When You Book

  • Try first for a nonstop flight. If that’s not available, fly “direct,” which means you’ll stop at least once but won’t switch planes.
  • Book flights that depart early in the day, if possible. If your flight is delayed, you — and the airline — will have time to make other arrangements.
  • Specify your ticketing preferences, whether paper or electronic.
  • Check to see if a meal will be served in flight. If so, order meals your kids like. Many airlines offer kids’ meals or a vegetarian choice that may be pasta. If not, plan accordingly.
  • Ask for the seats you’d like, whether they’re a window, an aisle, or the bulkhead for legroom.

Packing Tips

  • Stuff your carry-on for every contingency. Pack all medications, extra clothes for little kids, diapers, baby food, formula, wet wipes, and snacks (they’ll also help kids swallow to relieve ear pressure).
  • Have each child carry a small backpack with travel toys, a light sweatshirt, and a pair of socks for the flight.

On the Day of Your Trip

  • Call ahead to check for delays.
  • Have all photo IDs within easy reach (not necessary for kids under age 18 traveling with their parents on domestic flights; on most international flights, even infants will need a passport).
  • If you have heavy bags, check your luggage first and then park.
  • If you are early for the flight or run into long delays, don’t go straight to the gate. Instead, meander through the airport’s diversions: windows onto the runways, children’s play areas (many major airports now have these), Web access computers, and, of course, stores where kids can find a treat to tide them over.
  • Carry on extra bottled water. It’s easy to get dehydrated on a plane, and the drink service may be slow in reaching you.

On the Plane

  • Ask if your child can view the cockpit (the best time may be after the flight is over).
  • Secure pillows and blankets for family members who may want to nap.

Take breaks from sitting; occasionally walk the aisles and switch seats.

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