Will you be flying this holiday season? It can definitely get busy and stressful no matter how many times you’ve done it before. After flying with our 6 kiddos countless times, we’e found that following these holiday air travel tips helps us have the smoothest experience possible.
Keep reading for all our best holiday air travel tips with kids!
Holiday Air Travel Tips
Lower expectations & expect delays
This is maybe the biggest tip – expect things to go as poorly as possible, haha! Because when expectations are low, you’ll likely be happy with how things go regardless of what happens. Holiday travel tends to be very busy and people tend to be stressed. So go in with low expectations and don’t be surprised if delays happens.
Try to minimize layovers
More touch points mean more opportunities for things to go wrong. That means higher chances of delays, lost luggage, missed connections, and overbooked flights. One of my best holiday air travel tips is to fly nonstop!
Limit checked luggage and carry on
Speaking of lost luggage, try to avoid checking luggage if at all possible. Practice packing light and go with carry on if you can. Here’s our standard family travel packing list that helps us pack light with kids.
Check alternate airports
Not only can alternate airports sometimes be less expensive, but they might be less busy than the main one, too.
Check in online early
Trust me, you do NOT want to be standing in line (especially with little people) trying to check in if you can avoid it. Much easier to do online beforehand, and you’re more likely to get better seats, too. If you’re able, download the airline’s app on a phone so you have all the boarding passes stored electronically.
Take lots of snacks (and possibly drinks)
Sure, you can buy food in the airport. But sometimes your children (or you) don’t like what’s available. Or all the places are closed. Or you’re stuck on the plane for a long time. Whatever it is, for sure carry plenty of extra snacks (and it doubles as an airplane activity).
I also highly recommend carrying a water bottle along for each child. For older children, carry them empty through the airport, then fill them at a fountain once you get through security. You can also pour the drinks from the plane into them to help prevent spillage.
For younger children, you can actually take drinks through security – they’ll just have to test things like water and milk as you go through. It’s quick and painless!
Wear a mask in crowds
With tons of crowds, it’s worth considering wearing a mask even if don’t regularly in other spaces. It will help protect other travelers, friends & family you’re going to visit, you, and your holiday.
Remember one day of screen time will be fine
Don’t normally do much screen time and are worried about giving in too much while traveling? Don’t. It’s fine. It’s one day. Even if your kids watch a show the ENTIRE travel time, they’ll be just fine in the long run.
Pack extra diapers (even for some potty trained kiddos)
Diapers are one of those essentials that it’s worth having extras of, even if you’re trying to pack light. Better to leave that toy behind and have a few more of these instead!
Travel also means that sometimes a bathroom won’t be readily available. Maybe you’re in the plane and your child needs to go during ascent or descent and seat belts must stay on. Perhaps you’re walking between gates and there’s no restroom in sight. Maybe your child is just nervous about the automatically flushing toilets (if you think this might be a possibility, consider carrying sticky notes to put over the sensor). Or maybe there’s just a long line!
Whatever it is, expect to have to wait a while for the bathroom at some point. If your child recently potty trained or is prone to accidents, consider putting a diaper or pull up on them for the travel day. And if you have an older child who isn’t night trained, make sure to bring a couple diapers for them, too, just in case you have a long delay or even get stuck somewhere overnight.
Lollipops are great as a little pick-me-up for little ones, and can also help out if they’re feeling loud. Plus, if you have a child who tends to feel extra pressure in their ears, the sucking can really help with that.
We’re trying to move away from using candy as a bribe and rather present it as just a fun thing to enjoy during travel. And even if they have several, I promise they won’t expect them all day everyday from then on. It’ll be fine.
…But also include some protein
Candy is just fine, especially while traveling! Do what you gotta do on travel days. And ALSO getting some protein in our kiddos really helps with stabilizing emotions. While it can be tempting to have treats nonstop (for them and for us), I’ve found that my kiddos actually tend to be much happier if I can get some “regular” food in them that they enjoy, too.
Try to travel early or late before or after the holiday if possible (or on the holiday itself)
While it’s not always possible to add in extra days for a vacation, if you can, try to leave a couple days early or stay a few days late to avoid the peak rush. Alternatively, consider traveling on the holiday itself, when crowds are often much lower.
Morning flights have fewer delays
Whatever day you travel, try to schedule an early morning flight if you can. While I’m generally a proponent of traveling whatever time of day is good for your family, busy days are worth trying to get an early flight if you can. They’re much less likely to get delayed or canceled!
Change plans if you’re sick (and consider flexible flight options)
It can be tempting to continue on even if you’re unwell – after all, no one wants to miss out on fun times or waste money already spent. But it will be even less fun if you get a bunch of others sick, too! If you really are ill, consider postponing your trip until you recover. If you must travel, use a mask and regularly use hand sanitizer to try to prevent spreading illness. Flexible flight options are usually a bit more expensive but are also helpful for changing plans if needed!
Carry a portable power bank
You’ll almost certainly be using your phone and other devices quite a bit while traveling – from boarding passes to books to videos for kids. I LOVE this portable charger that has lots of power in it. This mini one is also great and super portable!
Use Waze to avoid traffic
Driving to the airport? Avoid getting stuck in traffic on the way by using a navigation system, even if you know the way. We find that Waze tends to account for traffic even better than Google Maps. If you need to park at the airport, try to purchase parking in advance if possible!
Most importantly, be kind! Remember that everyone is doing their best and it’s a busy time. Be kind to airline and airport staff, as well as to other passengers. It will go a long way!
What other tips do you have for holiday plane travel? I’d love to hear!
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