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Flying with Kids: Dos and Don'ts from the Flight Crew

BY: Aimee Algas Alker | Dec 17, 2014

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 what do kids need to fly, I asked veteran flight attendant Cesar Conde and his fellow crew members (many of them parents themselves) for tips for flying with kids from their own "travel with kids" checklist.

To Keep Kids Safe

  • Don't allow your child to sleep on the floor, "Ever, ever, ever," stresses Conde, even if you use blankets as a buffer. With only a few minutes between flights, an airplane's floor is rarely deep cleaned. It's also unheated, 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—or even sock-footed—anywhere on the plane (see above).

  • Don't let you child's feet or head dangle in the aisle if he or she is sleeping on your lap, especially during service. While this tip may seem obvious—no one wants to get cracked in the skull by a service cart—Conde says this happens more often than you'd expect. "When the child's finally sleeping, the parent tends to doze off as well."

  • Don't be shy—ask for help from the flight crew when you need it. And lean on their expertise, 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 children in whenever they are seated, otherwise turbulence or sudden stops on the runway could send a kid tumbling into the aisle.

  • Do buy your child his or her own seat if you can afford it, even if your child is an infant. Though it's permitted to for kids age 2 and under to travel as a lap passenger, Conde and crew have a couple of reasons for this tip. Not only is it more comfortable and convenient for both of you; it's also much safer—in case of an accident or even extreme turbulence, your arms will never keep your child as protected as a properly installed car seat.

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 when the flight crew has just 30 minutes to ready the plane for the next passengers, it's easier on them to have all those broken crayons contained so they don't have to pick each piece up one.

  • Do make crafts on the plane and give them to the crew as a thank you. First, you'll keep the little ones from getting bored. Second, you'll make your flight crew smile. "We always think it's cute," says Conde.

To Prepare for In-Flight Needs

  • Don't count on being able to heat up milk on the plane—although some foreign carriers have microwaves, most American carriers do not.

  • Do ask for bottled water at the beginning of the flight if you need it for formula, just in case the crew runs out during the flight.

  • Don't worry about your child's ear-splitting screams during takeoff and landing—it's actually a good way to clear the ears. Definitely try not to worry about what the other passengers are thinking—flying with toddlers is toughest on you! At any rate, 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 the other passengers' irritation.


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