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A Mom’s Guide to Flying with Kids

By Kori Knisley

Mom to Addison (6) and Cameron (3) and Director at Kids R Kids Learning Center

February 2020

 

Updated August 2020: We traveled right before the COVID-19 pandemic. These items were essential before the outbreak, but even more so now.  I would add masks and gloves to the list for my next trip.

My family and I have the road trip down to a science. Ever since Addison and Cameron were babies, we have taken long trips in the car to visit family in Delaware and Tennessee.  From what time to leave to entertainment and snacks, the Knisley family are professionals when it comes to road trips. But when fares to Orlando were as low as $50 for a round trip flight, it was time to put the car in park and embark on our first family trip on an airplane!    

While this was the kids’ first trip to the airport, I’m a seasoned traveler.  Having traveled through many airports, I can’t think of a better start to our trip than GSP Airport!  We LOVED flying from GSP, and here is why:

  • Getting to GSP is easy. It is less than a five-minute drive from my work and the kids’ school. I finished work, got the kids from their classes, and headed to the airport. The whole process was stress-free and left us with plenty of time to spare.
  • The TSA line was quick and easy. And as a bonus, if mom is TSA Precheck, so are the kids. I did my research and learned kids under 12 do not have to remove shoes and jackets regardless of Precheck status. But it was nice to be able to take the kids through the Precheck line and not have to worry about having to take off MY shoes on and off.   
  • An outdoor garden is located just past security. It was a great way to burn some energy before boarding time.
  • The airport was easy to navigate, and it was just a short walk (or a fast run for Cameron) from the checkpoint to the gate.
  • And the BEST part… Nonstop flight to Orlando. No stopping at a larger airport to change planes.

The airline charges an additional fee to select your seats. I was nervous about not paying the extra charge and risk not being able to sit together. But I checked in 24 hours prior to our flight and had no problem getting seats together.  If you want guaranteed seats together, you can always reserve your seats at the time of booking.

I’ll admit it. I was uncertain about flying with two young children for the first time.  I may have overpacked for this trip, but I wanted to be a prepared momma that was ready for any meltdown thrown my way.  I’m sharing my list of tips, tricks, and must-haves for flying with kids.

TRANSPORTATION ITEMS

  • KIDS BACKPACK – The airline allowed one carry-on bag person traveler. Both Addison and Cameron had a backpack with items to keep them entertained and a change of clothes in case of an emergency ice cream accident.
  • CARRY-ON BAG FOR MOM - I am a fan of the Kavu bag. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, and doesn’t get in the way if you need to carry a toddler.  And it can hold a LOT of snacks and toys and has two convenient outer pockets to store documents that need to be easily accessible.

DRINKS + SNACKS

Ok, so packing drinks and snacks for a road trip is easy. Mom, Dad, Addison, and Cameron all get their favorite, parent-approved drink or snack. But that wasn’t going to work for the airplane.  

  • SNACKS – My criteria for snacks was it had to be 1) not too messy 2) utensil-free, handheld items, and 3) can last for an extended time without refrigeration.  For this trip, we packed goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, string cheese, and apple slices.
  • REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE – TSA limits liquids to 3.4 ounces or less (with some exceptions for breast milk, milk and juice.  See here for TSA’s rules).  Each kid got to pick out a new leak-proof water bottle and was excited to use the water stations.

TOYS + ACTIVITIES

  • TABLET – Screen time at our house is a special treat. When we are at home, the kids are limited to no more than 20 minutes a night.  But our first flight is also a special treat and warranted an exception to the rule. I recommend the Kindle Fire Kids Edition Tablet.  This tablet comes with a kid-tested, heavy-duty case, built-in stand, and equipped with family-friendly content.  I downloaded a new movie and game for Addison to keep her occupied.  Battery charged and headphones in hand, we were ready to board.
  • PLANE FRIENDLY TOYS – For easy entertainment on the plane, we went on the hunt for something small, yet quiet.  Cameron chose to bring two matchbox cars, one for each hand. His pockets became “garages,” and the tray table was the perfect racetrack.  
  • COMFORT ITEMS – The flight was later in the evening, and we wouldn’t be landing until well past bedtime. We packed each kid’s favorite stuffed animal to bring a little comfort and (hopefully) help them sleep.

CARRY-ON BAG ESSENTIALS

  • WIPES
  • HAND SANITIZER
  • DISINFECTING WIPES – for the seat, armrest, tray table, and seat belt. 
  • TISSUES
  • MONKEY MAT – a clean surface in a portable pouch that fits handily in my bag.

There you have it - a mom’s guide for flying with young kids. Happy travels!