It’s summer, which means vacation for thousands of families. Whether it’s the North American pilgrimage to Disney, visiting family, or just seeing disparate family members, flying with kids is not easy at any age. Here are some times for making the airplane ride as enjoyable as possible for you as well as your fellow travellers.

The Airplane Ride

Our last flight was intimidating because we had to keep three very young children busy but in their seats for six hours on a nonstop flight across the continent. Our oldest was intrigued by the plane and take off, but got bored fast. The babies needed constant entertainment. Overall we were able to keep them in their seats, quietly playing with toys, and fed to satisfaction so there were no tears or bouts of yelling. If anyone else on the plane was disturbed, it was by the presence of children on the plane, not by noise or invasion of space.

Key takeaways from this excursion were:

  1. Seat Selection: It cost more to pre-book the seats but I am glad we did. As it was we took an entire row just for our family. If we had left it to chance the flight crew would have tried to arrange for us to move together once all the passengers had boarded, but it wasn’t a guarantee. That would have been messy.

  2. Seat Location: We sat as far back as possible on the plane. This was good because most other passengers try to sit near the front of the plane so the back tends to be emptier. We had a great view of the latrine which came in handy for the many in-air diaper changes (what an adventure!).

  3. Feeding: We were still on a three hour schedule for feeding the baby, but fortunately we didn’t need to give him prepared bottles. We bought milk after passing security and managed with sippy cups for the older kids. The flight crew were kind enough to warm up the youngest one’s bottle with milk for us.

    If you are traveling with smaller children, most airlines are able to warm bottles for you (but check ahead!). You are allowed to carry on as much powdered formula as you need but airport security may want to check any prepared bottles. Honestly, if you have to fly with an infant ready-made bottles are your friend assuming your baby doesn’t have an intolerance. They can be consumed at room temperature and are pretty easy to carry around.

  4. Entertainment: Three kids meant three carry-on bags, which we took advantage of to stuff full of small toys. Every thirty minutes or so we would bring out a new toy and put the old one back, keeping things new and interesting. The tactic worked!

    This was before the rise of the iPad – totally bring your iPad if you can!

  5. Time of Day: I booked the flight for nap time! Although there was a lot of excitement and distraction, all of the kids took turns sleeping on the flight. I can’t say enough how thankful we were for those down times!

Other Travellers

No matter how well behaved your kids are there will be other travellers on the plane who have their nose bent out of shape about having to share the cabin space with children. Don’t let them bother you. Honestly the engine noise is louder than any whiney kid; people need to come prepared with headphones and their own entertainment.

At the same time remember that people generally do not board a plane (or bus, or boat) looking to socialize with other travellers - they typically want to be left alone and eke out as much personal space as they can. Your child may be absolutely cute and delightful, but that doesn’t mean other passengers appreciate getting googly eyes, touched, stared at, or otherwise interacted with by uninvited children.

The morale of the story is keep your kids forward facing and entertained. You’re expected to parent your child - that can be a tough job! One day they’ll be grown enough to manage on their own and you can sleep through your flights again, but when you have small kids to take care of that’s all you need to think about doing.


Do you have any horror stories or funny tales to share from your experiences traveling with your kids? Share them below!