Tips for Flying with Children

Flying with your children can be a wonderful family adventure or a thoroughly miserable experience for one and all. The key, of course, is preparation. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your trip is free from family "turbulence."

Before You Leave

  • Less crowds means less stress! If you have the option, book your flights for non-peak travel times: Mondays - Wednesdays, at midday, or in the evening.
  • Pack plenty of entertainment for the flight, including snacks, drinks, and activities. Bring far more than you think you'll need—you never know if you'll be delayed.
  • What to bring? Pack activities such as books, activity/coloring books, travel-sized board games, playing cards, and CD players. If your child has a portable video game system or LeapPadŽ, you will never appreciate it more. (Be sure to charge it the night before!)
  • Prepare your child for the trip. Tell him what to expect at the airport and on the plane, and give him tips for how to behave. (When checking or screening baggage, reassure your child he will get his belongings back—something many kids worry about.)
  • Remind your child that it's illegal to make any kind of jokes about bombs. According to the FAA, even a child's jest can result in fines and delays.

In the Airport

  • Allow extra time at the airport. As you know, everything takes l-o-n-g-e-r when traveling with kids.
  • Give your child safety rules, such as what to do if you become separated. Should she stay where she is and wait for you?
  • One way to pass time in the airport is to give your child a little "airport allowance." Visiting the shops in search of the perfect snack or a magazine can keep kids happy and busy for extended periods.
  • Even if you don't ordinarily use a child tether, consider using one just in the airport. Remember, you will be distracted when checking in and claiming your luggage. There may be moments when you have to let go of your child's hand.

On the Plane

  • Take-offs and landings can be painful for little ears. Bring along ear filters, which buffer eardrums against rapidly changing air pressure. Encourage your child to swallow by offering beverages, gum, or hard candy.
  • For maximum entertainment valve, bring toys out one at a time, and put one away before introducing the next.
  • Seat your child by the window. Most kids find the view fascinating. It's also safer than sitting on the aisle, where little arms and legs could get bumped.
  • Remember, not all passengers appreciate the joys of children...even a wonderful child like yours! Plan to keep your child entertained. (Some parents of noisy kids deliberately choose seats in the back of the plane, where engine noise can muffle piping voices.)

A Note about Safety

The Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommends that smaller children be seated in Child Restraint Systems ("CRS")—in other words, your child's car seat or booster.

Here are the FAA's weight guidelines regarding child safety seats:

  • For babies less than 20 lbs., use a rear-facing car seat
  • For children 20 - 40 lbs., use a forward-facing car seat or booster
  • For kids weighing more than 40 lbs., use the airplane seat belt

For more information regarding child safety seats on planes, visit:
http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/

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