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21 Secrets to Flying With Kids From Flight Attendants and Pilots (Who Are Also Parents!)

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“Most people remember to bring extra clothing for the baby but you’ll need some too if there is a major diaper accident or vomiting. It also helps to consolidate your belongings into one diaper bag so you are not fumbling with a whole mess of bags.” —Christie Poulton, flight attendant for 19 years 

“Make sure you’re sitting together before you get on the plane. Computers assign seats and they don’t know that your child is only two years old. If the plane is full I may not be able to help you. Don’t hold up the boarding process because you weren’t proactive.” —Megan Savage, flight attendant four years 

“As a pilot, I can say that most of us don’t mind when you bring the little kids up to the cockpit. As long as it’s not a busy day, a delayed flight or storms, we will let them come in and look around and see things. Avoid before takeoff but after landing is usually a good time.” —Ryan S., pilot for four 

“If your child is prone to motion sickness try to avoid sitting toward the back of the plane where the ride is bumpier.” —Christie Poulton

“Once you’ve sat down, fastened your seat belts and gotten settled in, resist the urge to allow your toddler out of the seat to walk around. If you let them get up to roam the aisles they normally lose it when it’s time to sit back down. Not to mention that it’s dangerous to let them wander, even if there is a parent close by. There are many fall hazards and unexpected turbulence as well. With my own kids, I’ve found they did much better on medium/short haul flights if they were never allowed to get up from their car seats except to go to the bathroom.” —Agnes J., flight attendant for 20 years

“Always dispose of used diapers in the trash can and never ever in the toilet! I’ve seen diapers completely render the bathroom inoperative. We once had someone throw a diaper into the toilet on a transcontinental flight and had to block the lavatory off for five hours—only one toilet for 150 passengers!” —Christie Poulton

“Don’t pull out all your tricks at once. Too many times I see parents pull out the snacks and have a movie playing while we’re still boarding. Flying for most kids is exciting. Let them just take it all in for a while. Save the snacks and tablet time for when they’ve actually gotten bored with the experience.” —Keri Kuhlmann, flight attendant five years

“For many babies, including my son, flying earlier in the morning is better because they generally sleep on the early flights but the later it gets the more they stay awake. For young children it helps as they’re often less cranky and better behaved in the morning.” —Ryan S.

“Cabin temperature can vary widely. It’s a good idea to be able to quickly pull on a sweatshirt or jacket if your child gets cold or take off a layer if they’re warm.” —Keri Kuhlmann

“Don’t forget your child’s favorite blanket. First, it smells like home and second, most airlines do not have blankets on board anymore.” —Christie Poulton

“If you’re bringing car seats for your kids, make sure they are airline approved. Not all seats will work in airplanes and then you’re stuck with something you can’t use at the gate. Plus kids are used to being confined when in their seats and they are usually happier there.” —Mike Gudmundson, pilot 26 years 

“Having a sippy cup is a good idea as it can help children’s ears and comfort them. We are a big fan of these disposable cups. They work great and if we accidentally lose one on the trip it’s no big deal.” —Christie Poulton

“Infants have very small Eustachian tubes which allow the pressure to equalize in their inner ears. This can mean a lot of pain and crying during takeoff and landing because little kids have no other way to tell you their ears hurt. Having something for them to suck on during the ascent and descent, like a lollipop or pacifier, will help lessen the pain—for everyone.” —Mike Gudmundson

“A big problem is when people buy one ticket, designating their baby as a ‘lap child’ to save money. Often they will then put the child in an empty seat next to them but that’s actually illegal. A lap child must sit on your lap. If you’re unsure what you can do, ask the flight attendants, they know all the rules.” —Ryan S.

“Bring more diapers than you think you’ll need because we don’t have any on the plane.” —Christie Poulton

“Go to the dollar store and buy a few inexpensive toys (sticker books are a great option!) and wrap them in fun, sparkly, colorful wrapping paper. Then hide them in your carry on bags and reveal them one at a time. Kids love a surprise and unwrapping the gift will add to the fun and keep them occupied longer.” —Agnes J.

“If your child prefers to drink milk, buy a carton from a store in the airport since you can’t bring any liquid through security, even if it’s in a bottle or sippy cup. Most airlines do not carry milk.” —Christie Poulton

“Bring as many new toys and activities as you can fit in a carry-on and can afford. New toys are always better than old when you’re a kid! You just spent a gazillion dollars on tickets, $50 or so dollars on entertainment that will keep them riveted for a seven-hour flight is a good investment.” —Mike Gudmundson

“Bring baby wipes for quick clean ups and extra plastic bags to dispose of any trash that you create. I can’t tell you how many times parents and kids leave crumbs and trash strewn across their row despite us having walked by to collect trash multiple times over the course of the flight! Think of it like a national park—you pack it in and you pack it out.” —Christie Poulton

“Kids are all about the snacks. Small snacks, like cereal, will keep them entertained longer. You can try to feed them healthy snacks if you want but often treats make better bribes. Don’t worry, they can go back on their regular diets after they get off the 14 hour flight to Japan! This works especially well on grumpy teenagers.” —Mike Gudmundson

“Make sure they have taken care of all bathroom needs prior to the plane ride and be mindful of liquid intake afterward and its impact on bathroom frequency. It may sound harsh but know that we cannot always accommodate an emergency bathroom trip. This last weekend I had a dad come up to the front just as we were taxiing, telling me his son ‘really needs to go poop and can’t wait.’ I had to tell him no! If we’d let him in the bathroom, we would have had to take a delay, which is a cardinal sin in the airline world!” —Christie Poulton

 

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