Veteran Flight Attendant Shares Brilliant Tips for Airline Travel with Children

We are on the brink of Spring Break which means some of you might be traveling with children very soon.  LUCKY YOU!  I’d give my left arm to be heading out of town, especially some place warm, but this year we are staying put.  My brother is having heart surgery (prayers please!!!) and Grammie is coming to visit.

Last summer I put together a blog post with some tips that our family has found helpful when traveling with our children, especially for long road trips.  However, many of you will be flying the friendly skies soon so I thought I’d share a second edition addressing ways you can alleviate this sometimes daunting endeavor.

Flying with children (especially young children) is enough to make the strongest sweat.

You just never know when a meltdown will start turning heads your way with the most evil looks.

When our first child was born we didn’t wait too long to travel with him.  Afterall, John and I love traveling and my side of the family lives out of state and too far away to drive.  So he was a “lap child” on the plane on more than one occasion, which gave me a bit of anxiety at first but worked out well in the end.  I always like to have a plan in place in case disaster strikes.
Four boys looking out airport window at a plane

I asked a long-time friend who has been a flight attendant with a major airline for 20 years for her best advice.  I’ve heard countless crazy travel stories from her over the years so I’ve deemed her an absolute expert who has seen everything.  As much as I would love to give her credit for her good advice I cannot use her name due to a social media clause she had to sign for employment.  Her best advice is as follows:

1.  Being a parent on the plane can potentially suck and sometimes you just have to embrace it.
2.  Ages 0-1 year old is a breeze.  They eat,  sleep and play.  Fly early in the day.
3.  Ages 1-3 years old are the toughest.  This is where it’s down and dirty and you have to be armed with everything!  Books, drinks, snacks, suckers, coloring books, crayons (get the triangle ones so they don’t fall off the tray table), stickers, travel Etch-a-sketch.  Try to fly during naptime if possible.
4.  Ages 3-4 years old when your child should be able to sit.  Booster seats are not approved.  Give your child a window or middle seat, never an aisle seat.  The carts coming by could bump and hurt them (flight attendants cannot always see little ones around that big cart), plus you don’t want them taking the liberty of running down the aisle.  The key is to keep them contained.
5.  Take a deep breath.  It’s going to be okay.

I’ve broken down more of her best tips into the following categories listed below.  Enjoy this entertaining look into a veteran flight attendant’s life.

You should always keep your children’s socks and shoes on (and your own) when using the restroom because “that’s not water on the floor.”
Prepare your child(ren) for how loud flushing is on an airplane but that they should not to be afraid.  It’s just air sucking “the stuff” into a tank.  Also, let them know when you lock the door the light goes on.  “You don’t know how many kids I have saved from a dark bathroom screaming because they flushed the toilet.”
If you see an open bag of coffee in the bathroom, leave it there.  It’s the flight attendant’s genius way to keep the odor contained.  Do not bring it out or throw it away.
If you are traveling without another adult and need to use the restroom, feel free to ask a flight attendant to hold your baby.  They may or may not oblige but if they do know that your child might watch you leave and start screaming.
Better yet, use the restroom by the gate right before boarding and hopefully you’ll be able to skip the airplane restroom altogether.

She mentioned not to give out snacks before take off.  The best time is as you are zooming down the runway for take off.  If your plane taxis out and there is a weather or mechanical delay and you’ve already handed out a snack you’re one snack down.  If you wait until the plane is taking off your child will be chewing as the altitude is changing allowing their ears to pop and adjust.  This goes for babies with bottles too.  WAIT!  Also, save some for the descent.
Speaking of snacks…she also mentions extra bonus points if you bring your flight attendants a treat like gum or movie boxes of candy that are $1 from Target.  They will remember you and be more helpful.  They also love your old magazines!  Kids love to give gifts and this could be a great opportunity to teach your children kindness.Boys reading books on a planeBoys looking at books on an airplane

I feel pretty good about this piece of advice because I did it when my own children were young and flying for their first times.  Before we left I went shopping.  I put together a bag of fun (and brand new to them) easy-to-travel-with-toys and books and did not show them that it existed until they started squirming in their seat so badly that I had no other choice.

This is your ace people so don’t waste it!

You could easily get an hour or more of peace and quiet with that bag of joy.  Do not give it all at once.  She recommended wrapping each item up, which I did not think of.  Genius!  Every hour or so give them a new item.  She recommended getting those old school candy dots that takes little kids extra long to get off of the paper.  This could eat up some serious time.

Hand holding dot candy

This one is from our valentines last year but you get the idea!

Be sure to bring headphones or earbuds for the kids or you may not be able to use their devices like tablets.  Speaking of devices, load those suckers up with their favorite shows, games, songs and movies.  There’s no such thing as too much screen time on an airplane.  Also, she let me in on this little known helpful secret.  Flight attendants will oftentimes go above and beyond for children who use their manners because it’s alarming how few do.  Saying please and thank you and looking up from your device to do so might just earn them cookies!

She also advises that if your children are older (like 7-14), hand them the boarding passes and tell them to get you to the gate.  Teach teach them to read the signs and understand how the airport works.  This is a valuable life lesson that they will likely enjoy.

Finally, she says, “Oh and to the mothers of daughters, teach them that they can fly and be a pilot too!  So many of the women pilots are amazing!”  I love that.

I always travel with many packs of the travel Handiwipes in my purse and wipe down every surface I can around all members of my family (trays, seatbelts, arm rests).   I care more about keeping everyone as healthy as possible so we have a sick-free vacation than not looking like a crazed “Germ-o-phobe.”  This actually annoys my 12-year-old son more than anyone.  🙂

Safe, healthy and happy travels to all!
Boy looking out airplane window

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