Family Spring Break Travel Tips
Flying with youngsters for spring break? You’re not alone. Spring break is one of the most popular time of year for families to travel. So whether you’re jumping on the plane with a baby in arms or jet-setting with a flock of kiddos, it helps to get prepared. Stirling Kelso of family travel site Half Pint Travel loads us up with tips and tricks to minimize turbulence—inside the plane at least!
(Stirling and her two littles ready for take-off)
Before You Fly
Make a Packing List
Getting your suitcase organized several days before you travel—and making a checklist of your family’s travel essentials—is the best way to minimize your stuff. And the stuff, my friends, is the hardest thing about traveling with kids.
Rent Your Gear
Overwhelmed by your luggage? While items like strollers and car seats are typically free to check, you might want to see what you can rent (or request from a hotel or Airbnb) in destination. This cuts down on travel stress.
Organize Your Documents
Know what IDs you need. If you’re traveling internationally, make sure every member of your family has a passport—babies included. If you’re traveling with a lap child—aka a kiddo under two traveling for free or at a discount—you will need to prove her age with a passport, birth certificate, or vaccine records.
Know Your Family Flight Rights
What’s worse than a canceled flight? A canceled flight when you’re traveling with a two-year-old. Before you fly, familiarize yourself with your family flight rights, and have an action plan for what to do if your flights go sideways.
At the Airport
Dress Up Comfort is key, but cute outfits will earn you smiles, and communicates to airline staff that you care about the experience of flying. Oh, and moms, you should look smart too. (If you’re traveling with babies and toddlers, be sure to pack extra outfits in your carry-on—for you and the kiddo.)
Got milk? If your child is still a regular milk drinker, note that some airlines—especially on short-leg flights—don’t carry milk on board, just coffee creamers. Make sure you have enough breast milk or formula for the flight, or if your child has graduated to cow’s milk, stop at a Starbucks or other coffee shop and fill your sippy cup with milk for the plane ride.
Find your kid spot Get to the airport with some time on your hands so your child can run off some steam before boarding. Some airports—Dallas’s Love Field comes to mind—have playrooms outfitted with mats and toys, but they are the thoughtful exception. In most cases, you’ll want to pen off an empty gate area and let your kiddo crawl, toddle, run…anything to burn a bit of energy. (This is also a good moment to remind you to bring hand sanitizer.)
On the Airplane
If you’re flying with a child under 3, pick an aisle seat Wait, is that a nimbus or cumulus cloud outside of your airplane window? I’m here to tell you that your toddler doesn’t care. They just want to move, so be sure to select an aisle seat and walk them up and down the row frequently. You can also point restless feet towards the aisle instead of your front neighbor.
Acknowledge your fellow passengers It’s time to channel your pre-parent brain. Remember the way you felt when a mom or dad with a young child plopped down in the seat next to you? Something within the range of poor luck to total devastation comes to mind. If you’re sitting next to a solo traveler, introduce your child, try to keep your kiddo within your seat’s limited real estate, and ask if you can dominate the shared armrest. You’re going to need it.
Pack snacks Bring lots of easy finger foods. These buy you glimpses of peace in five- to 15-minute increments. Think of dry foods like crackers, and if you bring fresh foods or purees, avoid stain makers like cherries and raspberries.
Pull out small surprises If you’re flying with kids over the age of one, consider buying a few new toys—I’m talking dollar store material here—and pack a few favorites. Pull them out of a paper bag throughout the trip.
Don’t be a hero If you’re typically strict about screen time, you might want to loosen the rules on the plane (for children over two). Using a portable DVD player—vs. a tablet—allows you more control over content.
Have fun! If you’re traveling with a baby or child for the first time, tell your seatmates. Ask someone to take picture of your family. See if the captain will sign your kiddo’s first ticket or let you take a picture in the cockpit. Some airlines—like Southwest—might even have a certificate honoring this special day.