Leaving on a Jet Plane…with Kids



Christmas is just around the corner, and if you’re like me, that means you’re getting ready to fly. We all know things like getting to the airport two hours early for a domestic flight, and having a clean change of clothes for each person in your carry-on, but here are a few additional tips to help make your flight through the friendly skies a little less stressful.

  • Buy a seat for your child, no matter their age. I know that children under 2 can fly for free, but there are a few benefits to spending the extra money on their ticket.  First, the FAA states that the safest way for children to fly is in a child restraint system and not in your arms or lap.  Even the peanuts and sodas are secured during turbulence.  Second, it’s the best way to get your child’s car seat from Point A to Point B safely.  We’ve all seen the videos of luggage being handled roughly…now imagine that was the car seat that’s supposed to protect your child in a car accident.  Third, it keeps your child contained on the plane!  This is especially important if you’re flying by yourself; if your child is snoozing in their car seat, you are free to get up and go to the lavatory or have a snack without having to wake them up.
    • If you have to check your child’s car seat, car seat safety experts recommend packing it in the original box and using clothes for extra padding. Don’t have the original box?  Any large box with clothes for padding is better than “car seat bags” which will only keep the seat from getting dirty, not protect it from being damaged. 


  • Use a car seat caddy in the airport. If you have wee ones, you’re likely to have their car seat in the airport regardless of whether you’re using it on the plane.  There are several different options (on Amazon Prime!) that can help you get through the airport a little easier.  I have these:
    • Traveling Toddler Car Seat Accessory – this is pretty much a T shaped strap that attaches a car seat to your rolling suitcase using the car seat’s LATCH and top tether, effectively turning the suitcase into a stroller. I used this when my daughter and I took our first plane trip at 11 months old, and it worked like a charm.  Downside: you have to double over a bit and push down on your suitcase in order to lift the front of the car seat off the ground, which can be a bit awkward.  Upside: you get a lot of attention in the airport (“wow! That is so cool!”), and the strap can roll up and fit in your diaper bag once you’re on the plane.
    • Britax Car Seat Travel Cart – this is a foldable cart that allows your car seat to attach using its LATCH system. Like the Traveling Toddler, this means you can use the car seat as a stroller in the airport; once you get on the plane, it can fold and fit in the overhead bin.  We just purchased this to use on our upcoming Christmas trip since our daughter is much heavier than she was at 11 months; I was worried that our suitcase handles could break from the weight and strain using the Traveling Toddler.  Since we have many, many more trips to Texas in our future, this was worth the $64 investment.


  • Prepare diaper change kits for the airplane. I have to give the credit for this idea to the mom group I belong to on Facebook.  You’ve seen the baby changing station in an airplane lavatory: it’s about 6 inches wide, which barely leaves room for you and the baby, let alone your huge diaper bag.  Enter the diaper change kit:



Now, if your little one needs a diaper change in the teeny lavatory, all you have to take with you is your kit.  Plan for two kits per four-hour plane ride, and only use the kit in the airplane.  If a diaper needs changed while you’re in the terminal (and let’s pause and say a prayer that this will be the case and you won’t need to change one on the plane…  …  …ok, moving on), use the diaper bag.


  • Dress your child in footed pajamas. This tip is from a friend of mine.  When she travels with her kids, they wear footed pajamas: no shoes and socks to keep up with!


  • Know that it’s probably going to be a difficult day, and that’s ok. The other week, I was stressing out about finding flights that left Richmond at a reasonable time and got us to our destination before Caroline’s bedtime (they do not exist in our price range).  My dad told me “it will be a rough day for Caroline, and that’s ok. She will be fine.” I can get so caught up in trying to come up with the perfect plan that I forget two very important things: 1, Caroline is a toddler, and thus gets upset at all sorts of crazy stuff.  Trying to make her day perfect is impossible. 2, the purpose of this trip is not to have perfect travel days, but for us to spend time with our family and friends 1,000 miles away.  And if that means leaving Richmond at 5:50 AM (you may weep for me), then, that’s what we’re going to do.


Are you flying for the holidays this year?  What are your travel tips?


  1. YES YES YES to the Britax luggage cart! I griped about how much it cost, but it was so so so worth it! I even had several people stop me asking where they could get it!

  2. 5:05 am to Newark for Christmas. I weep for us both. But it also is a great time to travel for my not-morning-people children. They sleep the whole time thru check in, boarding, etc. It’s nice.

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