Worst Mistakes People Make When Flying With Small Children

Common sense implies that if you can travel with kids in any other way than flying you should do it. Nevertheless, this is often not possible. It's certainly not unmanageable though; people have been doing it for decades, which is how they know there is a right and wrong way of flying with small children. You can safely assume that there is nothing glamorous about traveling with toddlers. All you can do is try to minimize the damage.

Leaving favorite toy behind

This is probably the second biggest sin after "waking up a baby." Few items will calm your child down as well as the "it" toy. If he or she shows preferences towards a doll, a car, a Lego set – anything small enough to travel with you – take it. Your kid will, at the very least, be distracted for a while – hopefully, long enough to fall asleep.

Not having a plan B if you get separated

Traveling to a place you and your kids haven't been before is an adventurous experience, but it doesn't come risk-free. It only takes a second of looking away for your kid to get lost in the crowd. Children wander around, and you should prepare for that. Have a plan detailing what to do in case you get separated, and give your kids clear instructions about what to do. This can include meeting at a specific spot, staying where they are so you don't miss each other while searching, or going to a security guard or a police officer.

Not bringing a car seat

Your child can fly for free in your lap if he or she is under two years old; however, this may not be safe, and they probably won't sit still if they are not strapped in. A car seat can be cumbersome and annoying to carry along with everything else, and it can be expensive because you'll have to pay for an extra ticket, but it's safer than holding to your child in case there is severe turbulence or other problems. You can also rent a car seat if you don't want to bring your own.

Under packing

Carrying several suitcases can be extremely annoying – security checks, taxis, hotels, no free hands... However, instead of packing just a few items, learn a few tricks to fold your clothes in a way to save lots of space. Kids often have favorite clothes; that means that if you don't have the item when requested, you're looking at a massive tantrum.  Also, kids get messy frequently. You'll probably need a change of clothes quite often.

Planning to buy important items later

Diapers, toothbrushes, pajamas, slippers, hairbrush... You may want to save space in your suitcase by deciding to buy these items when you arrive at your destination. But traveling can be unpredictable; you may not be able to go to a pharmacy or another store right away, or there may not be one close to your hotel. Also, buying one or two emergency items may not break the bank, but having to purchase several, for every member of the family, can be costly.

Forgetting to charge phones, iPads, Kindles

Entertainment is king. In this day and age – when babies start to play with your phone before they are even 3 months old – you better believe they will need this kind of mental stimulation all the time. Download movies, songs, games, books – anything they like – and make sure the batteries are fully charged. Few things can be worse on a flight than a bored child.

Not bringing a stroller

How long can you really carry your baby? Your hands will get tired eventually, won't they? Save space by forgoing something else – but never the stroller. Even if you think you are Superman or Superwoman, is it possible to carry your carry-on luggage, diaper bag, purse and your baby? You don't have to check the strollers; the flight attendants will take care of them for you before the flight.

Forgetting snacks

Having to entertain a hungry child is not an easy task, and is rarely a successful one. You can always buy food from the menu on board, but the food is usually overpriced, and possibly old. Pack a few snacks and ration them. Remember, it's a snack, not a full meal. Besides, eating a little bit every couple of hours has been shown to be better than eating a lot just a couple of times a day.

Skipping the doctor checkup

Do you know whether your baby really is in a condition to fly? Newborns have developing immune systems and air travel might increase their risk of catching an infectious disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also, air pressure is lower. The doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen if your baby has an underlying respiratory condition.

Buying the cheapest tickets at the expense of comfort

Sometimes saving money is just not worth the trouble. Book a non-stop flight if you can to reduce the amount of time you have to carry bags, go through security, carry the kids, or push strollers around. Having so much to do between flights only increases the chance of missing your connection. Also, you have to consider jet lag. Imagine trying to navigate airports and commuting to the hotel with public transportation with your kids falling asleep on you? Get a cab.

Scheduling short layovers

If you can't book a direct flight, make sure the time between your landing and your next flight is enough. Divide the flights and layovers in between as evenly as possible. This will give your kids a good chance to use any energy left after the first flight to play around and get tired before the second. You won't have that option with a short layover. Some airports even have play areas designed for kids. Use them.

Being among the first to board

Airlines often let passengers with kids to board first, but this is a big mistake. You want to limit the minutes your kids spend in a confined space as much as possible. You won't miss the flight, so let everyone else board first and use the extra 20-25 minutes in the spacious sitting area where the kids can play, run around and use as much energy as they can. If both parents are flying, one of them should board first to deal with all the bags.

Not letting them decide anything

Kids can be stubborn. They also have a very different understanding of what is fun than you do. Let them decide what they can do or play with during the flight. That way you can plan ahead of time and bring the necessary toys and devices to keep them entertained. Involve them as much as you can to avoid tantrums later.

Disregarding changes in cabin pressure

Changing cabin pressure during a flight causes temporary changes in middle ear pressure, which can trigger ear pain, according to Mayo Clinic. To help equalize the pressure in your baby's ears, encourage your baby to suck on a bottle or pacifier during takeoff and landing.

Reserving seats in the front

The trick is to sit close to spacious area on the plane in case the kids wake up and need to release their pent-up energy somehow. The zone where the flight attendants are – generally in the back of the plane – is usually a good option, if they let your kids play there. Also, since no one wants to sit in the back, you have a good chance of ending up with extra seats.