Memorial Day weekend is here which means the season of summer travel is underway! I wanted to share a few of my go-to tips for flying with kids. I wrote a similar article back in 2014 when Knox was a baby — these tips are especially helpful if you have a newborn! Now that I have a five year old and a three year old, our travel dynamic has changed and while some of the old tips still apply, I’ve picked up a few new tricks along the way. Read on below for my traveling-with-kids survival guide!

Plan Ahead, And Then Prepare for Plans to Fall Through

When traveling with kids, it’s best to plan ahead as much as possible. Inevitably there is always a hiccup or change in schedule, but having a basic plan will help keep any parent sane! Keeping things to the last minute guarantees stress no matter what, but especially when kids are involved. I try to have everyone packed up and ready to at least 24-48 hours before every trip to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything important. If we’re traveling during lunchtime, I make sure to set aside extra time at the airport to get a bite in before we take off, and if we are flying early in the morning, I make sure everyone gets a good breakfast before we leave for the airport. You can also plan ahead with your spouse so that each of you is responsible for specific documents and tasks at the airport (more on that below).

When something doesn’t go as planned — which of course always happens — it’s super important to keep calm and recognize that things are outside of your control (like weather, travel delays, etc.). If you’re traveling with your spouse, it’s also crucial to stay on the same team and not create conflict with one another. Your kids can sense if you are upset or stressed, which only makes matters worse. If something unexpected happens – like when Knox was a baby and we had a 45 minute layover in Chicago turn into an 8 hour layover – take 3 deep breaths before reacting and then try your best to go with the flow. Have extra games, batteries, snacks, and pillows on hand just in case!

Divide and Conquer

If you’re traveling with your spouse, divide and conquer the tasks and responsibilities. It can be helpful if each parent takes ownership of a child (or multiple if you have more than 2 kids!). This way one parent isn’t solely responsible for every bathroom break, snack needed, mess made, etc. You can give your children more undivided attention and also help avoid any major disasters — like a child getting lost or running down the terminal. You can also divide tasks, such as checking baggage, pushing everyone’s items through security, grabbing lunch for the family, etc. The key is to pull together a game plan before you get to the airport to avoid conflict.

Simplify Your Security Line Process

To avoid losing items and adding to the hassle of juggling your kids and your gear, keep your and your kids’ watches, belts, wallets, sweaters, etc. in carry-on bags instead of wearing them.  This way you and your kids don’t have to remove them during security and potentially forget them.

TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck is a gamechanger. With TSA Precheck you can sail through security lines without having to take off your and your kids’ shoes and jackets, remove laptops and iPads from your bags, and, if you have a baby, unpack bottles to be tested or take your child out of your baby carrier. Plus, less time waiting in lines means less opportunity for impatient kids. The fee is $85 for five years, and if you’re a frequent flyer I think it’s definitely worth it!

Give Your Kids Responsibilities

There’s nothing worse than a child misbehaving at an airport in front of a crowd of people while you’re trying to enjoy a nice family vacation. I find that giving my kids something to be in charge of makes them more eager to behave and to help you with the travel process. Whether it’s making them carry their own bag, or asking them to hold your tickets as you board the plane, little responsibilities can go a long way.

Pack Light

Thankfully the gear lightens as your kids get older and no longer need Pack & Plays, baby monitors, or car seats. If you do have a baby, call ahead to your destination and see what is provided so that you don’t double up on anything. In general, I think it’s best to travel exclusively with carry-on luggage to avoid overpacking and luggage getting lost in transit. It also saves time during the check-in process. Just make sure your carry-on is easy to tote while also juggling kiddos.

What to Carry On:

Change of Clothes (For the Whole Family!)

I recommend a change of clothes for everyone in the family — especially if you have a baby! If you end up having a long layover or getting rerouted somewhere, not having a change of clothes can be a huge pain. Not to mention all of the potential spills and accidents that could happen during a full travel day. If you’re traveling with carry-ons, you should already have plenty of extra options with you.

Comfy Accessories

One of the keys to successful travel is to make sure everyone is well-rested and comfortable. Having a carry-on dedicated to a few cozy items, like small pillows, throw blankets, and stuffed animals, will make your kids feel more at home on the plane and more likely to snooze on the way to your destination.


I suggest bringing only a couple of your kids’ favorite toys, as well as a book or two. Too many toys will weigh you down and won’t be worth having in the long run. At this stage in life, Knox and Andrew are easily entertained by movies, so we make sure to bring iPads, headphones, and extra chargers to keep them entertained. While I don’t always love screen time, I’m very thankful for it while traveling!

Extra Batteries / Chargers

You never know when you’ll have a flight delay or a longer layover than expected, so be sure to pack extra chargers and batteries for your devices. The last thing you want is a meltdown because an iPad has died and now they can’t finish their favorite movie!


I always make sure to have more than enough snacks for the boys — and myself! If for some reason you’re running behind schedule and don’t have time to grab food at the airport, you don’t want hungry children on a plane! Confession: Even if it isn’t meal time, I usually pack snacks for entertainment  and to help the time go by. Clif bars, fruit, sliced veggies, string cheese, and crackers are all favorite snacks that travel well.

Headphones + iPads

Headphones and an iPad are a must for both the boys and myself! Wireless headphones are ideal to avoid tangled cords and getting disconnected. Make sure to download your kids’ favorite movies and games before your trip in case the wifi isn’t dependable. It’s also nice to get them started on a movie as soon as we sit down on the plane to avoid any impatience while waiting for take-off.