Flying with kids isn’t what it used to be. It was never a piece of cake, but with ever-changing COVID restrictions and mandates that can vary by airline and country, it’s more challenging than ever to ensure a family vacation goes off without a hitch. Here are the must-knows for flying with kids right now.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
If you haven’t done your homework on current airline rules, you could get turned away at the gate. That’s no way to start a much-needed family getaway. Visit your airline’s website for approved face coverings and predeparture COVID-19 testing requirements.
If you plan to leave the country, go to AAA Travel’s Know Before You Go page (AAA.com/knowbeforeyougo) or the US Department of State website (travel.state.gov) for country-specific requirements, such as proof of vaccination. As of December 6, 2021, and current at press time, all passengers traveling to the US from abroad (including US citizens returning home from a vacation in a foreign country) must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of travel.
PREP YOUR (WELCOME) DISTRACTIONS
When flying with children, entertaining diversions are critical, especially on long-haul flights. That means you’ll want fully juiced-up electronics and fully charged portable chargers as a backup. There’s nothing worse than a dead iPad in the middle of a six-hour flight.
Remember to bring headphones so that your child can listen to video games or favorite cartoons without the sound disturbing fellow passengers. Find out ahead of time whether your child can tolerate earbuds. Over-ear headphones typically work better for small children.
Before you leave for the airport, download audio books, movies and podcasts that your child can enjoy in airplane mode. While some airlines allow access to Wi-Fi for streaming and downloading, they charge a fee, so it’s best to fill up devices at home.
STOCK UP ON SNACKS
Load up on snacks, such as crackers, granola bars and cookies. There’s no need to focus on the nutritional value of every snack, but do consider the mess quotient of especially sticky and crumbly foods. The goal is to get from point A to point B with minimal fuss and complaints.
Snacks will come in handy in the final minutes of the flight, too. You know, when ear pain peaks due to changing air pressure. Let kids suck on lollipops or chew gum to mitigate their misery (and yours).
A few final strategic moves can go a long way toward overall family happiness and harmony for the duration of the flight.
- Smart Seating: Reserve aisle seats for kiddos who are most likely to get airsick, spill their drink or require several trips to the bathroom. This will ensure the quickest and easiest access to the lavatory. When you first sit down, locate the airsickness bag, too.
- Extra Clothes: Bring extra clothing for spills, of course, but also for warmth. It can be very cold in the cabin. Unless you want to give up your own sweatshirt to the child who wore shorts and a T-shirt on the plane, bring along extra layers for your kids.
- Early Birds: Everything takes longer with kids, so get to the airport early. Be sure you have a selection of quiet activities for the kids to do in case the security line is extra speedy, leaving you with a long wait at the gate. Even an old-fashioned game of I Spy will do in a pinch.