Flying with kids can be a great experience, but how do you find the flights that keep the kids entertained — and keep you sane?
Routehappy’s director of PR and communications (and mom of two boys!) Kellie Pelletier shares some of her top tips and explains how Routehappy helps her family fly better.
Traveling with the family, especially young children, is one of the hardest things parents do, or at least it is for me! Over the years I’ve developed a core toolkit of tips:
- Hungry kids are grumpy kids, and hungry adults are grumpy too! Pack granola bars, and assemble a few zip-lock bags of trail mix, plus a couple of treats, for the road and the plane. My kids love the tubes of apple sauce, and the sucking required to eat the snack pops can unblock ears.
- Spend time with the airport maps. Figure out the general layout (how to get from the parking lot to the terminal to security) before you leave home. Print the map at home, and trace your route with a highlighter pen. Works great as a treasure map for kids too! Once you’ve checked in online, figure out which gate you’re heading for.
- Save time at the TSA: kids under 12 do not have to take off their shoes. And keep that iPad in your purse, because unlike your laptop, your iPad does not have to be removed and scanned separately. Plus, the TSA makes accommodations for medicine, special diets (like Almond Milk for casein-free diets), and breast milk, but take these items out and let the agents know what you’re packing and why. It never hurts to have a doctor’s note for special diets and medicine.
- Plan out where you’ll wait for your flight. The gate is not always the best option! Sometimes a family restaurant or kids’ play area is en route. The airport-themed play area at Philadelphia airport is one of my kids’ favorite places on earth.
- Don’t forget that if you bought a ticket for the kids, they get their own luggage allowances too. Board first (consider paying a little extra if necessary) so that you can stow all the family’s stuff at or near your row.
- No one wants to sit in the last row, but I actually prefer the last row when traveling with the kiddos. We’re close to the bathroom, so we are likely to avoid accidents. Plus, the constant line of people coming and going to the potty will keep the kids entertained. A good game of peek-a-boo with a stranger can ward off a tantrum! Finally, if one of more of the kids does burst into hysterics, you’re only bothering a few rows in front of you, instead of in front of you and behind you.
The question I am most often asked is, “What’s the best airline for kids?” It’s not really about the best airline, as it is the comfiest plane with lots of perks to keep the kids occupied and content.
And happily the folks at Routehappy built a website that reveals the services and amenities that make flying with the family a little easier. Routehappy displays everything I need to know on the results page such as whether or not the flight has Wi-Fi, entertainment or extra legroom.
We call them Happiness Factors. It’s so easy to choose the happiest flight that even the kids can be part of the decision. Especially important for family travelers:
- Seat back entertainment (unlimited Disney Jr? And I get my iPad back? Yes please!)
- Wi-Fi (your teen is stuck on a plane for five hours—perfect time to write that book report)
- Extra legroom so your 12 month old, who just learned to walk and refuses to sit, can stand and roam without walking the aisle
- Extra legroom so your 2-year-old can’t kick the seat in front of you
- Wider seat so your toddler can share your seat and cuddle during nap time
- a 3-across seat layout so your child can lay across you and your significant other during nap time… or a 4-across seat layout so your family of 4 can sit together
- Plugs and USB sockets so everyone can recharge their own devices on long-haul trips
And Routehappy’s quick toggle between Happiest and Cheapest means that parents can really weigh up price versus value for the very first time.
I can find those few bigger planes on popular routes, or the better planes when flying to Grandma’s house (which means I can avoid wrangling a toddler onto a tiny regional jet).