Making ‘Air Time’ Enjoyable:
Being stuck on a crowded plane can be difficult on adults and even harder on children. Bring items that will keep them entertained, drinks and snacks, familiar books, and toys that will comfort them. Familiar items like blankets, a pillow, stuffed animals, etc. will help them feel more secure.
What to Bring On Board:
1. Toddler’s Diaper Bag (as part of your carry-on bag allowance):
• Pack a diaper for every hour of travel (plus delays and one to two days after arrival), diaper wipes, a changing pad, and diaper rash ointment. You may want to plan on purchasing diapers upon arrival to save space in your checked bags.
• A change of clothes, socks, two blankets, and some toys or books
• Antibacterial hand gel
• Bring enough formula or breast milk for the trip, and a portable bottle warmer, bottles and nipples, filtered water, cereal, baby food (if your baby is eating solids), juices and snacks, spoons, bibs, and a sippy cup
• Two plastic bags for dirty diapers or clothes
• Pain reliever formula for infants and a thermometer
• An extra shirt for you, in case your baby spits up
• Baby soap and shampoo, brush, inflatable tub
• Sunblock and hat
• First aid kit
• Oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte, to prevent dehydration if your baby gets diarrhea or is vomiting
• Any prescription medications, if they are taking any
•Fitted sheets – the hotel may not provide fitted sheets for baby cribs. It is a good idea to bring your own that are up-to-date on safety standards, so the sheet does not come off while your baby is sleeping.
2. Car Seat or Child Aviation Restraint System:
Plan on bringing a Federal Aviation approved car seat or AmSafe’s Child Aviation Restraint System on the plane to secure your child. Most airline seats are 16” wide, so make sure your child’s car seat will fit. It should be used during all modes of transportation throughout your trip. Be sure the label says it is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends the following:
• Children weighing less than 20 lbs.: Secure them in a rear-facing child safety seat
• Children 20 – 40 lbs.: Secure them in a forward-facing child safety seat
• Children 22 – 44 lbs.: AmSafe’s CARES Child Aviation Restraint System (see below)
• Children over 40 lbs.: Secure them in the airplane seat belt
What is AmSafe’s CARES Child Aviation Restraint System?
The CARES Child Aviation Restraint System is designed specifically for children over the age of 1 who are 22 – 44 lbs. up to 40 inches tall for air travel only. It is not to be used as an alternative to a car seat in an automobile. CARES is a harness-like child safety device that is certified by the FAA as an alternative to a car seat on a plane. Small children cannot withstand the jolts caused by turbulence as easily as an adult. The harness keeps them more secure and will not allow them to slide out of their seat belt.
Since it is a lightweight restraint system, it is easy to carry through the airport. You can then check your child’s car seat as baggage, so you do not have to lug it through the airport.
3. Stroller or a Baby Sling:
• Strollers can be used to transport your child through the airport and can be checked at the gate with most airlines and will be delivered to you upon arrival at the aircraft door upon request. If your stroller is large and non-collapsible, the airline may require it to be checked baggage. Check in advance on what the airline’s policy is.
4. Telephone number and emergency number of your child’s doctor:
List any allergies your child may have and carry an updated list of their record of immunizations.
5. Toys, Movies, and Books:
Bring a variety of toys and books that they love and download their favorite movies or tv shows.
If your vacation includes swimming or being around the water (including pools), plan on packing a life vest or water safety devices in your checked bags along with water shoes that will protect your child’s feet while in the water or on hot sand. The availability of these may be limited or difficult to find in other countries, so it is a good idea to bring your own.
Getting Through Security Checkpoints with Ease:
When traveling with children through airport security checkpoints, you are allowed to carry juices, formula, breast milk, baby food, etc. in containers that are larger than the current liquid limit of 3.4 oz. They should be carried separately from other liquids and declared at security checkpoints.
Be prepared in advance to make it an easy transition through security.
• Diaper bags will be inspected.
• Strollers: Remove items in pockets and pouches of strollers and diaper bags. Do this in advance to save time at checkpoints. These need to be empty.
• Children 12 and under can leave their shoes on and can go through the screening several times if it goes off.
• The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not separate parents from their children.
• Babies must be carried through security and will not be allowed to go through in a carrier or stroller. Additional screenings may be required.
• Toys: All toys must be put in the bin and screened. It’s a good idea to prepare your child for this in advance, so they are not concerned that their toys are being taken from them. Let them know that their toys will have to go through the X-ray machine by themselves. If they become upset over having their toy or stuffed animal removed from them, try telling them a story about it. For example, say that their toy really wants to go through the X-ray, so it will be safe on the plane. And then ask…don’t you want your toy to be safe so it can fly with you?
• Toddlers who can walk without assistance will have to pass through security alone. They will not be able to carry anything with them when walking through.
• All items (strollers, car seats, booster seats, etc.) must go through the X-ray machine, if they will fit.
How to Alleviate Ear Pain While in the Air:
Children can sometimes be bothered by pain in their ears during the flight. Pressure in the middle ear can be equalized by swallowing or chewing. If your child is having difficulty, try the following:
Infants can suck on a bottle
Older children can try chewing gum. Giving your child something to eat or drink while the plane is taking off or landing will oftentimes alleviate ear pain caused by pressure as the cabin adjusts to altitude.
- Try using ear plugs (like EarPlanes for children)
- Check with your child’s physician in advance for their recommendations.
Safety/Health Precautions for Children:
The best safety advice is to keep an eye on your children at all times in public places and accompany them to the restroom, etc. Use strollers or baby slings to make it easier to watch over your children.
Put Identification Information on Your Child:
It only takes a moment in a crowded airport or other unfamiliar place for your child to wander off or lose sight of you. In case your child gets separated from the family, it is important that each infant and young child has identifying information and contact numbers (including your cell number) in his or her clothing or pockets. This information can also be pinned to them so it is easy to see.
Precautions for Infants under Three Months Old:
Take special precautions to protect your newborn’s immature immune system from illness. Be sure to wash your hands as often as possible—soap and water is the best method; however, you can use disinfectant hand gel as an alternative. Don’t let strangers hold or touch your baby.
Enjoy every moment with your precious children!
For insightful travel ideas, check out my book:
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad