How to survive traveling with little kids: The Airplane

Just in case you missed part 1, How to survive traveling with little kids, the airport, Joseph Bui gives us a run down on what to do once you leave home and get to the big airport. Here his wife, Sophie Bui, gives us a run down of what to do when you get on the plane… enjoy!

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the airport and are now awaiting to board your flight. The one essential tip we have for surviving the plane ride, be it a short flight across state lines or a long haul across international waters, is that you must leave any grandiose ideas of winning any sort of parent of the year award on the ground.  Once you step into a metal tube jetting at 500 miles per hour without any leg room, let alone room for privacy, you simply must survive. 

Your little Einstein is going to be an iPad zombie or your little vegetarian is going to chomp down non-stop on a rotating diet of high fructose corn syrup in varying shapes and sizes. The truth is, once you check in at the gate, you can check yourself out of being an educator, nutritionist, or many of the other roles you constantly play in order to somehow help your child grow up to be a functioning contributor to society.

You are going to be stuck in this stinky air recylcing cabin with hundreds of other people who are going to share this flight experience with your gaggle of children. This may seem like an easy way of checking out, but trust me, you are parenting and teaching your kids a life skill of properly taking part in public spaces and having consideration for others’ experience.


Not parenting would be allowing your 5 year old to knock the seat in front of her with the constant kicking of her chubby little legs or providing the seat mates around you with a showcase of your 2 year old’s screams and tantrums when you end the screen time midflight. Do whatever it takes to get from point A to point B, your minor break in good judgement is, in actuality, a good judgement. It will not undo all the previous good parenting you have already done.

That being said, here are the secret and not so secret methods we use to help us survive. Remember to be mindful of your child’s age, developmental stage, and personality when preparing for a flight. While a lollipop is going to be great incentive for a 4 year old, it may not be for a 10 year old 🙂

Entertainment devices

We prepare for any flight with digital entertainment for our children as soon as they have the attention span and dexterity to hold their own device. We prefer using our old iPhones (or Android phones) due to their size and packability, but ipads work as well. We prepare the night before by downloading their favorite shows and movies onto the device so there is never a dependence on wifi at any point.

Please do not expect the airline in-flight entertainment systems or apps to be the source of entertainment for your little one. Those systems and apps are unreliable at best and the content on them rotates constantly. During the flight, the engine gets very loud, so be sure to use noise canceling headphones or else they won’t be able to hear their captivating episode of Curious George. We prefer these cheap headphones by Able Planet. They are high quality and won’t break your wallet.

Snacks and Candy

Children too young to watch entertainment devices tend to stay quiet when we give them snacks and candy. Lollipops have always been our secret weapon, even when our babies are younger than one. They are able to lick their sugar as we hold onto the stick to prevent choking. As they get older, bubble gum has become the new bribe. Crackers, chips, and other crunchy treats are almost always collected from the Lounge and eaten on the plane. Just embrace the fact you will be living in a crumb-filled mess for the next few hours.

Bring on a Car Seat

Putting a child in a car seat for an airplane ride is not only safe and recommended by the FDA, but makes so much sense. When they are under 3 years old, we always take the car seat onto the flight and buckle her in; it makes them think that this is any regular car ride and they eventually fall asleep in there, the nirvana of an airplane ride with kids. Even when we have a baby as a lap child, we take the car seat with us to the check in counter and always ask if it is a full flight.

If it is not, we ask to be rearranged, if possible, so that our baby has a seat of her own to place the car seat. The easiest way to lug your car seat through the airport and comfortably fit into the airplane seat is to use the smallest and lightest car seat available. We love the Diono Radian and the Clek Fllo for exactly this reason. On top of that, you can also try this car seat stroller so that you can wheel it through the airport with ease.

Purchase an extra seat for lap infants

Airplane tickets are expensive, so its not the greatest feeling in the world purchasing a seat for your lap child when she can fly for free, but we at NoMasCoach have provided dozens of ways to get extra points to make that seat cost absolutely nothing. What better way to use those points then to make your long haul flight across the ocean more comfortable by providing a seat for your child. Don’t forget that the sign up bonus for any of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Business Preferred will be enough to cover an extra ticket for your infant.

Melatonin for the win

Let me preface this by saying, I am not a doctor nor is any of the following advice officially pediatrician recommended for all children. I can only tell you what worked for our child and what a pediatrician said was for our child.

For the long haul flights, we have discovered the magic potion called Zarby’s melatonin, formed as a gummy treat in fruity flavors. Benadryl has never had any effect on our children besides saving them from allergic reactions.

With one serving of this gummy melatonin at our pediatrician’s recommendation, our girls were able to easily take naps on our 10 hour flight from Seattle to Amsterdam and it also helped them adjust to the time difference once we got there. In fact, our 10 month old slept 7 of the 10 hours. Those 7 hour felt like heaven! If your baby  is not into the gummy flavor or texture yet, try crushing half a small dose pill into her bottle with her milk.

It goes without saying that none of these methods will guarantee a smooth flight for your family, but, hopefully, implementing some of these methods will, at least, give you a little bit of time to relax.

This article was written by guest writer Sophie Bui. Sophie is a mother of three lovely girls and a lover of travel. When not galavanting around with her husband and kids she calls Seattle home and is always on the lookout for the next points and miles deal (and sometimes, just a nice nap when her kids are sleep on a long ten hour flight!)               

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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