8 Travel Tips for Flying with Young Kids


That’s the number of flights my 3-year-old son has traveled. My nine-month-old son’s number is currently 12.

We love to travel, and after dozens of flights with one to two littles in tow, I’ve gained some knowledge that may be helpful.

But before I share my tips, keep in mind that this is not about you.

One day, you may have the luxury of flying with a book in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other. But for now, your goal is to keep your children comfortable, entertained, and fed. Mostly fed, and the rest will fall into place (see Tip #2).

If there happens to be a fleeting moment when your children are content, and you can sneak a glimpse at your Kindle or select an in-flight movie (you know, that movie you swore you’d see when it came to theaters, but duh, you’re a mom, so this is the best you get?). THIS MOMENT IS A GIFT. A child will most likely need you soon.

If you maintain this perspective, your travel will go much more smoothly.

Get to the airport early.

DTW has plenty of activities to keep you busy if you have extra time. Walk up and down the moving sidewalks. In the McNamara Terminal, ride the ExpressTram. Watch the fountain. Walk through the Light Tunnel that connects Concourse A with Concourse B/C. In the North Terminal, visit the play area. If all else fails, park it next to a window and watch planes arrive and depart.

Pack snacks.

Pack so many snacks. Pack more snacks than you think you’ll need, then double it. Crackers, raisins, granola bars, pre-cut fruits and veggies, PB&Js, treats for bribery, etc. Accept every snack the flight attendant offers you. Bring water bottles to fill at a drinking fountain after security.


Plan your in-flight entertainment.

Our favorites are the Melissa & Doug Water Wow books, Wiki Stix, picture books, flashcards, and sticker books. Novelty is your friend! Don’t bring toys that are expensive, sticky, or will bounce if they drop to the floor. Our 3 year old uses our iPad on the plane; it’s the only time he gets it, and he knows it. Usually he is content to watch a movie with his kid-friendly headphones. Here are a few great, free apps.

Keep back-up outfits handy for everyone, including mom and dad.

We store the adults’ extra clothes in the carry-on bag while the kids’ back-up outfits (at least two each) are more accessible in the diaper bag or backpack.

Practice how you’ll get your luggage and babies through the airport.

How many bags will you check? Will you be able to push/pull/carry everything from your car to the bag drop, then from there to the gate? Bonus points for things you can transport on your back. We transitioned to a diaper bag backpack years ago. Pack ’n plays and car seat bags with backpack straps are hugely helpful.

Strollers and car seats can usually be checked for free at the bag drop.

Sometimes it’s helpful to keep the stroller through the airport for kids who are tired or stubborn. It can be dropped at the gate before you board, but just be sure to grab a luggage tag from the gate attendant first. Safety tip: use a car seat on the plane or an FAA-approved child-safety harness if your child has his or her own seat.

International flights may have a bassinet that attaches to the bulkhead.

If so, you can lay your baby down and maybe even rest yourself. Be warned: they will make you take your baby out of the bassinet if there is turbulence. This happened to us and our peacefully sleeping babe on a 7-hour red-eye to London. I’m a rule follower. I get it. But…really?

Don’t worry about planning around nap time.

Factoring in the drive to the airport, getting through security, boarding, the flight, de-planing, baggage claim, etc., it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep your kids on their schedule. But that’s OK! They may fall asleep on your lap or in a baby carrier (which I highly recommend for little ones), or they may not sleep at all. I believe routine is important, but I also believe travel is worth an exception.

When your flight lands at your destination, give yourself a pat on the back! (Or maybe one of those bribery treats you packed earlier). Enjoy your trip…and try not to think about the flight home just yet.

What tips do you have for flying with young kids? Share you wisdom with us! 

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Kelsie Rodriguez
I’m a stay-a-home mom to a 3-year-old boy, Theodore, and his baby brother, James, and a wife to my husband of 5 years, Gabe. I grew up in a small town in Michigan, and though I sometimes miss the country, I love living in Metro Detroit! I enjoy reading, playing piano, traveling, trying new restaurants, craft beer, and Michigan sports (Go Blue!). I graduated with a Bachelor's in Psychology and Sociology from U of M in 2009, and received my Master of Social Work degree from Boston University in 2013. Though I'm not currently working, I've found that my degrees turned out to be great training for parenthood!


  1. FYI, DTW has eight or so new nursing/pumping rooms between both terminals. They are well equipped and can provide a nice stress-free place for moms with little ones.

    Also, don’t forget a cover if you check your stroller or carseat. Trust me, when you see what that cover looks like after you get your stuff back, you’ll be glad you used one! Also, if it’s raining, your stroller or carseat will get wet as they transport it back up to the jetway. I saw a pretty unhappy family dealing with a sopping carseat once and felt pretty bad for them!

    I stock up on cheap dollar store toys before a really long flight. It’s an inexpensive way to keep the kiddos entertained with something new!


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