Flying with kids has (understandably) gotten a bad reputation. Most parents dread the flight and are terrified they'll be to blame for the screamer everyone strains to ignore for a few very long hours. To those moms and dads in fear of air travel with children, I'd like to offer some solace: I'm here to tell you there are many reasons why flying with little ones is great.
Hear me out! My husband and I braved our first flight as a family of four last Summer from New York to California. My son was 1-month-old and my daughter was 2 — arguably the worst ages, so we should have been put straight into the "I'm not even going to try and vacation" category. As we sauntered through the airport with a stroller packed with our daughter, carry-ons, and my son in a carrier, surprising conveniences popped up at every turn.
Whether you're traveling a few states over or venturing to Europe, I promise: there is a sunnier side to flying with young children. Here is everything you should keep in mind as you set out on a trip with your kids.
- You can get 2 seats for the price of 1.
I know some parents prefer bringing a car seat on board and purchasing a seat. I enjoy the "lap child" option, which allows you to hold a baby under the age of 2 for the flight, sharing your seat instead of having to get a separate one. Even when we've had a vacant seat beside us, my tot usually wants to sit, sleep, and play on me anyway. Skip the cost of an extra airfare while you still can — maybe instead invest on a longer, more luxurious vacation.
- You can fit so much stuff on a stroller.
The thing I love about strollers is how well they assist you when you have two arms full of kids. As long as you opt to check all your big luggage when you first arrive at the airport, most strollers are the ideal size to store a few small carry-on items, as well as water bottles (which you can bring through security — we'll get to that next) and the usual straggler stuffed animal or toy. Plus, a stroller allows the whole family to zip around the airport together with ease. Just keep your eyes peeled for elevators.
- Security is a pleasant experience, for once.
I've found the rules vary by airport (and we've all heard the horror stories), but in my experience, most TSA agents are pretty accommodating when it comes to families. Often, they have scooted us to the front of the line, allowed me to keep my baby strapped in the carrier I was wearing, and let my children keep their shoes on. Most have even allowed me to bring liquids through security, including water, juice, and breast milk, even when they've been over three ounces (they've first looked at them to make sure they're safe, but usually have let me go through). The only downside is you have to scan the stroller, but they usually help you fold it up.
- You get to board the plane first.
The last time I flew solo on American Airlines, I boarded in group nine — nine! But when my kids are in tow, I get to enter the plane first thing, which leaves plenty of time to unload the myriad of snacks, coloring books, and distracting activities I've so carefully packed.
- There is nowhere to go.
The best part about being on a plane with my kids is that we're confined to that beautiful Boeing 737 for several hours. Both my children are escape artists, and the thing I love about flying with them is I can see them at all times. Should they flee our small row of seats, a kind flight attendant is right there to stop them at first class, and all is well with the world again.
- In-flight entertainment means lots of time for mommy and daddy to relax.
Long flights and road trips is where I toss strict screen time limits out the window. On the flight to California, we got my daughter a comfortable pair of headphones with childproof volume control and let Pixar do its thing. The baby inevitably napped to the plane's whirring white noise, and it was all adult play time from there. My husband and I ordered a beer, enjoyed some uninterrupted banter, and each watched a movie of our choice. It was arguably the best part of the whole vacation.