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Guide: My tips for air travel with or without children

To the point Have you ever wondered whether any children were on board near your seat when boarding a plane? How to make your plane trip more enjoyable? Here are our tips for travelling with or without children, with peace of mind and the most tremendous possible respect for other passengers.

Introduction: our tips on how to travel by plane with peace of mind

Air travel can be stressful, even for adults. Here you’ll find a first section for adults and a second for families traveling with children. Our aim is to make your journey more pleasant and comfortable, but also for your seatmate. If you’re traveling with a baby, I refer you to this article.

Enjoy the flight!

Air travel without children: tips for adults

Tips for cheap air travel

When you think air travel, you think cost! And to reduce them, here are a few basic tips:

  • Book your tickets in advance: they are generally the cheapest several months before departure. The same applies to points.
  • Travel outside vacation or peak periods: prices are best off-season or during the week.
  • To avoid consuming at the airport, use your credit card to visit airport lounges.
  • Compare non-stop and stopover flights: sometimes the shortest route is the most expensive, so it’s best to make a stopover.
  • Use loyalty programs: Aeroplan is Canada’s leading loyalty program for travel. Earn points and use them!

How to get a good seat on the plane?

To get a good seat on the plane, follow these steps:

  • Book early: the earlier you book, the better your chances of getting a good seat. Use Google Flights to find the best flights and fares.
  • Use online tools: use sites like SeatGuru to see the best seats available on your flight.
  • Opt for privileged seats: if possible, pay extra for seats with more legroom or seats near the front of the plane.

Before you fly

Check in online

This will save you time and avoid long queues.

Before departure, choose the right seat on the plane

Find out which aircraft you’ll be on and choose your seat. If necessary, it is sometimes possible to change again at the boarding counter. Often, the best seats are on the sides of the plane.

  • Are you one of those people who prefer easy access to the toilet or want to be able to stand up and walk down the aisles? Take the aisle seats.
  • Would you rather sleep? Noise is louder at the rear because of the engines. Choose a place towards the front of the boat, and on the porthole side, to place your cushion.
  • Fear of flying? Take a seat towards the middle of the plane, on the window side or in the center, where the center of gravity is stable and turbulence is less noticeable.
  • A landscape fanatic? A porthole seat offers you the ultimate experience.

Are you more comfortable flying in a particular aircraft? If you’re an air and points enthusiast, choosing the right aircraft will give you greater comfort!

Check baggage policies

Airlines are getting more challenging with their baggage policies. To avoid extra charges, check the weight and size limits for hand and checked baggage. Travelling with a carry-on suitcase is becoming easier, so you don’t have to wait for your luggage on arrival. You’ll have less risk of waiting, losing or damaging it.

Tips for travelling light by plane

Use storage cubes to organize your suitcase and pack only the essentials. We often take too many things with us to reassure ourselves. It’s the perfect opportunity to treat yourself on the spot with souvenirs or clothes. Travelling light makes it easier and less stressful.

Think about your outfits for your stay, and limit the number of toiletries you use to save space. An oversight? No problem, you’ll find it elsewhere.

In flight: how to pass the time on the plane?

We recommend that you take the time to prepare your hand luggage properly. At the end of the article, you’ll find our complete download list so you don’t forget anything!

Entertainment items

Bring your phone, tablet and your favorite noise-canceling headphones for a better viewing and listening experience of your podcasts, movies and series. Take advantage of the airline’s entertainment options.

In the absence of Wi-Fi, it’s time to rest. Otherwise, take out a package to work, revise or get ahead on your tasks.

Read a book, magazine, do a crossword puzzle or other game.

Essential items

Computers, telephones and other electronic items should always be with you to avoid loss or breakage in checked luggage. Take your chargers and portavle battery to keep your devices charged during the flight. For long flights, a change of shirt and a toiletry kit can be useful, with toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and refreshing wipe.

Finally, don’t forget your medication, both for yourself and for those accompanying you. It always pays to think ahead.

Consider taking melatonin. It can be taken to help you fall asleep and adapt more quickly to jet lag.

Health and well-being tips: how to cope with a long plane journey?

  • Take along items for your comfort. Travel pillows, eye masks and earplugs are essentials for blocking light and noise on medium/long-haul flights.
  • Hydrate regularly with water and avoid alcohol.
  • Take healthy snacks (dried fruit, nuts, protein bars), as these are permitted.
  • Get moving: stand up, exercise and stretch to avoid cramps and blood stagnation.
  • On the porthole side, enjoy natural light.
  • Dress in comfortable clothes. It’s still a little cold for some and too hot for others. Layers of clothing can help.

Air travel with children: airlines

Travelling by plane with children can be challenging, but with the right tips, you can make the trip enjoyable for the whole family.

In 2024, more and more airlines are offering family-friendly services. For example, Japan Airlines continues to improve its seat display service for passengers: it is now possible to view the seats occupied by passengers travelling with one or more children under two years of age.

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Seat selection on Japan Airlines

Some will be glad to escape families with children and perhaps get a better night’s sleep.

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Why can children on planes be challenging to manage?

These days, we travel more, and over longer distances, with more or less comfort than ever before, depending on the class we’re in: it’ll be harder to look after a child when you feel blocked by space, without adequate storage and in a noisier environment in economy, for example.

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Today’s children grow up differently. They travel more and are, therefore, more connected and open to the world. As airplanes are confined spaces where passengers stay for hours, parents are particularly under pressure.

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For a child, the holidays start as soon as they arrive at the airport. Excitement or stress can quickly rise.

Some children may want to sing and dance while boarding the plane. While others will want to take refuge, scream or cry in the arms of one of the parents because of their fear of change.

A child is excited about everything and expresses easily his emotions while an adult has learned to control them.

Adults are almost like “bored” to get on a plane! We fit into a mould, but not a child.

As the milesopedia community mentioned, let’s not forget that you don’t have to be a child to harm other people’s space. Not all adults are disciplined, and you’ll never see them on the camera plan 🙂

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They can be quite as unbearable! Some adults will simply have no way of behaving in a community, and will do as they please.

You have to accept travelling with children other than your own. As long as parents show they’re doing their best, you can’t blame them. Having travelled thousands of kilometres with our children by plane, cab, boat and train, we know what it’s like, and we’ve adapted.

Every child is different and has their character and quirks, and every parent must learn to understand, anticipate and manage their child’s needs and expectations. If a child taps the file, it’s up to the parent to react and not let it happen, for example.

Advantages and disadvantages of business class travel with children

Being in such confined spaces as an airplane complicates matters. Especially as your child is discovering a new environment. He has to understand that he has HIS seat and has to behave himself. There are many instructions to integrate, such as :

  • do not kick the front seat,
  • do not shout, speak too loudly or stand up on your seat to avoid disturbing other passengers,
  • do not stand up and fasten your seatbelt when asked to do so by the light instructions, even though they are bothersome and burdensome
  • etc.

In economics, there are several constraints. We must:

  • Hold on so you don’t lose your balance in corridors or get in the way of other people.
  • Be patient when going to the toilet, which is small, dirty and can be a long wait.
  • Waiting for food when you’re hungry.
  • Manage the even tighter space when the person in front lowers their seat.
  • Be careful not to spill your food or glass of water, which is on a tiny tray.
  • Learn to sleep on an almost upright seat.

In business, these points are much simpler.

  • A quick boarding, with a welcome drink and a quiet seat.
  • Fewer people, less noise.
  • More staff to take care of us with outstanding service and fun with the kids.
  • Food arrives faster and better. Snacks available.
  • The toilets are bigger, with less waiting and generally cleaner.
  • More interesting, high-quality entertainment with large screens, for example.
  • The seat can be extended, so you can make a hut and sleep more peacefully.
  • A quicker exit from the plane to stretch your legs.
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In short, everyone (children and parents alike) generally arrives a little more rested having been in business rather than in economics. We know that not everyone can afford a place in the business, butthanks to points & miles obtained with credit cards, it’s possible! Here are our guides to doing what we do:

How do you prepare your children for air travel?

Each parent will be advised to arrive prepared, calm and fit for the flight. We arrive at the airport early. We go to airport lounges for waiting, eating and entertainment. We head for the gate on time.

Rest assured, traveling with a baby from 1 month to 8 months of age is generally a breeze (especially if you’re breast-feeding). The preparation phase is more important for parents with children aged 1 to 6, as they find it harder to manage their emotions and patience. As Sophie Reis of the BBJetlag website says, a child should be usually prepared well before the flight, when he starts to walk.

Try to explain each phase of the airport to your child, rather than making them go through the whole process (check-in, security, customs), and make sure they let off a little steam before boarding the plane.

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Once on board, a good look at the cabin layout and toilet facilities will also help. A parent can always prepare for any eventuality, and role-playing is the best way to learn, even if sometimes you can’t see things coming!

For example, when our daughter threw up on our flight to San Francisco, I didn’t have the reflex to take out the vomit bag with my son asleep in my arms. Who would have had the reflex? In these situations, few passengers will come to the parent’s rescue; everyone will look the other way rather than help the parent in trouble.

But as a passenger, you could, for example, tell the stewardess and ask for some paper for the parent and a bag of coffee to stop the smell. The flight attendants are used to this type of situation.

On the Montreal-San Francisco route, the hostess confessed to me that she had a sick person EVERY time because of the turbulence. The seat cushion can even be changed, check with the crew. There are usually always 1 extra one.

A bag to keep close to you will therefore have be to prepare, ideally at least the day before departure. If several trips follow one another, such as around the world for example, try to always restock according to this list (snacks, games, clothes).

Think of the baby carrier too, very useful for travelling around the airport in order to have your hands free (you will have to untie your baby and remove the harness to safety in general) as well as on the plane in order to rock your baby and manage to put him to sleep by example.

Survival backpack for parents

This general list is of course to be adapted according to each family, the age of the child and each trip. For me it is enough, maybe others will like to take more. Always ask the crew if they have a little something for your child. It could be a stuffed plane, pencils, decals. In general, they are equipped.

Finally, we advise you not to overload yourself. There are also companies like BabyQuip that can help you rent the equipment you need for your destination.

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List for Papa Mom:

For the little ones, we don’t forget:

  • Bibs
  • pacifiers
  • toy attachment/pacifiers
  • bottles of milk or water for depressurization

A little idea: our son loved toothbrushes. When we were little, we gave him to chew, it occupied him a bit…

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  • Inflatable pillow if necessary, blanket / soft. Sometimes mom’s simple scarf can be enough as a softie!
  • Diapers and disinfectant wipes.
  • Snacks: fruit compotes (watch out for spills, of course), easy-to-eat savory or sweet cookies (avoid chocolate cookies, which crumble or stick, for example), sweets (lollipops for pressure), cheese stick, etc.
  • Water bottle or Milk bottle: plan the heating time by the crew if your child takes it hot, otherwise heat it up first in a coffee shop before boarding
  • Change clothes for children AND parents
  • Easily accessible papers / tissues (external pocket)
  • Vomit bag and small garbage bag for soiled clothes just in case
  • Medication case

Toy bag

  • Small box that will serve as a support to avoid dropping games on the floor, with inside :
    • LEGO, Playmobil,
    • polly pocket,disney or super hero figurines
    • cars
  • Pencils and coloring book. Draw animals for them or car circuit for example that they can color in.
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  • “Small Rewards” for good behaviours, some bags to “surprise” to unpack in case of impatience or surprise envelopes with drawings.
  • One or two books with photos and several stories for the bedtime ritual, for example, or a “search and find” game.
  • Stickers, decals of different kinds. Don’t take out everything, you can even make surprises in envelopes/small bags to make the suspense last.
  • Tablet, phone or other electronic device with child-friendly headphones: download offline applications before departure to avoid any connection problems, such as Netflix or Duolingo. Airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa have also introduced new policies and services for families travelling with young children.
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Games Ideas

Invent a game, make child laugh, make faces!

  • Our son, petitt, used to laugh himself to death when we imagined a character with our 2 fingers climbing to the top of the seats and falling into the void, imitating a cry of fall and boo-boo. It’s stupid, but it’s caught up many times.
  • Our daughter loved playing Rock-Paper-Scissors, imagining a story or even Knock! Knock! Who’s there?
  • Play “If you were an animal, you’d be…”
  • Take a look at your old travel photos on your cell phone.
  • Show them your next destination on a map and the animals they will see or activities they will do there
  • Create a video with them: they will happily participate in the creation and review the film several times.
  • Play with your child to make funny photos with applications (Mickey, make-up, rainbows or monsters will amuse them).
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Our list to save

Here’s our complete checklist for you to find the significant items that can help you save and make sure you don’t forget anything before you go on vacation.

You’ll find all our tips for families and ideas for keeping your kids busy on the road at the end of this list.

A few principles to try to respect

  • A child who is tired or hungry will be more likely to have a temper tantrums. Don’t wait until the last moment, and think ahead: give him a hug if you can, go for a walk with him or give him a snack he likes.
  • Depending on age, recreate the evening ritual to make it easier to fall asleep. For some long flights where our children have to sleep on the plane, after meals, we put on their pyjamas or a more casual outfit, take them to brush their teeth and turn off the screens to read a story before trying to get them to sleep. Falling asleep is generally more accessible.
  • Divide up the children as much as possible: one parent for one child if you have two or more, and do it according to affinity. Temper tantrums will be easier to calm if there are. When we see empty seats, we don’t hesitate to move further back to avoid over-excitement.
  • Avoid noisy, oversized games or small, hard-to-find parts. I recommend putting all the games in a small canvas bag that you or the children can wear. This bag will become heavier if you buy other games during the trip, so don’t overload it from the outset.
  • Avoid jealousy if you have two or more children: having experienced it many times, I’ve learned to take the same thing for both: for snacks, meals and juice, or in crayons. Also, plan an electronic device for everyone! A crisis can quickly occur because of the desire for what one has and the other does not have.
  • Just like your baggage, compartmentalize your backpack well to find your way around easily and especially quickly!
  • Finally, you’re already doing everything right, but the situation is difficult. Take heart! Accept not having an answer to any crisis and learn from your mistakes for the next time! If passengers see that you’re doing your best, that’s the main thing. Walk around with your child, take a bathroom break, take a breather and take turns if possible. Most people will understand , and you’ll soon forget all about it once you’re off the plane.
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Survival list for passengers who do not like or want to stay away from children

No secret: you have to take your pain in patience!

And between us, parents also “hate” their children at times when they don’t listen. When a child is hit by something, the task is difficult for the parent. A parent already gives 24 hours a day to his child. So releases happen, and sometimes, they’re on the plane because of the accumulated exhaustion!

Be understanding.

Try to change your mind to pass the time. The crisis may not last long, but we wish you at least!

  • Choose places away from the first rows where the smallest ones are usually located because of the crib
  • The indispensable Earplugs and Eye Mask Kit
  • Noise-reducing headphones such as the Bose QC35 for playing or listening to music/film
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Chat with the crew
  • Go get a snack in the kitchen
  • Make the crying baby laugh next to you 🙂
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Bottom Line

Finally, the BB Jetlag website created by Sophie Reis is packed with information for travellers with children, including air travel. Don’t hesitate to join the Facebook group to have an exchange with other parents.

Sophie has also published “Le Guide des parents voyageurs: s’inspirer, s’informer, s’équiper, 0-12 ans. An entire chapter is devoted to air travel with children: At the airport and on the plane. You’ll find a number of practical checklists and memory aids at the end of the book. We presented it in this article.

The new edition has been available since March 27 in print, digital and even audio format, with enhanced and 100% up-to-date content. The book was Amazon’s #1 bestseller in the ‘Family Travel Guide’ category, that’s for sure!

Finally, Sophie Reis also organizes regular workshops to answer all the questions of traveling parents.

In October 2019, Sophie and I hosted a Facebook Live on the BB Jetlag page on the theme: Travelling with the family for free (or almost…!).

As you are reminded, you can save 15% on your purchases from BB Jetlag thanks to the exclusive promotional code: MILESOPEDIA.

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The milesopedia community

Would you like to travel for free (or almost…) with your points? For more family travel tips, subscribe to our newsletter and join our community on Facebook!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which stroller to use on a plane?

Sophie Reis answers this question in her book and on her website. There are now many compact strollers that are approved to fit in the cabin of an airplane. If your child is tired and you have layovers, it’s a good idea to take one stroller with you and use it at the gate.

Parental consent or parental authorization What is this?

There may be times when you have to travel alone with your minor child without your spouse (or even when your minor child has to travel alone). You will then need to print and complete the“consent letter” document. Your spouse who is absent during this trip will have to give his or her consent so that you can leave alone with your child. This document is important to have with you so that you don’t have any problems at the counter.

Can I fly alone with several children under the age of 2?

No, it is forbidden to have the responsibility of more than one infant, i.e. under the age of two! You must be two parents or be accompanied by another passenger of at least 16 years old.

What can I bring in the cabin for a child under the age of two?

In your carry-on baggage, it is allowed to take more than 100 ml of breast milk, food, formula, medicines, milk, water and baby juice, as well as gels and ice packs to keep the products refreshed.

At what age can a baby travel?

A baby is allowed to travel to Canada as soon as it is 7 days old. You will need to call the company to add it to your seat. However, it is recommended to wait a few weeks, or until the first vaccines have been administered. Changes in altitude can be painful for your baby’s ears. Choose short flights or check that his nose is not taken before the trip.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
Audrey Voisine
Mother of two young children, pharmacist, travel hacker's wife and frequent traveller, Audrey shares her advices and destinations recommendations on milesopedia.

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