10 Secrets for Flying With Children

Stress-free strategies for air travel with kids


The Wood family knows how to take the stress out of flying.

Photo courtesy of Adrian Wood

I learned early on in my parenting career that flying with children requires special resolve and so, I shall divulge my best secrets for parents everywhere.

1. Do not look nice. Think about taking a trip with your children as being similar to a day at the fair. You should dress comfortably, as you will likely be chasing little people eager to get lost or run over by an airport golf cart. Looking a bit ragged will also foster sympathy from people in uniforms.

2. Take your kids’ scooters. No need to spend your precious time reading the fine print regarding airport transportation rules. Skateboards, hover boards and electric scooters are all prohibited. Nowhere, however, are scooters blacklisted. If you happen to see three children whizzing by on their old Razors, they belong to me. 

3. Beg for family privilege. Always ask the ticket agent to direct you to the designated family line. If you’re really desperate, wait a few minutes, then confidently make your way to the front of the first class line, where you must begin breast-feeding or claim that you need to, even if you only have school-age children. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

4. Remember the 3-ounce rule. This limit applies to any liquid, lotion or baby food. I’ve taken it on the chin and suffered an intimate pat down in the name of mothers everywhere, all in a dispute over trying to smuggle more than 3 ounces of jarred baby food onto a plane.

5. You must never ever act like you know how to break down a stroller. Request a stroller “self-check.” This unadvertised service involves a stern-faced agent walking your stroller through a gate and using a handheld scanner. Yep, no juggling children as you desperately fold up a stroller.

6. Never ever switch seats with someone. It’s always best to get on the plane as early as possible. Once, there was a person who had been assigned to the same seat as me and the gate agent asked me if I would be willing to disembark so we could “talk” about it. I was polite and kind, but very firm in my “no.”

7. This is not the time to be pious about electronics. You must travel armed with iPads downloaded with new movies. As you walk down the aisle, ignore the children reading or playing cards — their mothers are trying to show off.

8. Do NOT eat in the airport. That is such a rookie move. Always board the plane hungry and loaded down with a variety of airport food items — garlic knots, bananas and bagels. Eating is a wonderful activity to fill flying time and the hour spent in the airport should be dedicated to gift shop browsing and energy burning.

9. Always travel with extra clothes. Even if it’s just a generic T-shirt that could halfway fit any one of your kids, better to be safe than sorry. I have spent an entire flight trying to dry out an outfit drenched in apple juice. The tiny blower above your head is extremely useless, FYI. I won’t even tell you about the stomach virus that struck us — in the airport, before our flight.

10. Ignore the seatbelt sign at all costs. Only during takeoff and landing should you enforce the measure that requires a headlock, wary dispersion of Skittles and excessive screaming. Allow your toddler to travel up and down the aisle, despite the gawking from other passengers, while you pretend to be asleep.

Abandon your goal of traveling perfection and remember to have fun. Flying with children is an adventure you will remember. Better to relish the insanity than be annoyed.

Adrian H. Wood, Ph.D., is a North Carolina writer who lives in Edenton with her husband and four children, the youngest of whom has extra-special needs. Read more of her writing at talesofaneducateddebutante.com.


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