Traveling with young children by plane

by Muhammad Sahabuddin

Best tips for flying with children – No, we have not gone crazy. Today we have decided to talk a little about this topic because many mothers ask their pediatricians, if their children can travel by plane. In general, they are usually first-timers and with a baby, but there are also plenty of questions from more experienced mothers asking you for some advice for the flight.

Airplanes have become a common and comfortable means of transportation in the last 20-30 years. What was once prohibitive is now more accessible, which is why many families consider using the plane for their trips to vacation spots. Many of you have already taken a plane, but surely if you are reading this post it is because you have never done it with children or at least ask yourself questions about it.

Little, or better said, nothing can be found in the pediatric books we have studied about children (who are not sick) and flights, so everything you will read below is based on our personal experience and the from our friends and family as well as the information extracted from the websites of the main airlines in our country. In our case, we have already taken 8 flights with our youngest child of two years (two of them 10 hours long). We also have a niece of almost 5 years who has taken countless flights since she was born since her parents lived in a country different from US and came to visit us frequently. We have also had the advice of a stewardess friend, mother of two 5-year-old girls with whom she has already flown on several occasions.

In this post, you will find useful information when scheduling the flight as well as tips that you can use when you have taken off. Most of the things you read below are designed for mothers with children under the age of 6-7 since those over this age are autonomous enough that they do not need as much supervision on your part.

And remember, the flight is the beginning of the journey. Think about how good you are going to have later and do not get overwhelmed as soon as the holidays begin. Taking a plane is the procedure to get where you want to be, so don’t be bitter!!

Plan your flight in advance

Traveling with children always involves an additional effort at the organizational level. But if you add to this that they are going to have to be locked up in a very narrow place, it can become an odyssey. Keep in mind that young children need to move, release energy, and unlike adults, they are sometimes difficult to control.

Therefore, you should try to schedule the flight at times that match the rhythm of your children’s life. In addition to the hours of the flight itself, you will have to have 1-2 hours more before and after it. If your child usually takes a good nap after eating, it is ideal that you take a mid-morning flight, if on the contrary, your child is a night sleeper, night flights will be your best option.

Young children travel “free”

Most airlines only charge per seat occupied. For this reason, children under 2 years old only pay a very small part of the fare (in general, they are the airport fees that correspond, approximately, to 10% of the adult fare) since they travel in the arms of their parents. It can be a little uncomfortable for big babies, but if you do get them to sleep the flight is usually a delight for them. The flight attendants will give the parents of the child a special belt to tie the child during takeoff and landing that is intertwined with an adult one. They will also give you a special life vest for the baby.

If you do not want to carry your child, most airlines offer the possibility of getting a ticket for the child under 2 years old but occupying a seat. You must carry a car seat approved as a restraint system that will be placed in the seat assigned to the baby. In this case, the ticket will be billed as a child from 2 to 11 years old. Finally, a maximum of two children under the age of 2 can fly per adult, one in the arms of the mother and the other in an approved chair in an adjacent seat (so the latter is billed at a higher price).

Children from 2 to 11 years old have a seat, so the ticket is more expensive than that of a baby. Still, in this age range, most companies offer discounts on the adult fare to make the flight cheaper.

The smaller the child, the better

You may have already noticed that traveling by plane with a child under the age of two is more costly than with an older child, but also young children tend to tolerate a plane trip better than older children and pediatricians see no problem for these children to fly no matter how long.

Below six months, the flight for them does not vary much from the routine they do in their daily life: eating, sleeping, and being in the arms of their parents. Therefore, at this age, flights with children are usually very quiet. If also, your child only breastfeeds, flight will be sewing and singing. Another advantage of flying with young children is that many companies offer “cots” on international flights for children under 8 months (and up to 11 kilos) where you can leave the baby while he is sleeping. If you want to use them, you must contact your company before the flight to be assigned.

Take-off/landing moment: the most feared

All of us who have traveled by plane have experienced plugging of our ears during takeoff and landing. This occurs because inside the airplane cabin the air pressure changes without time for the ear to adapt (something similar to what happens to divers). As adults, we can compensate for this pressure difference by chewing gum or blowing on our noses.

Children are no different in this respect from adults and also undergo this pressure change. The difference is that they do not know what to do to solve it and they also experience it as an unpleasant sensation that often causes them to cry. The worst that can happen is babies. To help them you can offer them a bottle or just a pacifier.

Safety above all

As we said at the beginning of the post, traveling by plane is becoming more frequent, but this does not mean that we strictly follow the safety recommendations.

You have been able to see what the seat belts of children under 2 years are like. Those of older children are the same as those of the adult. Children must be tethered most of the time (and especially if requested by flight personnel) since when faced with unexpected turbulence they can “fly” out of the seat due to their low weight compared to the adult. For the same reason, it is better to be in the seat that walking around the plane.

In the very unlikely and infrequent event that oxygen masks skip, remember to put on yours first and then help children.

And what do I feed them on the plane?

If your child is breastfeeding it is very easy since the food is incorporated and it will not be very different from what you usually do (on-demand, right?).

If your child takes artificial lactation, you must ask the flight personnel to heat the water to prepare the bottle. Most airplanes do not have a microwave, so water is normally heated in a water bath.

Regarding solids, mothers usually take their food for a short trip in case the child wants to snack on something (some fruit, bread …).  In the case of longer flights, you can choose to bring your food from home (and if necessary heat again). We recommend that you bring things that do not need to be heated, such as pasta or rice salad. And think it’s better than about, don’t go running into a boy screaming that he wants to eat above the sky. You know your children better than anyone else so think about how they might like them.

You may also prefer that your children eat the food offered by the airline, but you have to take into account some important details:

1. Children under 2 years old, when they do not occupy a seat, do not count for meals (some companies offer the possibility of jars or similar but you have to notify in advance).

2. For children between 2 and 11 years old, when they occupy a seat, the company offers them a children’s menu (you must also notify the company at least 48 hours in advance). If your children are very special eating it is better that you bring them food from home that we all know how good the meals on the planes are.

Regarding liquids, airport security regulations allow mothers of children to carry with them the amount of water they think is sufficient to give their children to drink or prepare a bottle for them. So do not cut yourself off and take a couple of two-liter bottles in case.

Little boy traveling by plane. He looking out illuminator holding tablet PC on his lap

Entertaining children: your main objective

This is one of the most feared parts for mothers when they consider taking a plane or have lived in their flesh as a 2-3-year-old child has been crying for two hours without anyone being able to calm him down because he is bored.

To avoid this situation, you have to try to entertain the child as long as possible. Perhaps the most complicated age is between one year and two years of life, a stage in which children are usually whirlwinds with very short attention cycles (that is, they are easily entertained but quickly want to change activities).

For this you must carry in the cabin luggage toys or gadgets that you know will entertain your children: stories, small board games, dolls, paintings … and you can always use electronic devices (mobile or tablets). (Although you should not use them daily in your children, on a plane trip they can be very useful.) If you have decided to use them, remember that you will have to put them in “airplane mode” so the videos or games they use must be downloaded.

Some companies offer a toy to children but we do not believe that they will be entertained for the entire trip.

What do I put in the suitcase?

Children, even if they are under 2 years old, have the right to carry hand luggage in the cabin. In that bundle, you should put everything your child may need during the flight hours (in addition to the toys).

Essential change clothes: You never know when you are going to have to change your child, either because the water has been thrown over it or because it doesn’t feel good to fly and throw up a vomit. So put at least one replacement for each garment.

Some companies offer diapers but it is better not to risk it and bring your own. Depending on the duration of the flight you will need more or less, but as in the case of clothing, better than about missing. Do not worries about where to change them since the planes have changing tables in some of the bathrooms?

Some suitcases are designed for children (Trunki) and can be carried in the cabin. They may be bright colors and very beautiful, but keep in mind that if your children get tired, you will be the one who finally carries them, so perhaps it is better to carry a bag or backpack.

And what do I do with the child’s stroller?

Like wheelchairs, strollers cannot travel in the aircraft cabin. However, they are objects that you can take to the door of the same, and once there, the airport staff will pick them up to drop them off at the gate. It is very important that when you check in your suitcases they put a special tag so that when you arrive at the destination they will deliver the stroller to you as soon as you get off the plane and you do not have to wait for them to leave with the other suitcases.

Do I need to bring a kit for my child?

Most companies carry medication on board in case a passenger needs an analgesic or antipyretic. Specifically, they usually carry paracetamol tablets and syrup (the latter for children). They will ask you to sign a release consent for having delivered it. In any case, it is better to put a thermometer and the antipyretic that you normally give your child in the handbag and not depend on whether or not there is medication on the flight. Of course, if your child uses medication regularly (salbutamol, antiepileptics, insulin …) you should take it with you (and remember to attach the prescription so that they do not put you in trouble at the security controls of the plane).

Airplanes also carry medical equipment to use in an emergency but can only be used if a doctor is responsible for their use onboard.

Ask for help if necessary

Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. During the flight, the stewardesses will be happy to lend a hand to make the trip easier for you and your children since this will ensure that the rest of the passengers on the plane do not bother with the presence and activity of your little ones.

Finally, if you are traveling alone with your child, ask for help from a passenger to help you load the suitcases and you can push the child’s stroller through the terminal. In general, people are willing to help and it is very rare that on a flight with more than 200 people there is not someone willing to help you out.

In summary, traveling with children by plane does not have to be a bad experience. Good planning and time management will help you have the best time possible. Remember that flight is only the means of transport to the trip you want to make, so do not be bitter.

With children, an unforeseen event may be the order of the day, so don’t forget to bring food, clothes, diapers and the medicines you may need.