Picture this — you are flying with children, and you get to the airport, your toddlers go off running, and you are struggling to get the necessary travel documents out of your messy handbag. The lady behind the desk gives a weak smile but doesn’t let up – she wants those papers, and you’re second-guessing yourself – is it on the kitchen table?!
Sounds like a nightmare, right?
Situations like these are one of the (many!) reasons you should prepare in advance when flying with children.
Besides keeping kids busy on the plane and remembering to pack all the essentials – like the best pacifier for a breastfed baby that you can find – there are also legal requirements; for example, what documentation you need for children flying without parents, especially on international flights.
What Documents Do You Need When Flying With Children?
Airlines are quite strict on documentation for children flying internationally, so the best practice is to contact the airlines you are flying with – domestic, international, and connecting flights.
Better safe than sorry!
To prevent child-trafficking, abduction, or even running away from home, when you’re flying with children, you will typically need one of the following:
1. Birth certificate – if you’re the parent and the child is too young to have his/her own passport. The birth cert should include the parent(s) names.
2. Parent’s passports – some EU countries allow babies and toddlers to be added to their parents’ passports.
3. Permission letter – if the kid is traveling with one parent, airlines may require a letter of permission that the child may leave the state/country from the other parent.
4. Passport – depending on the age of the baby, he/she may require a child-passport.
For children flying without parents – arrangements have to be made with the airlines for an escort while in transit. The same documentation guidelines apply, but the escort will be with the child at the check-in to answer any questions.
If minors are flying with adults other than their parents, for example, children flying with grandparents, permission letter from both parents might be required by the airline.
Documents Sorted – Let’s Start Packing!
The real excitement of flying starts when you dust those suitcases off and start packing. But don’t let the excitement distract you from taking the essentials!
If you’re flying with small children, here’s a few things to remember:
1. Change of clothes – for parent and toddler. Just in case, mom or baby has a nappy/food accident.
2. Baby wipes – are a staple for every mom, but they are an absolute lifesaver when traveling. Think of sticky hands, runny noses, spills, sweaty face – baby wipes are the answer to all that.
3. Nappies – airlines don’t usually have them, so pack a few extras – you want to be prepared for delays and layovers.
4. Activities – books, small toys, games, movies, pencils, and paper. Bring enough to keep your child busy in the airport and on the flight.
5. Safety seats that are FAA approved and fit on the airplane seats.
6. Keep travel documents together in a ziplock bag or folder: tickets, permission letters, passports, and hotel reservations.
While you’re packing, have a conversation with your child and explain the traveling process: what will happen when you get to the airport, security checkpoints, and that there might be long lines. This is especially helpful if you are flying with autistic children.
What to Do in the Airport?
You made it! But this is where everything can quickly go wrong. Before you get to the airport, do the online check-in for yourself and the kids. Most airlines allow you to skip the queue for checking in bags if you’ve done the online registration. Choose a seat near an exit and the front row, if possible (more legroom and space for the strollers and bassinets). Most online check-ins open 48 hours before flight departure.
Do a final check – documents, bags, and entertainment. Flying with children means you have to be cautious but strict – no running in the airport!
Since it doesn’t work that way, get the parent/child wrist band that ties on the wrist of the child and the parent so that kids can’t go wandering off in the airport. For children flying with one parent – you need a wristband or some sort of Bluetooth connected tracker. Airports are huge!
While waiting to board, sit close to the restroom (if you can) and take the kids there before boarding the plane.
Are We There Yet?
Make sure all are strapped in and stay in their seats. Flying with children doesn’t have to be stressful – they just have to stay entertained.
Now is the time to relax the rules a little bit, allow for longer screen time and give that extra snack. If it means your kid is quiet and not annoying other passengers – that’s the compromise you will have to make.
Prepare your kids for the ear-popping, get them to chew gum, or practice swallowing air bubbles before take-off and landing.
Finally, if you’re flying with children on a long-haul flight, make sure to wake them up for meals. Hungry kids are cranky kids!
Don’t forget to enjoy the experience with your children; let them take it in and get excited at all the planes on the tarmac or looking out the window. Flying with children can be an enjoyable experience if you are prepared!
When is the next time you are flying with children? Are you going to take specific measures? We look forward to your comments!