Airline Travel with Children
Airplane travel can be exciting for a child. It can also
present challenges. Depending on his or her age, it may be hard for a child
to sit for long periods of time in the confined space of an airplane.
A benefit of airline travel with children is that the trip takes less time than
by ground. By preparing ahead of time to address the
child's needs, parents can make a trip more fun for all involved.
What is the information for this topic?
When traveling by plane, the child's safety, comfort, and
enjoyment should all be taken into account. The following are issues
The Federal Aviation Administration, known as the FAA,
recommends that any child weighing less than 40 pounds be in a
child safety seat. Many safety seats commonly used in cars work
well in airplanes too. A seat is safe for this use if the label reads
"approved for use in motor vehicles and on aircraft." Children who
weigh less than 20 pounds should be in a rear-facing safety seat.
If the child weighs between 20 and 40 pounds, the safety seat
should face forward. A child weighing more than 40 pounds should
use the standard seat belt attached to the aircraft seat.
Before boarding, check with the flight attendant about
where the safety seat should go. Many airlines prefer the child seat
to be by a window. While the plane is taking off, be sure the child is
safely strapped into the seat. Many airlines allow an infant or toddler
less than age 2 to ride in the lap of an adult passenger. The child
does not need a separate ticket in this case. At age 2, the FAA
requires that children be in their own seats during takeoff and landing.
However, some airlines offer "kid fares" or discounts for children's seats.
Planning travel around the child's regular schedule may
make the trip more pleasant. For example, a child may sleep for
some or all of a flight scheduled at night or during naptime.
When confirming reservations, or 24 to 48 hours before
the flight, it is usually possible to request a children's meal. It is also
a good idea to carry small snacks such as fresh fruit, dry cereal, or
Ear problems and motion sickness
The sharp increase or decrease in altitude during takeoff and
landing can cause increased pressure in a child's ear. Some doctors
may recommend giving a child a dose of a decongestant
before the flight. If a child has a history of ear infections, the doctor may
have other suggestions to decrease ear problems.
Also, it may be helpful to have a child suck on a pacifier or
bottle during takeoff and landing. Older children may be encouraged to
suck on a lollipop or to chew gum. The swallowing helps to decrease
the buildup of pressure in the ears. If a child is prone to motion sickness,
the doctor may also suggest ways to treat this problem.
Packing for the flight
A bag with items a child will need during the trip should be
carried onto the plane. For an infant or toddler, this might include diapers,
wipes, bottles, formula, pacifiers, a change of clothes, and spill-proof cups.
It is also helpful to pack a "fun bag" containing toys and games to entertain
the child during the flight. Suitable items for plane travel include activity
books, hand-held computer games, coloring books, crayons, travel games,
stickers, scissors, and word games.
Boarding the plane
It is a good idea to arrive at the airport with enough time for
the child to walk around or play before boarding. This can help the child
burn off extra energy before being confined in an airline seat. Extra time
will also permit a bathroom visit or diaper change. Often, people with
small children are allowed to board ahead of other passengers.