Airport and airplane tips

Top 10 Airplane Tips for Families

#1 Review airport and security procedures with kids before arrival at the airport.

Airplane in sky

Traveling by airplane?

It is important that kids know what to expect about airport procedures and security checks before arriving at the airport.

Explain the check-in process and the importance of having patience while waiting in potentially long lines.

Emphasize that the security checkpoint is an important step of flying. Likewise, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are there to help keep everyone safe in the air.

Review with each child what ‘their job’ will be when going through airport security.

Encourage them to be responsible for their own carry-on item.

Explain the process of going through the metal detectors, taking off jackets and shoes (kids over 12), and putting their belongings onto the moving belt.

Remind kids that their electronics and snacks need to be sent through security separately.

Last, make sure the kids have not forgotten to ditch any bottled water or juice that they may have been sipping on.

Find a detailed TSA travel checklist here.

#2 Allow each child to have their own carry on.


For successful airplane travel, equip each child with their own carry-on backpack.

We choose a backpack versus a rolling suitcase because backpacks can be stowed at their feet making them easily accessible during a flight.

Backpacks also allow the kids to have both hands free when maneuvering throughout the airport.

Allow kids to help choose the items, activities, and snacks that they pack in their carry-on. This should include their blanky and a stuffed animal or other comfort toy.

Next, have your kids determine if the weight of their carry-on will allow them to comfortably walk around the airport.

If they determine it is too heavy, they must reconsider their choices and take things out as needed. (This prevents Mom or Dad from having to end up carrying it for them.)

#3 Arrive at the airport early.

I want every trip to get off to a good start and arriving at the airport early is one of the most essential steps in making that happen.

Crowds, lines and wait times fluctuate constantly so this is one of those instances where I suggest to always play it safe.

Check your flight status before leaving for the airport and follow the recommended airport arrival times.

It is recommended to arrive at the airport 2 hours prior to domestic flights, and 3 hours prior to international flights.

Remember, you’re on kid time, so don’t forget to allow for unexpected bathroom trips and other detours.

#4 Remember where you park.

If you are driving to the airport via your personal vehicle, decide if you are going to park onsite or offsite at a shuttle lot.

Another option is spending the night before departure at a hotel with a park-n-fly option.

Make this decision by comparing costs and convenience.

Personally, we choose to utilize an offsite shuttle in the same lot every time that we fly. We have come to trust the frequent shuttle times, friendly staff, and good security.

Once you become comfortable with a particular parking option, make that your ‘go to ‘option every time.

Finally, write down the level and space that you parked in and become familiar with the steps that you need to take to arrange for airport pick-up when returning home.

#5 Have your travel documentation organized and accessible.

Pick a designated person to be in charge of the entire family’s travel identification and reservations.

Have your entire family’s travel documentation easily accessible by keeping them stored together in a passport holder.

As I am providing the airline agent with our 5 passports, my husband is responsible for getting the checked luggage onto the scale and making sure that it is tagged appropriately.

Explain to the kids ahead of time that this is a time to simply wait quietly until the end of the check-in process.

#6 Discuss who’s sitting where before getting on the airplane.

Who’s sitting by who? Who gets the window seat?

There is nothing like getting onto an airplane and having the kids begin debating these questions in the middle of the airplane aisle.

It sounds obvious, but discuss which seat each person will sit in ahead of time.

It is important that everyone quickly take their seats and keeps the flow of boarding passengers moving. (The same goes for the return flight home.)

#7 Wipe down ‘your area’ once you get to your seat.

Another one of my airplane tips is to bring along a travel size package of Clorox disinfecting wipes in your carry-on.

Have each person in your family wipe down the armrests, headrest, tray table, and seat belt buckle.

Though we can’t travel in a sterile bubble, I’m up for taking any precaution against contracting illnesses while traveling.

#8 Prepare for air pressure.

Discuss with the kids how the changes in air pressure may make their ears feel “like they’re plugged or popping”.

As soon as you get through security, purchase bottled water to have the kids sip on during both the ascent and descent of the airplane. These are the most bothersome times for ear discomfort.

Chewing gum, sucking on candy, or yawning are also ways to encourage the swallowing that will ease the pain or discomfort of ear pressure.

If you know ahead of time that your child is prone to ear pain when flying, given them acetaminophen or ibuprofen 30 minutes before takeoffs and landings.

#9 Never fly without an Ipad or tablet.

Most parents have good intentions when it comes to their kids and limiting their screen time. Let flying be an exception to this rule, however.

Load up your child’s I pad or tablet with games, songs, TV shows, and movies to help keep them entertained for as long as possible.

Be sure to pack them kid-size headphones so other passengers aren’t disturbed.

#10 Be kind and enjoy your flight.

Celebrate the simple of success of getting your family to the airport and safely settled into their seats.

Be courteous of the airline staff and of other passengers. A little kindness and appreciation go a long way.

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