Family Travel Manual: Tips For Flying With Children

April 4, 2023

Flying with kids can be challenging for both parents and children, but it doesn't have to be. With a little bit of preparation and understanding, you can make the experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible for everyone.

A young boy enjoys entertainment on a tablet while flying in an airplane, his brothers sits next to him holding his own tablet.

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about flying with kids, including what documents you need to take with you, a breakdown of what different age groups need, activities to keep them entertained, and what airports offer  kid-friendly activities.  Planning most everything in advance, like taking care of your airport parking needs with The Parking Spot, will make traveling with kids stress-free and enjoyable.

Plan To Take Along Important Documents 

Children, like adults, need certain documents to fly. The specific documents required will depend on the child's age, the destination of the flight, and the airline. It's important to check with the airline you're flying with and the destination country's regulations to ensure you have all the necessary documents for your child to fly. It may take some time to locate all of this paperwork. It is wise to gather it all together in plenty of time prior to your flight. Here are some general guidelines for what documents are commonly needed to get through TSA and beyond:

  • Government-issued identification: All passengers, including children, are required to present a government-issued ID, such as a passport or birth certificate when traveling by air.
  • Passport: Children traveling internationally will need a valid passport. It is important to apply for a passport well in advance of your trip to avoid any last-minute stress.
  • Travel visa: Some countries require travelers to have a visa in order to enter. This applies to both adults and children, so make sure to check the visa requirements for your destination.
  • Proof of citizenship: For children traveling without both parents, or with only one parent, airlines may require additional documents, such as a notarized letter of consent from the non-traveling parent, or a court order giving permission for the child to travel.
  • Vaccination records: Some countries may require proof of certain vaccinations to enter. It's best to check the health and vaccine requirements for your destination before you travel.
  • International adoption papers: If a child is adopted, it is important to have the proper documents with you when traveling internationally, such as adoption papers and a birth certificate.
  • Medical authorization: If your child has a medical condition or requires special assistance, it is important to inform the airline and bring any necessary medical authorization forms with you when traveling.

It's also a good idea to make copies of all important documents and keep them in a separate location, in case the originals are lost, destroyed, or stolen.

Tips For Flying With Kids: Plan In Advance and Create Travel To-Do Checklists 

  •  Reserve a Parking Spot:  Getting to and from the airport and parking your vehicle is much more convenient when making arrangements in advance with The Parking Spot.
  •  Pack essentials: Pack extra clothes, diapers, wipes, snacks, and toys for your child to keep them entertained during the flight. It's also a good idea to bring a baby carrier or stroller to make it easier to navigate the airport.
  •  Check with the airline  : Each airline has its own rules and regulations regarding flying with children. Be sure to check with your airline in advance to ensure that you are aware of any age or weight restrictions, and to find out if they offer any special services or accommodations for families.
  •  Plan your seating:  If you have a young child, it's a good idea to request a seat with extra legroom or a bulkhead seat, as this will give you more room to move around and make it easier to take care of your child during the flight.
  •  Prepare for security:  Make sure to bring all necessary documents for your child, such as a birth certificate or passport, and be prepared to go through security with a stroller or car seat.
  •  Plan for delays:  Delays can happen, so it's important to be prepared for the unexpected. Bring extra snacks, activities, and a change of clothes for your child in case of a delay.
  •  Keep your children's routine:  Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible, such as feeding and nap times. This will help your children feel more comfortable and make the flight less stressful for all of you.

Activities and Tips For Flying With Kids 

It's important to understand the different age groups and what they might want and need while flying with kids.

Infants, who are under two years old, will need a lot of attention and care during the flight. Babies will cry for all the regular reasons, and while that can be uncomfortable, there are strategies to try. Feeding a baby during take off or landing, or using a pacifier are great ways to keep a baby’s focus occupied.

Babies will need to be fed and changed frequently and may need comfort if they get fussy. It's a good idea to bring a few extra diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes in case of accidents. Bring along their favorite blanket and pacifier, so they will feel safe and comfortable. You may also want to bring a baby carrier or sling to keep your hands free while you tend to your infant.

Toddlers, who are typically between two and three years old, can be a bit more independent but still require a lot of attention. They may be a bit more active and curious, so it's a good idea to bring a few small toys to keep them occupied. You may also want to bring snacks, as toddlers can get fussy if they get hungry. It's also important to be prepared for the fact that they may not be able to sit still for an extended period of time, so you may need to walk around the plane with them or let them move around a bit.

Preschoolers, between three and five years old, are independent and can sit still for longer periods of time than toddlers. They will likely still need some entertainment, so it's a good idea to bring a few small toys or books that are easy to hold and play with to keep them occupied. They may also be more interested in learning about the plane and how it works, so bring a coloring book or activity about airplanes, air travel, and pilots to help them understand what's happening.

School-aged children, between five and 12 years old, have much longer attention spans and can sit still for longer periods of time. They are more interested in reading, playing games, or watching movies, so it's a good idea to bring a few books, games, or an electronic device with some pre-downloaded content. They may also be more interested in learning about the plane and how it works, so you may want to bring a book, movie, or other activity about airplanes and pilots to help them understand what's happening. Packing a few small educational activities, such as a travel journal, so they can document their experience is another idea.

Airlines Offer Privileges and Special Allowances for Those Flying With Kids

Airlines generally provide a few privileges to parents flying with kids, to make it easier and more convenient including pre-boarding. This gives you time to settle in before other passengers board. Some airlines will reserve bulkhead seating providing extra legroom. Other privileges might include bassinets for infants, special kid-friendly meals, and snacks like puréed food and smaller portion sizes. 

Many airlines offer children's entertainment options like movies and games to keep them happily occupied during the flight. It's important to note that these privileges can vary by airline and by flight, so it's always a good idea to check with the airline directly or when you reserve the flight.

Airports With Special Areas for Children To Play

Some airports have designated areas specifically for entertaining children. These can include:

  •  Play areas:  Some airports have designated play areas for children, which can include playground equipment, soft play areas, and interactive games. These areas can provide a safe and fun space for children to burn off energy before or after a flight.
  •  Children's lounges:  Some airports have children's lounges, which can provide a comfortable and quiet space for families to relax and entertain children. These lounges can include play equipment, books, and toys, as well as areas for nursing or changing diapers.
  •  Family restrooms:  Many airports have family restrooms, which are larger than traditional restrooms and can provide more space for families to change diapers, nurse, or entertain children.
  •  Art installations:  Some airports have art installations that are interactive, and specially designed for children. They provide an entertaining way for children to explore the airport and can encourage kids to be more engaged and excited about their trip.
  •  Gardens/Parks:  Some airports have gardens, parks, or atriums that can provide a peaceful and natural environment for children to explore and play in.
  •  Virtual Reality Lounges:  Some airports are now providing virtual reality lounges where children can play games, watch movies or explore the world through virtual reality.

Keep in mind that amenities and services may change from time to time. It's worth researching the airport you're departing from and arriving at in advance to see what amenities they offer for children. Visiting the airports' website is a great resource to get the latest information.

Airports With Kid-Friendly Areas 

There are several airports in the United States and around the world that have special areas designated for children . For example, Denver has an exciting 5,000-square-foot play area that includes slides, interactive games, and a climbing structure. In addition, the San Francisco airport also has a playground for kids complete with an interactive climbing structure, a slide, and a special area for children under the age of six. 

In Dallas and Minneapolis, kids have the opportunity to enjoy interactive games. Washington D.C. goes even further to help families traveling with kids. The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has a play area called The Magic Carpet, which features games and exclusive play areas for all ages. It's always a good idea to research or contact the individual airport before you travel to learn all the specifics and what to expect when visiting these kid-friendly features.

If you are traveling abroad, many airports are equipped with special areas for children to play and explore. South Korea's Children's museum is a sight to see and explore beautiful artwork. Singapore has its entertaining Slide@T3 playground and beautifully designed Butterfly Garden. Amsterdam's Kid's Corner and Frankfurt's Kid's World also feature a variety of activities just for kids. 

The Hong Kong International Airport goes one step further with its Sky Explorer area where children learn about the airport and aviation in general. These special areas offer a place to see, learn, and be exposed to different cultures while taking their minds off of the long journey ahead of them. These areas are not only for the kids to play and learn, but for the older travelers to relax and enjoy, too.

Airports With Interactive Art Installations Designed For Children 

A cultural feature that many airports throughout the world are adding to their decor is art displays. Some are wonderfully interactive and designed especially for children. This can be an enjoyable, cultural, and educational exploration for older children and a colorful site for younger travelers. 

For families who have layovers or delays, airport art exhibits provide an enjoyable way to spend time learning about the culture of a community they are visiting. Some are permanent displays while others are temporary. Some examples of airports around the world with fascinating art exhibits include:

  • San Francisco International Airport has a collection of more than 40 works of art on display throughout the terminals
  • Denver International Airport has a collection of over 40 permanent art installations
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has a collection of more than 250 works of art on display
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has a collection of over 80 works of art on display
  • Heathrow Airport in London, UK has a rotating collection of art exhibitions and installations throughout the terminals.
  • Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France has a collection of contemporary art on display throughout the airport, including works by famous French artists.
  • Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands has a collection of artworks and sculptures on display including a Rijksmuseum
  • Singapore Changi Airport has a collection of art installations and sculptures throughout the terminals, including the "Kinetic Rain" sculpture made of 1,216 bronze droplets that move to create different shapes.

 Planning and Preparation Is Key For Enjoying Flying With Kids 

Planning and preparation are key to enjoying any family vacation, especially trips that include flying with kids. Let us help you get everyone safely and quickly from parking to your terminal. Right after you book your flight arrangements, contact The Parking Spot to reserve convenient airport parking and make both leaving and returning from your vacation seamless and stress-free.

Book your next airport stay with us