General Advice about Airplane Travel with Kids

General advice from Park Slope Parents' members on airplane travel with children including airline rules and regulations, sleeping and the essentials to bring with you on board.


(image via Wikimedia Commons here)


Airline Rules and Regulations


Always check with the airline you are going to travel with about their policies for traveling with children: from what you can carry on and amenities on board. We advise to always check ahead of time:





Jet Blue



Most airlines require the reservation and purchase of a seat (often at discounted fare, however) for a child 24 months or older.  Some airlines, especially with international travel, require an affidavit letter from the absent parent if the child is traveling with only one of two parents.  Be sure to check with your airline!


Many airlines do not “allow” parents to wear the infant in a front carrier (such as a Baby Bjorn) during takeoff.


Travel Tips / Advice:

- Plan on delays so leave early. Strollers, bottles, bathroom visits, adn kid meltdowns can slow you down and you don't want to miss a flight or train because of it. Also plan longer layovers in case of delays with kids. 

- Discuss the plan with the kids so they know what to expect. Talk about standing in lines at check-in, going up in a plane (and that is safe), staying in a hotel or with family, etc.  Outline thoughtful behavior (no kicking seats) beforehand. 

- Bring fun snacks that kids like to eat and snacks that take a long time to eat, like lollipops. A plane delay means you won't get served snacks so have them with you. 

- Bring a new toy:  wrap it in paper to occupy some time opening it and make it more exciting.

- Have a project for the plane.  Some ideas: put stickers in a home-made ‘sticker book’.  Bring some construction paper cut into card size and make cards for whoever you are going to see.  More ideas can be found HERE for how to keep your tots busy on board. 

- Put pictures of people you are going to see in a small plastic photo album and look at the pictures on the plane.

- Remember the lovey!  Traveling can make kids anxious so having their go to comforting item may make the difference. Keep track of that sucker!

- Portable devices, iPads, or laptops that can play videos can be a lifesaver. Remember to pack the cords!

- Go with the flow; kids can find entertainment in the strangest places.  The glass hotel elevators may end up being the thing that your kid wants to ride on more than a roller coaster. You may find the hotel pool is more exciting to your kids than the amusement park. Subway surfing may be better than the carriage ride.

- Don't overschedule. Travel can be fun but also draining.  The "Go Go Go" can burn kids (and parents) out quickly so leave gaps for some rest and relaxation. 

- Let older kids plan. It allows kids to feel like they have agency in their trip and can some of the burden off you. 


Boarding Advice:

- Pre-board to give you and your child plenty of time to settle in before takeoff.  

- If your child is restless, have one adult pre-board with all the bags and equipment and have the second adult board later with the child.


Seating Advice:


- Bulkhead Seats:  They provide extra room but are now considered Premium Economy by many airlines & are an additional fee to be paid when you book or when you choose your seats online.  Some airlines won't assign these seats until checking in at the airport and many airlines have an age restriction for emergency rows, so if you want one, arrive extra early.  Always check with your airline.  If your child still fits in a bassinet you can place one on the floor and let her nap in it. Or you can set up a blanket on the floor and let her nap there too. (Bring a warm blanket or a sack.)  However, in some bulkhead seats the arm rests won't go up and a car seat will not fit.

- Sitting at the back of the plane is good for others because the engine noise sometimes lulls children to sleep.

- Seat your child in the middle seat if possible since those seats are often not occupied on partially booked planes, and there's less chance of your child annoying the person in front.  Try booking seats A & C when you travel because unless the flight is packed, the airlines won't put someone in the middle (B) seat and you can use it for your child. If the flight is full, someone always will let you switch seats.   Some airlines require window seats for car seats.


Ear Comfort:  


- Have the child eat or drink during takeoff and landing.  This includes nursing, sucking on a pacifier, drinking from a bottle or cup, or just eating a favorite snack.  There are also specially designed ear plugs for kids to hep with equalizing during takeoff and landing.


Bathroom and Changing Area Advice:


- Change your baby RIGHT before you get on the plane.  Many smaller/older planes don’t’ have changing stations in the bathroom.

- Ask flight attendants in advance which restrooms are equipped with changing tables

- If the flight is not full and there is a bathroom emergency, change your child in the middle seat




- Plan the flight, if possible, to accommodate nap schedules

- Some parents recommend using Benadryl to help your child sleep.  However, test it out on your child before the trip, because it makes some children hyper.

- Bring a child's "lovey" and milk to encourage naps.

- If your child will sleep in his/her car seat, by all means bring it along.  You get a break if you don't have to hold them while they sleep.


General Tips & Considerations when flying:


- You can take the stroller to the gate - so if you are taking one, it’s convenient to do so.

- Take a change of clothes - one for the kids and one for you!

- ALWAYS take enough in what you carry on to last you a night (or two) if they lose your luggage.

- When your child is old enough to be moving around a lot, don't board the plane until the last group of people is called. This will give you at least an extra half hour of time not being cooped up on the plane. 

- Most airlines are least crowded on Thursdays and Saturdays - so these are often the best days to fly.

- Try Baby B’air ( to secure your child to your lap belt during the flight.  Or try a sling to secure your baby on take-off and landing.  Many airlines do not allow wearing an infant in a Baby Bjorn front carrier!

- Try to avoid having to wash anything on the plane (bottles, cups, etc) - bring extras or disposables. The bathrooms on planes can be really disgusting and just not ideal for such usage.

- Traveling Internationally:  some countries require a certified birth certificate (or a passport). Good to get a copy of your existing birth certificate so you have a back up.
If your baby is crying inconsolably, try taking your baby to the back of the plane and walking with him there. The noise of the engines and the vibrations are often soothing for babies. Also, the engine noise will drown out your baby's cries and you'll feel better!
Take extra bags for dirty diapers (especially if you have to change in the seat)