A Guide to Stress-Free Flying With Kids

Family flight hacks for traveling with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

By Aarti Virani

There’s nothing quite like sharing a destination with your children, but getting there can be a bit of a challenge. Because, let’s face it, no one actually enjoys getting smacked in the face with a safety-instructions card, no matter how adorable the offender. Here we arm parents with some age-specific strategies to prevent high-altitude meltdowns—for everyone involved.


It may seem obvious to opt for the supposedly roomier bulkhead seat when you’ve got your little one in tow, but think again: You’ll be summoned to tuck away your carry-ons during takeoff and landing, precisely when you’ll want to reach for the pacifier or bottle to relieve your baby’s ear pressure. On shorter flights, it’s often best to wait until you’re at the terminal to do a diaper change (unless you want to wrestle with the fold-down plastic shelf in the plane lavatory), so consider picking a seat toward the front of the aircraft for swift deplaning. An added bonus: It’s quieter.


Make sure the whole family doesn’t beeline for the well-intentioned preboarding call to avoid having your 1-year-old buckled in and squirming for an hour before takeoff. If you’re with your partner, divide and conquer: One of you can secure the coveted overhead space by boarding in advance, while the other can squeeze in a few more games of gate-side toddler tag to tucker her out. To keep your kid entertained during the journey, tote a stash of gift-wrapped toys or snacks—even cloaking them in squares of tinfoil could do the trick—and present them as gifts at regular intervals.


You can role-play going through security with your child prior to your vacation so that having to climb out of his stroller or remove his jacket doesn’t come as a total surprise at the airport. Be sure your tablet is charged and loaded with in-flight games (check out these apps for inspiration). If you’d rather keep the entertainment options nondigital, consider other portable pastimes, such as origami (see here for simple directions). Does your child have the preflight jitters? Ask to stop by the cockpit before boarding—a face-to-face with the pilots can be fun and help quell fears.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: November 2017