Flying with Kids- What You Really Need

sanity If I can do it with an 8 months old and a 4 year old while having a lay-over and plane change, you can do it to!

Is it possible to fly with kids and keep your sanity? Yes!

If I can do it with an 8-month-old and a 4-year-old while having a layover, plane change, and missed plane you can do it to!

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Do you plan to fly with kids? If your kids have never been on a plane, you might be a little anxious, I know I was.  That’s why I really planned ahead and thought through things that would help our trip go as smoothly as possible. 

This July, my husband and I flew to Colorado to attend a church camp, called Nationwide Youth Roundup (aka, NYR). Years ago, I convinced my husband’s family (we were just dating at this point) to go along with my church’s youth group to Colorado. We drove the 17+ hours for 5 years in a row, we endured several flat tires, two bad alternators, an invitation to a rodeo, an impromptu hotel stay and much more.

Going to camp was truly one of the most life-changing experiences I can remember.  Sitting under the stars, breathing the open air, worshiping and learning about God up in the mountains with over 2,000 people–it doesn’t get much better than that.

Did I mention the nice row of Port-o-Potties that lined the open field, or the small shower house where the water came out in a trickle. It’s funny that those are the talking points when we “promote” the camp to others.  We don’t shy away from those “hardships” (first world problems) because we know that we will strengthen our relationship with Jesus and make unforgettable memories. If you’ve been to a life changing church camp you understand what I’m talking about.

My husband and I knew we wanted our kids to grow up learning about God and going to church camp, so why not start now? There is something about being in the wilderness away from everything.  God’s leading feels so much stronger when we draw near to Him and get rid of all the distractions in life (there is no cell service at the camp). This camp changed my life with Christ forever. I baptized someone for the first time and I saw God working in a way that was bigger than me.  At this point, I really knew there was something more to this life. I always came back challenged and ready to serve God in any way He wanted to use me.  It’s sad to think that my fervor has faded, especially when I know God has never lost sight of me.

Rather than drive the 17+ hours with two kids we decided that we should probably fly this year, maybe next year we will drive– eek! That seems like a long time in a car!

Flying, although shorter than driving, can have it’s own set of challenges. I was a little worried about flying with kids. I decided to start packing early. I washed all my kids’ clothes and packed their bags first.  That was pretty easy, minus toothbrushes, we would need to be using those. Then I made a list of all the gear we would need for the kids and for us.

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flying with kids If I can do it with an 8 months old and a 4 year old while having a lay-over and plane change, you can do it to!

If you’re flying, here are some of the things that will help keep you sane

1. Snacks

Snacks are a must!  You don’t want a hangry (hungry + angry) meltdown in the middle of the flight, do you?  No, no one wants that. So make sure you bring good snacks! When I flew a couple months ago, snacks saved my life. I flew with my daughter to my grandpa’s funeral, puffs kept her busy while we were waiting at the airport and during take-off.  They were a pretty special treat, because I don’t give them to her often.

To prepare for our recent trip, I took my son through the bulk section of the grocery store.  He never gets to pick out candy, so this was a very big treat! I asked him what 3 things he wanted for the trip.  It’s always important to include your kids when making decisions. They love to have a little power, especially when it’s not that big of a deal.

flying with kids sanity If I can do it with an 8 months old and a 4 year old while having a lay-over and plane change, you can do it to!

Snacks Ideas:

  • fig bars
  • yogurt raisins
  • bulk candy
  • pretzels
  • sesame sticks
  • whole apple
  • crackers
  • nuts (bulk)
  • trail mix
  • granola bars (I like to make my own, I use this recipe here)
  • squeezies for the kids (apple sauce or other fruit blends)
  • dried fruit

Portion Ziplock Bags (click for link)

Infant Ideas: (if over 6 mos.)

2. Activities

Who goes on a plane without something to pass the time? Before kids, I used to read. Now I spend the flight trying to keep them occupied.

I brought some activities for my 4 year old to do in case he got bored. As always, I had him help me decide what we should bring.  If your traveling with kids, it’s a good idea to let them help you with this process. When choosing things, I steered the conversation for sure, like “Oh, wouldn’t it be good to bring something to color, which coloring book would you like to bring?”  I had some ideas in mind, I just let him think he was making all the decisions.  Oh, the manipulation of parenting!  Insert happy mom face here 🙂

I knew he would probably ask a million questions and talk non-stop during the flight. (I have promoted an inquisitive mind from day one, so silence is something I only get during nap time. Ahhh.. nap time.) But, if he did need something to do, I wanted to be ready!

My son loves cars, so I had him pick out 2 cars to bring.  I made sure to let him know that sometimes things get lost while on trips, so he shouldn’t pick his very favorites.  I’m not sure this worked, because he picked a Mater and a Lightning McQueen– ones he plays with often. He assured me it was okay, because he doesn’t like them that much and he has other Maters and Lightnings.

Here’s what we brought:

  • Lightning McQueen counting book
  • mini coloring book
  • Boogie Board (If you haven’t heard of this, you need to check it out, they are awesome! Great for little kids or big kids. It’s a mini erasable board that you can use over and over again. Not only are they affordable, but there is no mess! We have used ours to draw pictures, practice letters, play games and do all sorts of things. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed)
  • Water Wow (This “painting” activity is great for the car too.  Don’t worry, it only uses water, which means no mess! Once they dry, they can be used over again.)
  • markers in a wipes container
  • hand sanitizer
  • 2 cars

I got these curtains for my daughter’s room and I decided to use the zipper bags to pack our travel activities in because they are a little more durable than ziplocks. Everything fit in there perfectly. It was a great way to keep things organized and reuse something I might have thrown away.

flying with kids sanity If I can do it with an 8 months old and a 4 year old while having a lay-over and plane change, you can do it to!

3. Extra clothes/wipes

This may be a given, but it’s always good to have some extra clothes.  Kids are messy and sometimes they have accidents.  Wipes are good to have even when you don’t have kids, but if you have kids, they are definitely a must have.  Sticky fingers, snotty noses, spit up, you name it. You need wipes! You will be happy you have them.

4. A WHOLE lot of Jesus

Including Jesus may not be something you think about when you plan a trip, but praying is something I always try to do. I’m not perfect by any means, but I pray that during each trip my interaction with people show others that I am different. I want people to see Jesus shine through, wherever I go.

On our way back from Colorado we had to wake up at 3:30AM.  Yes, you heard that right, we had to wake two sleeping children to return our car and make our 6:00AM flight. (For future reference, I would recommend daytime flights if you plan to travel with kids). Unfortunately, the employee checking us in didn’t see our infant (lap baby) on our ticket, so we had to go up to the 6th floor to see why she wasn’t showing up.

Surprisingly, the line was short.  We only had to wait behind one woman, who happened to be checking 6 massive suitcases, one of which she could have fit inside. As the attending person explained that one of her bags was 30 pounds over the weight limit, we were motioned forward to another desk.

The representative informed us that our infant was indeed on our ticket, she just didn’t have a physical ticket, because she was a lap baby. Thank goodness! We were already running a little late and we didn’t want anything else slowing us down.  As we made our way down an escalator, our eyes widened as we saw that the security line snaked around the massive airport entryway.  By now it was 5:15 and we were beginning to worry.

We shuffled through the line and nervously watched the clock as it got closer and closer to 6:00.  After removing every piece of property we planned to travel with, the TSA finally let us through.  Apparently, I look like the bomb making type because they wiped my hands for explosives.

At this point it was 5:40. After a short tram ride, we squeezed our way through the crowd and raced through the airport on those fast walking tracks.

Out of breath we made it to the gate, to find out that we had missed boarding by 4 minutes. My human nature instinctively wanted to place blame on the attendant who didn’t understand that our lap baby was indeed on our tickets, but I didn’t get mad or upset, it was our fault, if we had allowed extra time we would have made our flight. The nice gentleman behind the counter said, “We waited for you guys and almost made the flight late.” He graciously changed our tickets to get us onto another flight at no charge.

We definitely deserved to be charged for new tickets, but he gave us grace. Maybe it was our flushed faces and tired kids or maybe he was just being nice.  Either way, it was a reminder to us of what Jesus did when he died on the cross.  He didn’t make us pay the price like we deserved. He gave us grace.

I hope that on your next trip you have a different perspective.  When things don’t go your way, try to remember there is a reason for everything. Maybe there is an important lesson you need to learn.

I don’t know why we missed our flight, but maybe it was so that we could experience a small piece of grace, and understand a fraction of what Jesus did when he took our place and paid the price.

Flying with kids If I can do it with an 8 months old and a 4 year old while having a lay-over and plane change, you can do it to!

How do you keep your kids busy on the plane?



24 Replies to “Flying with Kids- What You Really Need”

  1. I love how you’ve reused packaging. I’ll never throw away this kind of packaging again. Great tips.

    1. I’m such a saver. It’s a little bit of a blessing and a curse. In this case it worked out!

    2. Loved your ideas…:)
      I wish youd would put in a link to the portion baggies (Nicole Home Collection Zip Seal Portion Control Bags) it took me forever to find those:)
      Thank you again loved it!!!

      1. Oh shoot! I’m sorry! I will add a link 🙂

  2. I love number four: “A whole lot of Jesus!” So true!!! I flew solo 7 months pregnant with a 5 and 2 year old last fall and it was a little crazy but we somehow survived. 🙂 Great tips!

    1. Oh my goodness! You are so brave! Flying with two kids was tricky, I can’t imagine being pregnant too! I’m glad you survived 😉

  3. Great tips! I travel quite a bit and am always surprised when a parent of small kids boards a flight with no snacks, and no activities. This is a great list, and I love the idea of prepackaging the snacks.

    1. I know, I don’t know how anyone flies without snacks and activities!

  4. “A whole lot of Jesus!” I love it. So true!!! Flying with kids can be… sanctifying <3

  5. Wow! I love all of these ideas! Flying is kind of hard for me (especially the long flights overseas). I have enough problems entertaining myself. I can only imagine when children are in the picture. These are some great tips though! I really like the whole lot of Jesus part! I always pray for safety, and honestly, flights are a great time to get a good devotional in!

    1. I used to love to read on flights! I know I won’t be able to do that for several years, but it’s okay. My little ones bring about such good conversations. When I fly, I pray that my interaction with others will let Jesus’ love shine through.

  6. LOVE these tips!! I have been so nervous about flying that I haven’t done it with my children yet but will probably attempt it soon and needed these recommendations 🙂

    1. You’re welcome Katie! I’m glad I could help. I’m sure your kids will do great. I think flying with kids sounds a little more daunting then it actually is. I think the most important part is just being prepared and involving your kids in the packing process. Kids love to help, especially when it’s something like picking out a special treat for the plane ride!

  7. “How to keep your sanity” is an accurate way to describe it hehe. Magnetic boards are a must for us ♥ I love your list!

    1. Thanks Vanessa! I haven’t heard of magnetic boards? Sounds like something I should check out and add to the list. We will be flying again this summer, so I will need some new tricks up my sleeve 🙂

  8. I’m flying with my 4yo and 16mo in a few days! They both love playing with the Boogie Board! I’m currently creating a travel LEGO set using the LEGO tape and a travel wipes container from the Dollar store.

    1. The Boogie Board is awesome! I love how slim it is because it can easily fit in my purse. It’s such a fun little gadget! My son loves LEGOS too, such a great activity. Best of luck on your flight!

  9. Yes!!! A whole lot Jesus and snacks is what I need too! Love traveling with my littles, these tips are perfect!

    1. Yes! We all need a whole lot of Jesus in our life, especially on trips! Snacks on any trip are also a must. I usually try to give my little ones something to munch on during take off and landing.

  10. Absolutely to snacks! I feel like it’s the one thing that kept my 1 year old quiet for a bit. Puffs are great!

    1. Aren’t Puffs great! They were a life-saver for me too!

  11. Love the curtain bag idea! I know I have some lying around somewhere…

    1. I loved using them because they were stronger than plastic bags and were harder to accidentally open because of the zipper.

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