Air Travel with Children

The COVID-19 pandemic kept a lot of families from traveling over the past year, but we’re beginning to get out and about. Road trips have been a favored option, but air travel is now a possibility again. How can you make the best of air travel with children?

Lap infants

If your baby is under two, you can bring them along as a “lap infant.” This means they don’t need a ticket and can fly for free. It also means they don’t get their own seat.

You may have safety concerns about this option. Discuss your thoughts with your pediatrician. This is safe for many children, but might not work well for a lively and mobile 23 month old.

Bear in mind that each adult can only have one lap infant per ticket.

An FAA-approved car seat is your alternative. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this as the safest option.

Taking a bottle or nursing during takeoff and landing can help prevent the baby’s ears from popping. 

Flying with toddlers

Safety and medical considerations aren’t the biggest challenges for air travel with toddlers. Getting them to stay in their seats and avoiding tantrums are going to be top of mind.

Recognize that you will have to focus on your toddler’s needs throughout the flight. You may also have to accept that your child will make more noise than you would like. Other people on the plane may respond badly, and you will not be able to control their behavior any better than you can control your child’s behavior.

Bring snacks and activities to distract your toddler during the flight, but be realistic in your expectations.

Keep yourself as calm and unstressed as you can with deep breathing or other relaxation techniques and know that the experience is temporary.

Be prepared for your child to experience ear pain or discomfort. This is also temporary and not dangerous. If your child will still take a bottle, it can help. If your child has had an ear infection, talk with your pediatrician before the flight.

Flying with big kids

Older children may have trouble with their ears, too. Chewing gum may provide relief. Snacks may not be served on the plane, so make sure and pack your child’s favorite snack and a bottle of water.

Kids may also get restless or uncomfortable from sitting for long periods, just as adults do. Help them stay busy by packing activity books, load their tablet with a new movie or their favorite show, download a new game, or bring a good book. Taking your child for a walk up and down the aisle of the plane can help. Make sure to check with the flight attendants to be sure you don’t take your stroll at the same time they plan to bring the drinks cart down the aisle.

Infectious diseases are always one of the issues for air travel. Airlines are being cautious about COVID-19, which naturally reduces the chances of catching an infectious disease. Carry sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer, and limit your child’s interaction with other people.

Older kids may suffer from motion sickness, or have digestive upsets from the upheaval in their routines. Talk with your pediatrician about these possibilities; they may suggest over the counter medications that can help.

Family travel is fun and broadening. A little attention to your kids’ health needs can help you avoid problems during air travel.

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