You’ve booked the hotel, you’ve booked the flight, your bags are packed, and you and the kids have just arrived at the airport… now what? When traveling with children, getting from the point of airport drop-off to take-off can seem like an arduous task, but it doesn’t have to be! As a former flight attendant (and witness to many airport/airplane tantrums), I’ve put together some helpful tips that can ease your anxieties around flying with your babies and kiddos. Hopefully, you find some of these ideas useful for your next flight!
8 Things Every Mom Should Know Before Take-Off
TSA Screening for Kids.
According to the TSA website, children under 12 do not have to remove their shoes or jackets during screening. Children who are able to do so can walk through the screening separate from their parent. Infants will stay in their carrier to come through with you. Most importantly, every parent should know that their child will NOT be separated from them during screening at any time. You can learn more about this process at Traveling with Children | Transportation Security Administration (tsa.gov)*Tip: If you are traveling with someone you feel may need special care or additional assistance at the screening checkpoint, there is a great support program for travelers called TSA Cares. Click here to look over the TSA Cares form if you think it’s something you may require before your next flight.
Yes, you CAN bring snacks!
Every mom knows that snacks can really save the day, especially in unfamiliar or high-stress situations (like flying). Yet, a lot of travelers mistakenly assume they can’t bring their favorite snacks along. As long as your food is not liquid, gel, or spreadable, you can bring it! Just remember, it will still have to undergo x-ray screening. More on what you can bring: What Can I Bring? All | Transportation Security Administration (tsa.gov) *Tip: Letting your child eat something or your baby drink something during your flight’s descent can relieve the pressure in their little ears!
Formula, Breastmilk, Juice and Baby Food are exempt from the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule!
Items like these are considered medically necessary (even gel teething rings!). Just let the TSA agent helping you through screening know that you have formula or breastmilk with you and take it out of your carry-on to be screened. These items must still undergo screening, but this process is safe and will not compromise the contents of you baby’s required food items. For mamas who are pumping breastmilk, you CAN bring those pumps with you through screening and use them freely (including inflight); you may want to bring battery powered or manual pumps as not every aircraft is equipped with in-seat power connections. For many airlines, such as United, your pump may be brought onboard in ADDITION to your carry-on items. Traveling with children (united.com) *Tip: Bring your EMPTY water bottles through security and fill them at water stations throughout the airport!
You CAN bring your child’s car seat.
If you think your child isn’t quite big enough to sit comfortably in the aircraft seat, feel free to bring their car seat along with you! It does not have to go in your checked luggage, just bring it through the screening checkpoint to be screened along with the rest of your carry-ons. It’s important to note that your child’s car seat must be properly labeled for inflight use (flight attendants WILL check!). You will know it’s safe by looking at the manufacturer’s sticker (usually on the side of the seat). If it reads, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft,” then you’re good to go! *Tip: it’s usually written in red font. Here are the FAA’s requirements regarding car seats and other approved child restraint systems.
You CAN bring your child’s stroller.
Strollers are a mom’s best friend. You don’t have to part from your child’s stroller just because you’re flying. You should feel comfortable bringing it to use while in the airport. When you get to your aircraft gate, your airline will “gate check” it for you. But don’t worry, it’s not going to baggage claim! It will be brought back up to the jet bridge once you reach your connection city or destination. Stroll on, Mama!
Take advantage of the inflight entertainment.
What’s better than flying through the air like a bird? – Getting to watch TV while you do it! Most major airlines have in-seat entertainment available for each passenger; but there are still many aircraft without the in-seat feature, so I encourage you to download your airline’s app on your personal device BEFORE take-off. (You will not be able to download the app during flight, so do it before hand). You can then log on using the aircraft Wi-Fi and enjoy! Most of it is Free! *Tip: If you think you will be making inflight purchases, go to your airline’s app and add a form of payment (this includes purchases on meals and beverages!). Many airlines are going cashless and touchless and often only accept payment through their app! Airlines like United offer great advice on how to set up payment for inflight purchases through their app. Be sure to check with your airline.
You CAN board early with your infant or toddler.
Most airlines offer early boarding for families with infants and children ages 2 and under. Nice, right? Once you reach the gate area, be sure to listen to the gate announcements regarding preboarding for families traveling with young children. Having those few extra minutes to get your kids seated can make a big difference and will give you time to catch your breath! And speaking of boarding announcements, ALL of them are important so be sure not to tune those out. You’re doing great, mama!
Ask to see the cockpit.
Most of these tips are about how to make traveling easier, but it should be fun too. Having worked in the airline industry, I can promise you NOTHING lights up a kids face like getting to see where the pilots work! And most parents just don’t know they can ask. As long as you’re not running to the plane as the door is shutting behind you, there is usually plenty of time during boarding (or even deplaning) to ask the flight attendant if your child can take a peek inside.
I asked Jason, a pilot currently working for a major airline, to share his thoughts on kids visiting the cockpit. Jason explains, “A kid’s imagination is big and something like flying can seem almost magical. I always tell them that 30 years ago I was asking to look into the cockpit just like them! I especially like to let them push buttons and listen to the alarms!” Memories like this reach farther than you might think! *Tip: Don’t forget to ask for wings for kiddo!