Preparing for your first flight with a baby or young child can be quite stressful. A busy airport can be an exhausting experience for a full-grown adult, so it’s entirely natural to feel some trepidation at the thought of spending hours in an airport terminal or on a plane with your kid. We’ve put together this article to help you and your family prepare for your upcoming flight and the challenges you may encounter. 

Cancun Mexico

Start Off Right by Choosing a Flight During Nap Time

Things may be easier for everyone involved if you choose to fly at a time when your child may already be drowsy. It can be tricky to predict when your child will be tired, but you should have some sense of when your child is likely to be more relaxed. If you know that your child is more energetic in the mornings, you may want to choose an evening flight. If bedtime is usually a struggle in your household, select a flight in the early morning. 

Choose Window Seats Close to a Restroom

When possible, you should try to keep your kid away from the aisle and other flyers. Being around too many strangers may make your child scared or stressed, which rarely leads to a pleasant flight. Being close to the aisle brings additional hazards as well, such as runaway snack carts. Experiencing a serious injury before you even reach your destination can ruin even the most thorough travel plans, so it’s essential to minimize in-flight risks as much as possible.

If your child is looking forward to the flight, they may enjoy being in a window seat so they can get a good view during takeoff and landing. However, a window seat may not be the best option for a kid with a fear of heights. If there is an available row of seating near the plane’s bathroom, you should try to secure it for the flight. Young kids may need to use the bathroom several times during the flight, so choosing a conveniently-placed seat can save you long trips up and down the aisles. 

Pack Only the Essentials

It’s tempting to bring as many hygiene items, toys, and accessories as you can carry onto the airplane, but packing light may actually be beneficial. Traveling with fewer items leaves you with less bags and accessories to keep track of. Many airports sell or rent items that you’ll need once you hit the ground, from travel strollers to diapers. You should certainly bring enough formula, diapers, and diaper cream to last the duration of the flight, but many of these items can be refilled once the plane lands.

Keep Your Child Occupied

Airport travel includes a considerable amount of downtime, whether you’re waiting in the terminal or on the flight for several hours. To keep your child happy and entertained, you should bring several toys and activities with you. From coloring books to card games to child-friendly tablets, there are countless ways to keep your child engaged. Some things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing games and activities include:

  • How loud the activity is: It’s wise to stay away from anything that could make a lot of noise on the plane. If you have an older child, you may consider bringing something you can play with them, such as a game or pack of cards.
  • What supplies you’ll need: If you’re bringing a tablet, don’t forget to bring extra batteries, a charging cable, and headphones for your kid to wear on the plane or in the terminal.
  • Spare items to bring: Sticker books and coloring books can help your child get through a flight. If your child is artistic, bring some pencils, crayons, and paper for them to doodle on. You can also purchase some snacks for the flight, so your child doesn’t get too hungry.

Prepare Your Child for the Flight 

The airport can be an overwhelming experience for a young child, particularly during their first flight. Clearly explain what to expect and outline what behavior is acceptable. You can help ease any concerns about the upcoming flight by offering to answer any questions your child has about the process. The more prepared a kid is, the more comfortable and calm they will be when the big day finally arrives. Check the turbulence forecast as well, so you can be prepared to buckle up your child if turbulence occurs during your flight.

You might find it useful to act excited about the flight in advance. Although even a fair number of adults aren’t enthusiastic about going through the arduous process of air travel, treating it as a fun adventure can help your child enjoy the experience. In addition to acting optimistic about the trip, you can offer your child a reward for behaving on the plane. Perhaps they can pick out a toy at your destination or watch their favorite movie during the flight, as long as they are on their best behavior. 

Arrive at the Airport Early

Whether you’re traveling solo or with a child, it’s always a good idea to arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight. USA Today notes that it’s generally recommended to arrive two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours early for international travel. This gives you plenty of time to get your boarding pass, check luggage, and wrangle your kids through security without feeling the added stress of a time crunch. If you have extra time once you’ve cleared security, see if the airport you’re at has a play area for your child to enjoy for a few minutes.

Befriend Your Fellow Passengers

There’s never a wrong time to befriend your fellow travelers, particularly if you’re nervous about how well-behaved your kids will be on an imminent flight. Say hello to your fellow passengers while you’re waiting at the gate or in line to board the plane to build some positive sentiments with the people sitting near you. If your child cries a lot during the flight or throws a tantrum, a simple apology can work wonders. With that said, sometimes kids simply have a bad day when a flight is scheduled! Never feel bad or embarrassed about flying with your child.

Enjoying Your First Flight With Your Family

We hope that your first flight with your family is memorable for all the right reasons. Remember to help your child understand what to expect on the flight, pack plenty of fun activities to keep them occupied, and set an appealing reward for good behavior during the trip and you should be good to go!