traveling on planes with children

21 November 2017

The usual and massive disclaimer that I'm not an expert and greater travel veterans have gone and written more helpful posts before me - of that I am certain. Take this all with a grain of the pink Himalayan variety.

about to hop on a flight that took off right as our kids should've been going to bed. Don't do that - if at all avoidable. 

Over the course of the past three months we've been on twelve flights with our kids. Some with all of the kids and some with only one or two but kids in tow nonetheless. We've busted out our dinosaur of an iPad one time on one flight and that's not because I'm a screen nazi by any stretch of the imagination. If we were ever to do any sort of transatlantic flying you better believe I'd be investing in a few more screens but we've found a few ways to make the flights as pleasant as possible for the kids, their parents, and their fellow passengers.

Remember! Salt, folks.

1. I don't need to tell you that flying with kids is pricey and living where we live (and have lived) makes it difficult to drive to see our families without tacking on a couple of days on the front and back end of the trips so we finally got a credit card that will earn us miles at the suggestion of my airline miles savvy brother. We've earned enough miles since signing up that we've only paid $60 for all seven us (Abe is still a lap child, praise the good and gracious Lord) to fly a couple of times. We earned a ton of miles by just signing up for the credit card which helped immensely too. Will I ever forgive myself for not signing up for an airline mile happy credit card many moons ago? I don't know.

2. Backpacks - I've found that making a big deal over every kid (yes, even Bosco (2) cares) having their own bag helps make the trip feel more special (and therefore elicits decent behavior) for the kids. The older kids bring their school bags and I found a few of these on eBay but had I seen these first I probably would've gone that route for the younger kids. I'll be honest and admit that sometimes I take full and obnoxious control of what is packed in those bags and sometimes I have NO idea what they pack. It's sweet to see Sebastian pull out a random truck he thought to pack for Bosco and not so sweet to see that Phoebe packed herself a rather large ziplock of semi-sweets while flying through the air but I don't think it makes a HUGE difference either way.

Abe loves flying. So much.

3. Art without the mess - My kids now associate flying with these mess-free drawing pads and they are worth every single penny. All five of the older kids love them and sometimes I think I should stock up in the tragic event that they are discontinued.

4. Snacks - since we often fly on airlines that offer no food or drink without a fee I'm always sure to pack plenty of our own. I try to deviate from our usual snacks a bit so it feels special and exciting but again - I'm not always on top of my game and they get the usual fare they find in their lunches and are just fine with that stuff too.

5. Boarding Last - unless we're flying Southwest where you'd get a random assortment of middle seats smattered throughout the cabin if you wait till the last minute to hop on the flight - we wait to board until the bitter end. The kids are mostly fine on the flights but they're still kids and it's much easier to get someone to the bathroom at the gate than when everyone is boarding and you've been buckled up for ten minutes and counting ...

6. Stroller - Bring one! I mean unless your kids are way beyond the stroller stage they are always useful to pile high with bags, let the slow walkers ride, and gives babies a place to nap. We always bring a carrier as well (SO much easier to go through security wearing a baby than trying to juggle the shoe removal etc while holding a baby) but it's nice to have both options handy.

7. Changes of clothes - We learned this the VERY HARD WAY a few years ago when Theo got really sick on a flight and everything was in our checked luggage. I have two pairs of pants (one for the older set of kids, one for the younger) that will fit various sizes and a couple shirts stashed in my diaper bag in a ziplock JUST in case. If you have them - nothing will happen. Murphy said so.

Not sure if my favorite part of this pic is that her headphones are plugged into nothing or that she somehow snuck and painted her nails right before our trip and did a decentish job.

7. packing cubes  - I was skeptical but I kept reading how much people loves them to put inside suitcases and so I took the plunge and am an official devotee. You can organize them by day (all the outfits for Monday in one pod etc) or by person (the route I go - and treat them like mini dressers on our trip) or by category (pajamas in this one, pants in this one etc) and we've been able to fit alllll of our clothes and shoes into one checked bag and one carry-on because the cubes really do help compact everything. I can't sing their praises enough.

8. Chill Out - I've come to the realization that you can pack backpacks to snack and distraction perfection, time the diaper changes and bathroom breaks just right, and sit across the aisle from the kindest grandmother under the sun but something could/will still go wrong. Flight delays (on the tarmac - anything worse? Yes, but barely), suddenly sick kids, diaper failures, etc etc etc. I know you know that kids can sense your stress and while I'm not one to not stress in stressful situations it helps to know that there's not much to be done and if the lady in front of you turns to glare because your baby is fussy or your threenager kicks their seat - it's fine. She'll forget the inconvenience the second she's off the flight. And if she doesn't - she'll live!

9. Caveat - Right before our 12 hour drive up to Mississippi I do have to share that I bought two of these because I got nervous. We really held them over the kids' heads (after lunch and after a quiet time etc etc) so they felt like a big treat once they got them. Simon and I loaded them up the night before with shows they'd never seen and one movie on each and while they didn't even come close to plowing through all of that - it was nice to have when Bosco was about to lose it at the tail end of our return trip. I much prefer them to our iPad but our iPad is super old and we'll only use them for travel and they fit that bill perfectly.

Alright. Godspeed! 


  1. What do you do about car seats at your destination?

    1. Check 3 (infant and boosters) and borrow the other 3, we’ve lucked out! We did rent some once 😑 pricey but we had to 😅

  2. Have you see the Melissa and Doug water wow books? You do have to stock the pen with water, but once you color on the pages, the color goes away when it dries and you can do it again!

    My daughter always stole her cousin's book in Mass and I felt so bad that she was using up all the pages, then my SIL told me the pages are reusable and I was all WHHAAAT?!

    1. Yes! My kids tend to empty/spill the brush immediately 😑😑😑 but love them for home 😄

  3. We use Southwest and I often fly with my 2 little people alone to visit family (medical school husband haha). It CRACKS me up because people will walk right on past my circus to sit in the back. The person who sits with us is the last person on the plane who has no choice 😂...meaning it's almost always the hungover frat guy who barely made his flight in time. Good.Times.

  4. I have been wondering about those packing cubes for a while. What size & how many do you use for your family?

    1. eight of the medium (these:



Camp Patton © All rights reserved · Theme by Blog Milk · Blogger