Last summer we traveled from California to Ohio by plane. With six children. Two adults, six children in fact — which could be simple — if all the children were teens. However, we were flying with not one, but two four-year-olds. Twins. Plus, we had a seven-year-old and nine-year-old in the mix. On the helpful end of the mix, we had a fourteen-year-old and twelve-year-old. I figured a little advance preparation was in order. I scoured the internet for ideas and came up with a few, but in the end I made my own plan. I’m sharing that plan with you.
The basics of my plan were pretty simple.
- Prepare the hearts and minds of my kids for safe and cheerful air travel by providing them with plenty of information and playtime about flying before we experience it.
- Prepare and pack one back pack per child as a carry on – filled with snacks and activities or toys they have never seen before.
- Lay out the rules.
And, basically that is what happened. Our trip to Ohio was uneventful, pleasant, and (dare I say it?) calm. We had a few mishaps. One of the older children could not find his food bag in his backpack. This was easily managed because I had packed all the extras in my bag. When we reached our destination, we found that his food had been in the backpack all along. With six children, I did not anticipate such smooth travel!
In this article, I am sharing my tips for advance preparation for kids and adults, in flight rules, and what to do while you wait inside an airport during layovers. At the end of this post, you will find a download link for two printables. One is a checklist for moms getting ready. The other is a list of the rules of flight for kids in a fun illustrated format.
Flying With Children: Advance Preparation for the Kids
All About Planes from S & S Learning Materials
Airplanes Double Draw by MudPuppy
Magic Schoolbus: Soaring Into Flight by Young Scientist Club
Disney Planes Movie
Jay Jay the Jet Planes: Fantastic Faith
First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers by George Shea
Flight Unit from Rainbow Horizons Publishing
Taking Off with Flight from On the Mark Press
DK Eyewitness Flight DVD
A is for Airplane Worksheet from Twisty Noodle
Disney Planes Printables from Sensible Mom
How to Make the Best Paper Airplane from Creative With Kids
Flying With Children: Advance Preparation for the Grown-Ups
Look up the location of the Air Port Playground (most have them, and you never know when you might need it!)
Purchase snacks and chewing gum. For small children, chewing gum is essential for take off and landing. It helps them get their ears to pop painlessly. Snacks purchased ahead are much cheaper then the small portioned air plane snack boxes. We looked for prepackaged snacks and tried to stay on the healthy side for the majority. We had an apple and an orange, a small bags of trail mix (no peanuts), granola bars, whole grain gold fish, one bag of chips, some organic unsweetened fruit leather, and a few other things.
Purchase or make Activities for the flight. For my part, I tried to stick with items that were between $1 and $3. I made one exception for the older children. Of course, what I purchased varied for the age of each child. The only thing they all got was a small sketch pad with colored pencils. I shopped at Dollar Tree, Target, and Amazon. I even picked up a couple things at the local drug store for the trip home.
Pack Back Packs.
Plan clothing allowance. How many changes of clothing will you need to pack for each child, and how will you fit that into suitcases. How much money will you need for checked baggage. How many bags could you reasonably take on the plane with the help you have.
Pack suitcases with the help of children.
Flying With Children: In-Flight Rules
We had a few in-flight rules that we needed to explain to each child ahead of time.
1. One new item and snack every thirty minutes. The most basic rule was that they could only take one new item and snack out of their bags every thirty minutes. This allowed me to figure out how much to purchase and make sure that what I did purchase would last the whole trip. If you let your child get all his stuff out and strung around right at the beginning, parts will be lost and interest will fly out the window. Every thirty minutes was the perfect pace.
2. Listen to the stewardess and be polite.
3. No fighting. It wasn’t a perfect flight in this regard, but just setting out the rule ahead of time helped us keep things on a pretty even keel.
4. Stay Buckled in. This was not negotiable for me.
Flying With Children: Inside the Airport
We had a couple layovers on our trip, and one of them turned into a much longer layover than planned. We just located the Airport playground and spent a couple hours running around. Airport playgrounds are a perfect way to run off extra pent-up energy from all that sitting. This served us well on the second flight – the little ones were fast asleep in minutes!
For restroom breaks, we kept one adult outside with some of the children and traded off with the second group. This gave us a place to keep all our extra carry on baggage.
For meals, we chose to have all the little ones sit at the table with an adult while the other adult and a big kid went to the counter to order and carry food. This keeps you from having pure chaos in line while you try to checkout and pay.