Flying with Kids: Dos and Don'ts from the Flight Crew
The prospect of flying with kids—and keeping them well behaved—can be daunting for parents, but flight attendants have seen this scenario time and time again. To get their advice on the topic, I asked veteran flight attendant Cesar Conde and his fellow crew members (many of them parents themselves) for tip from their own "travel with kids" checklist.
How to Keep Kids Safe
- Don’t allow your child to sleep on the floor, even if you use blankets as a buffer. With only a few minutes between flights, those floors are rarely steam cleaned. Also the floor is not heated, and at 35,000 feet in the air it’s “much like sleeping on top of a freezer,” Conde says.
- Don’t let your kid walk barefoot anywhere on the plane (see above).
- If you’re sitting in the aisle, and your child’s sleeping on your lap, don’t let their feet or head dangle in the aisle, especially during service. This may seem obvious, but Cesar says this happens more often than you'd expect because “when the child's finally sleeping, they tend to doze off as well."
- Don’t be shy—ask for help from the flight crew when you need it, especially when you’re strapping in the car seat or trying to wrangle your carry-on into the overhead while your child is screaming.
- Do buckle up the child whenever they are seated, otherwise turbulence or sudden stops on the runway can mean a kid tumbling into the aisle.
- One of Conde's most underrated tips for flying with a baby: though it's permitted to for kids 2 and under to travel as a lap passenger, do buy your child his or her own seat if you can afford it. Not only is it more convenient; it’s also much safer—your arms will never keep you child as protected as a properly installed car seat.
How to Keep Flight Crews Sane
- Do bring treats for the flight crew and apologize in advance should your child act up. According to Conde, the flight crew will likely appreciate the gift: “You might get more attention than usual.” You could also do this for the passengers who are seated near your on the plane.
- Do ask the flight crew for a trash bag. Kids are messy, and it's kinder to your crew to have all those broken crayons contained so they don't have to pick each piece up one by one when they only have 30 minutes to turn a plane around.
- Do make crafts on the plane and give them to the crew as a thank you. “We always think it’s cute,” says Conde.
Read about other tips for flying (with kids or without) and ways to stay on your flight attendants' good side in our Q&A with a Flight Attendant.
How to Prepare for In-Flight Needs
- Don’t expect to be able to heat up milk on the plane—although some foreign carriers have microwaves, most American carriers do not.
- If you need bottled water for formula, do ask for it at the beginning of the flight. The crew might run out of bottled water during the flight.
- Don’t worry about ear-splitting screams during takeoff and landing—it’s good for their ears. Try not to worry about the other passengers; the plane’s engine will help to muffle the wailing. And if you passed out treats before takeoff (see above), that will likely help assuage some of their irritation associated with flying with toddlers.
Follow our kids’ packing list to keep kids comfortable (and occupied) on a flight.
Though Aimee stays up to date on the latest food trends for the Guide, most of her meals are served cold and cut into tiny, toddler-sized bites.