The Best Tips For Flying With Children, According To Samantha Brown

Flying can be a stressful experience. Packing, finding a parking space at the airport, dealing with crowds, security — it's a lot for anyone to process. The stress can double when you have kids along with you. While you, as an adult, might understand why you have to go through a scanner or take off your shoes, it can all be confusing and overwhelming for little ones. Add in having to stay seated for hours on end, and you have a recipe for a meltdown. Enter travel pro Samantha Brown with tips to help parents navigate flying with children. She's got some great ideas about how to keep them occupied, minimize disruptions for other passengers, and even how to model a positive attitude for them.


From when you board the plane to what to bring with you, there are little steps you can take to keep the flying part of your trip as pleasant as possible. Traveling with kids can be a great experience, giving them a look at other cultures and different locales and exposing them to new food, scenery, and people. Plus, they get to see a more relaxed side of you. Brown, who has young twins, said on "Dear Travel Dirty," her show (via Yahoo): "When you travel with your kids, it allows your kid to see you be a kid ... And what that does for their sense of love and security is actually immeasurable."

Let your kids have some screentime

Before you even leave the house for your flight, there are some actions you can complete to ensure a smoother travel day. Entertainment is important. You can pack the books your kids like; however, be realistic. You know your child. If they're technology fans and you know they'll sit still if they have some "Bluey" to watch on your iPad, then bring that and don't try to force other activities. They're going to be stuck in a seat and probably not very comfortable. Let them do enjoy quiet pastime, even if you regularly ask them to put down the screens. This is their vacation, too. Plus, you might not want them on screens when you get to where you're going, so the plane is the time. 


That means using headphones, which Samantha Brown mentions on her website as a common courtesy. No one wants to hear what you're listening to, including kid shows and games. However, fellow travelers may not be as comfortable asking your child to put some earbuds in as they would be with an adult. Get headphones that are comfortable for your kids, ideally a pair they're used to using so you don't disturb anyone else. Bring whatever you may need to clean up after them. Brown also points out that "flight attendants are not babysitters," and while they may be willing to help out with aspects like wet wipes, you should be prepared to do it yourself. She also emphasizes not letting your children draw on the walls of the plane.


Tire your kids out before boarding the plane

In an article about traveling with kids, Samantha Brown calls the boarding process "the most stressful part of the trip." That's true for adults, who can at least understand what's happening. Dragging your luggage, possibly strollers or baby carriers, and your little ones down ramps or up stairs can be a lot. Then they have to sit there for potentially longer than 45 minutes while waiting for the plane to take off, and that's without adding in taxiing time if your plane gets stuck in a line. Add the fact that parents traveling with kids can often be allowed on the plane first, and you could have trouble on your hands.


Brown suggests that one parent pre-boards with all the luggage in tow. That way, they can gate-check the stroller and get all the carry-on luggage settled, and you can wait to board until the last minute. It gives kids a bit more time to run around or stretch before all that sitting. Find out if your airport has a play area to visit before you take off. Giving kids a bit of time to stretch their legs and tire themselves out might help them settle on the plane. Even if you walk around with them (now that you're free of luggage) and count steps together or take them for a last potty break, it tires them out that much more. With babies, it gives opportunities for a diaper change or feeding with more room to move around rather than trying to do it in a plane bathroom or cramped space. Check out these suggestions for kids' luggage for every budget to make packing easier.


Take advantage of special treats, toys, and projects

If you're concerned with feeding your kids too much fast food, a travel day is the time to relax a bit. Some flights have snacks for purchase, and, of course, you can buy plastic cups of grapes and carrots to bring to the airport, but this is a trip and something out of the ordinary. Samantha Brown says you shouldn't feel bad about fast food on a travel day. This is a "special" time to treat yourself and your kids to a lower-stress meal. One day of French fries, pizza, or cake isn't the worst fate the world, and it demonstrates the idea that you can do fun activities that maybe aren't the best for you on a special occasion.


This approach can be applied to items to keep the kids busy. Go to the store to prepare for the trip and let them pick out a special object like a stuffy, a book, a project, or a toy that you'll save for the trip so the flight is anticipated rather than worried about. Things like a new travel outfit also make everything seem more special and exciting. Don't purchase these items too far in advance so the "I want it now" conversation only lasts a day or two. If your child has a toy they can't live without, bring it, but maybe put a carabiner clip on it to keep it attached to a stroller or backpack so it doesn't get lost.

Model positive behavior for your kids

Flying is stressful. There is so much to deal with; time is a factor, and you paid a lot of money for the ticket. You want everything to go smoothly. Of course, it rarely does. That means your kids may see you in a difficult situation or deal with unpleasant people. Modeling how to do that in a positive way can teach your children how to handle hard occurrences when they get older. Samantha Brown suggests, "The first thing you want to do is have a great attitude about being in the airport." She explains, "When you travel with your kids, they're watching you to see how you are reacting in a situation and they're taking that cue. So always remember that if you are stressed out, they're gonna become stressed out."


Taking problems in stride, pausing for a few deep breaths, and processing issues without anger and with a smile can help show kids the best way to deal with interpersonal relationships and stressors. If you do lose it or get upset, remember to take the time to speak to your kids and explain that anger wasn't the best way to handle what happened. Everyone messes up, and recovering from that is another good lesson for your kids. Speaking of which, here are tips from a flight attendant on how to handle a kid kicking your airplane seat

Consider bathroom needs and teach your kids to respect the flight crew

Take the opportunity for a last bathroom trip before you board the plane. Sometimes, it can take a bit of time before takeoff if there are weather issues or a flight backup. Along a similar line of reasoning, Samantha Brown says that if you know you'll get up to use the restroom frequently, you should choose an aisle seat. While kids may love the window, if your family isn't taking up the entire row, the aisle might be a better option. That way, you don't have to disturb other passengers if your kid needs a potty break or a clean-up more than once. 


Brown also mentions being polite to the flight crew, which is another vital behavior to let your kids see. Take a few moments to explain everything the flight attendant does and how hard they work. You can even get an age-appropriate book on flying for the first time to read before the plane ride. Finally, travel expert Rick Steves has secrets for a successful vacation to Europe with kids.