We recently took a family trip to a wedding and it was the first time Miss O had ever been on a plane.  She was so excited!  I was, understandably, nervous.  Sure, speeding through the air, way above the ground sounds fun, but flying is actually kind of boring.  Once you get over the newness, you’re stuck in a tiny seat for hours at a time with limited options for entertainment.

Flying is stressful enough. Flying with young kids can be downright scary. Here's what I learned before, during and after my daughter's first plane ride.

Here’s what we learned during our trip:

Avoid checking bags if you can.  We made full use of our free carry-on, plus one personal item.  We each had a small duffel bag, I upgraded to my big purse, Mr. O brought his laptop bag, and Miss O had a tote bag full of toys.  Hindsight being 20/20, I would have combined Miss O’s stuff and mine in a smaller roller suitcase since, apparently, carry-ons can now be quite large.

Check in online.  Like checking bags, the more lines you can skip, the better.  We were flying Southwest, so it was even more important to check in 24 hours in advance, so I set my alarm to remind me.  We were in Group A both times and able to easily sit together on both flights.

Go direct.  Changing flights is enough of a hassle on your own, as anyone who’s ever had to sprint through an airport to catch a connecting flight will tell you.  Throw kids in the mix, and you’re asking for trouble.  You also never know how kids are going to react to take-off and landing (ear popping and all that jazz).  We had to drive to a further airport, but it was worth it to get a direct flight.

Food is your friend.  That soccer team never would have had to resort to eating each other if I were on their flight.  I packed enough snacks to feed a small army, and for good reason.  On our 2-hour flight Miss O ate the airline pretzels, goldfish, carrots, an apple, nutter butter crackers, and 2 packages of fruit snacks.  They kept her occupied, and they kept her from getting cranky, since our flight was during lunch time.

Bring your own carseat.  Yes, it’s a pain.  Yes, they’re bulky and heavy.  Yes, it’s worth it.  We didn’t bring our carseat and rented one with our car.  Big mistake.  The carseat was too small even for my little peanut, and one of the straps was twisted underneath.  Also, the car’s headrests didn’t come off, so the single-strap back tether wasn’t very effective.  If you are going to travel again, I’d recommend investing in a carseat trolley like this one.

Don’t forget about yourself.  When packing I made sure we had plenty of things for Miss O to do on the plane and during any family down time.  Mr. O of course packed his own things to do.  But no one packed anything for me to do!  I realized as soon as I sat down on the plane that I didn’t even have a magazine to read.  <Sigh>  On the way back I made sure to grab a pen so I could at least do the crossword and sudoku in the in-flight magazine to pass the time.

Go with the flow.  Travel can be stressful, but getting upset or anxious over every bump in the road only makes it worse.  Remember that flight attendants, pilots, and TSA staff are only doing their jobs.  They don’t make the rules, delay, or cancel flights.  All you can do is make the best of whatever situation arises, and set a good example for your kids.

Before our trip I found this post from Mama Smiles extremely helpful.  Check it out if you want even more tips from a seasoned traveler.

Do you have any tips for flying with kids?  Share in the comments.

Flying is stressful enough. Flying with young kids can be downright scary. Here's what I learned before, during and after my daughter's first plane ride.