you know they will play with. This will make flying with children more fun for everyone:
Usually, before a trip, I go to the dollar store and by a few new toys. Something small and that doesn’t cause any messes. Such as a deck of cards or wax sticks. The point is that it’s new and your kids will be excited to open something new that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
One popular item I always buy is post-it notes. They are cheap and they don’t make a mess and your kids can put them everywhere. Check out one of the activities my kids did with post-it notes. All you need are the post-it notes and a bottle. Easy to do on a plane.
For my oldest, I always buy play-doh at the dollar store because she doesn’t make a mess with it and it keeps her busy for a while.
There are a couple of toys from Amazon that my kids absolutely loved and kept them busy on the plane:
Melissa and Dough
Now, why are they my favorite? Because your kids can put them everywhere. When we fly from Germany back to the US my youngest (almost 2) put these stickers all over the window, seat, etc. during takeoff and even 20 minutes later. While enjoining a fruit pouch. No fussing during takeoff = WIN!!!
Melissa and Dough On-The-Go Water Wow – This is also a pack of 3 and it comes in different themes. You can purchase them on Amazon for under $20.
Your kids will love these. All you have to do is put a bit of water (I promise it won’t be messy) in the pen and hand it to your kid. Now your kid can use the pen for the pad. When water is applied to the pad different animals, numbers, letters, etc. will become visible.
And the best part is that it will dry quickly and your kid can do it all over again. No mess! And these pads are somewhat educational.
I think parents always underestimate the power of coloring. Ha. 😉
Bring a coloring book and color with your kid! It will be fun and entertaining. I promise!!
Mess-free coloring books are always a wonderful option. And you can choose your kid’s favorite character.
In addition, Crayola offers free coloring pages on their website. You could always simply print a couple of pages at home and bring them on your trip.
Extra: Lufthansa gives out free crayons on their flight along with other items (puzzle, stuffed animals, socks).
4. Packing For Your Trip
Now, I’m not going to give you a list of clothes that you should pack because there is no need for it. I’m sure you are aware of what to wear on vacation. But let me say layers. If you are not sure what to pack make sure you can wear different layers to adjust to the temperature.
Just be mindful how long you will stay and if you have a washer and dryer provided to you. If you do, pack enough clothes or half the vacation. For instance, if you stay for 2 weeks, pack enough clothes for one week plus a change of clothes for the diaper bag for each kid.
If you don’t have a washer/dryer, pack enough clothes for each day plus a change of clothes for each kid for your diaper bag.
Check out my complete packing list above. Now, if you are a foreigner make sure to pack your passport and green card. I always have a copy of my marriage certificate as well. If you fly without your partner make sure to bring a document that states that you are allowed to take your children out of the country. This document needs to be notarized.
I always pack a copy of their birth certificates and their immunization records. You don’t have to do this! But I want to be prepared for everything. A passport can get lost (hopefully not).
My husband is in charge of packing all of our electronics. And more importantly, to make sure all of our kid’s favorite movies/shows are downloaded on their devices. Because you will not have wifi on the plane (unless you pay for it by the hour). We also bought them headphones a couple of months before the trip, so they could get used to wearing them.
However, my kids are small and do not watch hours of TV on their devices. But it was nice to have that option on the plane and even on vacation.
Cleaning the house before flying with children
I remember when I was a little girl my mother would clean the entire house before we went on vacation. And I remember thinking that that was silly since we will be gone.
Now, I’m a mom and I get it. It does make coming home so much easier!! It’s hard to come home after a fun vacation. The last thing you want to find is a huge mess. Because you will bring home loads of laundry. Cleaning your house in advance will help you to only focus on your laundry for the next couple of days.
Do yourself a favor and ask family or friends to bring over a nice meal when you come home. Your kids will be happy to see your family member and you will be happy that you don’t have to cook. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just a nice meal after a long day of traveling.
4. Flying with Children “The Rundown”
Make sure you get a good night sleep and take a deep breath. You got this:
Well, for international flights you will have to be at the airport two hours in advance. I recommend being there three hours in advance. Enough time to park, check-in, get through security and find your gate. Oh, wait you have kids. That also gives you enough time to take them to the restroom and get some snacks as well. 😉
If you do park at the airport do some research in advance and buy a ticket beforehand. We did long-term parking at JFK and saved hundreds of dollars that way. We used a company that was a mile away from the airport and they drove us to the gate. The whole process was very simple and I’m glad we did our research.
Stroller and Car Seats
I recommend bringing a stroller to the gate and to have it gate checked there. For a couple of reasons.
- We were able to go through the fast line during check-in and security because we had a stroller. This saved us so much time!!
- You don’t have to worry about your kid wandering off at the airport.
- And you don’t have to carry him/her around.
- You can use it for storage.
- Plus you have a stroller for your trip.
You can simply gate check your stroller. Lufthansa allows you to gate check a normal-sized stroller. No funny dimensions like most other airlines. This seriously gave me a headache while researching it. I almost bought an umbrella stroller for the trip instead of simply bringing our stroller, which was so nice to navigate in Europe while having all the extra storage space.
But I do recommend bringing a stroller bag if you have a nicer stroller. I have an Uppababy stroller and I love their travel bag. It is so sturdy! Now, it’s bit on the expensive side, but it will protect your stroller.
Car Seat on the plane
Furthermore, simply bring your car seat on the plane and have your child be safe in the seat. Full disclosure, I have never brought a car seat on a trip, but I know many moms who have done it and loved it. I just want you to be aware that this is an option.
On The Airplane
Listen and repeat “Do not walk the aisle as long as possible.”
Get on the plane and get out everything you will need (diapers, toys, snacks, etc.) for take-off. Because as soon as the seatbelt signs are on you won’t be able to get into your bags for a while. Don’t forget your kids favorite stuffed animal or whatever he/she loves at that point in time.
Stay in your seats as long as you can manage. I made this mistake (and I paid dearly for it) during my first flight with my oldest who just turned one. As soon as she knew we could walk around that was all she wanted to do. My husband and I ended up walking around the airplane for hours.
This might be a no-brainer, but don’t get out all your activities at once. Also, don’t get out your dollar store surprises right away. Save activities for when you need them.
Be mindful about mealtime and snacks. You don’t want your kids to run around during mealtime, so watch out that you don’t overfeed them before a meal. Again, with Lufthansa, you can order a special meal for your kids beforehand.
Try to keep a schedule. So, when it’s bedtime get your kids “ready” for bed. Brush their teeth, take them to the bathroom, etc. This will give them the signal that it’s time for bed.
If you have a bassinet simply put your child down and try to give him/her some space to get used to the new environment. However, don’t let baby get all worked up. It took me 2-3 tries before my youngest went to sleep in the bassinet on the way back. Going to Europe my youngest refused to sleep in it. That can happen. Just mentally prepare yourself. Remember they are little and it’s scary.
Wake them up
Wake your children up if you have to. Yes, you read me right.
On our way back from Europe both of my kids were sound asleep. But I told my husband to wake up my oldest, while I woke up the baby. It was hard but so worth it. If we didn’t wake them up they would have been awake all night.
And by the time we landed, got our luggage/car, and went back to the hotel it was 10 PM. They got a bath and went back to bed without any issues.
Fight the jetlag after flying with children
Fight the jetlag because it will fight you!
When you go overseas try to stay awake as long as you possibly can. For instance, we made it to our destination by 2 pm and we were ready to go to sleep. But we stayed awake until 8 pm that night. And that really helped us to get on European time right away.
The kids took a short nap (one hour) and we put them to bed at 7 pm (their normal bedtime). To our surprise, they slept until 8 am the next day.
You will want to go to sleep because you will be very tired. But the longer you can push it the easier it will be. And that’s a promise! If someone must nap make sure to wake him/her after an hour.
Coming back from flying with children!
The same idea coming back. As you already read, we woke up our girls on the plane to make sure they will go to sleep at the hotel.
Everyone went to bed at 10:30 PM that night and the kids woke up the next morning at 5 AM. Ugh!
So, we decided to drive home (4-hour drive). On the road, we stopped for breakfast. We made it home by 10:30 AM that morning. Perfect time to unpack, have lunch, and take a nap.
Cut that nap short!!
We put both kids to bed at their regular time that day and they both got a good night sleep. It took them about 3-4 days to fully recover from being jetlagged. But we could only tell during the day that they were still jetlagged. They slept throughout the night.
Plan ahead before flying with children!
Whatever you do just make sure you give yourself and your kids some time to readjust to your time zone. To be honest, I plan an extra day to stay home with them because I know they will be sleepy and even a bit moody.
I hope that flying with your children will be a positive experience after you read my guide. Happy Travels!
Do you need more ideas to entertain your small kids? Check out my free eBook.