Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to fly to New York City with my older two daughters for a 3-day weekend. It was the first time that I’d flown with any of my kids since they were babies and toddlers, so I was curious to see how the experience would go – and so excited to share my love for traveling with them.
Over the course of 3 days and 4 flights (we had connecting flights both on the way there and back), my girls went from flying novices to pros – and I learned a lot about flying with older kids. It’s a lot different from traveling with little ones – and here are a few tips that I’m definitely going to try to keep in mind next time!
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- We spent some time before the trip just talking about what to expect. I had to remember that my kids didn’t have any concept of the idea of going through security, or what an airport ‘gate’ was like. Or that they had to keep their tray tables up and electronic devices off during take-off and landing… Just talking through the process of flying – from getting to the airport all the way through to baggage claim really helped so they knew a little bit about what to expect, especially for my oldest daughter who doesn’t always handle the unknown very well.
- Speaking of electronic devices… No matter your personal preferences when it comes to handheld gaming systems, they are a very good way to keep kids occupied during layovers or while waiting for flights to board. Our actual flights were fairly short, so there wasn’t much time to play them on board the planes, but on a longer trip they would have come in handy during flight too. Just remember to bring charging cords – many airports have charging stations set up for cell phones and other electronic devices so you can try to sneak in a charge wherever and whenever you can.
- Don’t forget to bring plenty of non-electronic things for kids to do, especially during takeoffs and landings when electronic devices must be turned off. We brought books, plus pads and crayons for coloring and my older daughter brought her big book of Mad Libs.
- It also helps for each child to have his or her own carry-on – and remember to make sure it’s small and light enough for them to carry on their own easily. We used small-sized backpacks and those worked perfectly to keep their stuff together and for them to carry on their own in the airports.
- Luggage with wheels can be your best friend – older kids can wheel their own suitcases and it’s nice not to be loaded down with everyone’s bags as well as your own. My kids easily handled their small suitcases even on escalators and automatic walkways and loved wheeling them around themselves.
- Airports are exciting places for kids – mine kept calling the Cincinnati airport (where we had a 2-hour layover) a “mall inside an airport”. They had a blast checking out the stores – their favorites included the Borders book store, the Vera Bradley bags, and the Creative Kidstuff store (where a lot of begging and whining for toys ensued, just be warned there’s some very cool stuff in there!). Traveling with my kids made me truly appreciate how much fun it is to explore new places and try new things!
- If you’re traveling from/through large or busy airports or during busy travel times, it can be helpful to make sure your kids are wearing something distinctive that you can pick out easily in a crowd. My girls were very good about staying with me, but there were a couple of times I was up at the desk at the gate and let them stay in their seats (where I could easily see them at all times). On our way back home, the girls wanted to wear the sproingy M&M headbands we’d bought at the M&M World store and not only did they get a lot of fun comments from people, but I could immediately tell where they were just at a glance.
- Don’t panic if your assigned seats aren’t all together and you aren’t able to change them when checking in online. The gate agents can always switch them for you – or if they can’t, they (or the flight attendants) are usually very good about helping find other passengers who are willing to switch. Thankfully our seats were able to be switched at the gate on the two occasions where we hadn’t been placed together to begin with, but I’ve seen on other flights where families have been helped by the flight attendants after boarding the plane. Remember, most passengers would rather your kids are sitting with you too. 🙂
- Bring lots of gum to help with getting ears to pop. We had no trouble on the way there, but on our first return flight my older daughter’s ears wouldn’t pop and she ended up almost in hysterics from the sensation and pressure in her head. Drinking water didn’t help – but the gum that a very generous passenger across the aisle gave her did. We stopped during our layover and I bought a package of gum for the final flight home and we had no trouble after that.
- Even though you may be in a hurry to make it to your gate on time or to get to your connecting flight, don’t forget to make sure your kids understand where you’re going and why they need to rush. Just a quick explanation can forestall a lot of complaining about sore feet or tired legs.
Don’t forget to take a few minutes to simply enjoy the travel experience with your kids – it’s something they (and you!) remember for many years to come.
Have you flown with your kids when they were older? What have you learned that helps when flying with them? Share in the comments! 🙂