Whether you’ve been the parent or the innocent bystander, you’ve probably encountered a child at some point during your airline travels. The parent hopes that by some miracle the child will behave better than they have ever before, and the bystander hopes that too, dodging the row or seat with anyone who wouldn’t be able to help themselves to the oxygen mask.
I myself have two memorable experiences with young travelers—one with two Unaccompanied Minor brothers, who had everything they could need to entertain themselves and had memorized the Flight Attendant PAs, and one in which the child in the row in front of us scaled the seat and became “my” child, landing haphazardly on my tray table. The tricks here are food, entertainment, and mostly luck, because let’s face it—children are unpredictable.
Necessities for the Flight
Here are a few items that I find essential for a smooth flight with kids:
Antibacterial hand wipes
Snacks in a gallon-size bag (minimizes spills)
Headphones and tablet
Coloring pages affixed to clipboard and crayons
Candy for takeoff and descent (relieves altitude pressure)
Parents, keep your kids occupied looking for the following I Spy guessing game during your travel adventure and look for the following! Can you find all of these items to the left? How many of each have you seen?
Tips from Southwest Employees
Nobody spends more time in the air than our Southwest Flight Crews. Here are some suggestions on keeping kids happy in the cabin from a few of our travel pros.
“Check your bags. Only bring what you need. Food and activities are great to include on your packing list. Drink a big coffee and have low expectations. I have a no-getting-up-from-your-seat rule unless it’s a dire bathroom emergency—I make sure that they use the bathroom before and after the flight.”
—MDW Flight Attendant Elizabeth Weis
“Bring ring pops for their ears. You can buy a pack of four for $1 at the Dollar Store.”
—OAK Flight Attendant Leesa Downie
“I like to bring something new for them to open during the flight. Even if it’s just a $0.97 Hot Wheels car, my son gets excited because it’s new. Also, be sure to bring snacks and an iPad with headphones. Make it feel special or exciting, and they will do great.”
—LAS Flight Attendant Tina Webb
“Do what you do in the car. And as far as fun entertaining things, do not bring slime, play dough, glitter, or confetti.”
—MDW Flight Attendant Elisa Brown
TSA Reminders for Traveling with Kids
Traveling with Children 12 Years Old or Younger
Rest easy, adults and their accompanied children will not be separated at the TSA checkpoint. Children 12 years old or younger may leave their shoes on during screening and pass through the walk-through metal detector. Should the metal detector’s alarm sound, TSA may allow the child to exit and re-screen in an attempt to resolve the alarm, and TSA may use other methods of screening to reduce the need for a pat-down. A child can use the advanced imaging technology screening if he or she is able to stand in the required position for five seconds. Like all carryon baggage, children’s belongings, which may include but is not limited to backpacks, toys, blankets, stuffed animals, and strollers, must be screened through the X-ray belt. Any items too large to fit on the belt will be inspected by TSA officers.
Traveling with Infants or Toddlers
TSA defines infants as children who must be carried by an adult through the screening process and toddlers as children who need assistance from an adult to walk. If you’re traveling with an infant or toddler, you can carry him or her through the walk-through metal detector, but may be subject to additional screening. While all strollers and carriers are not permitted through the metal detector, carrying your infant in a sling through the metal detector is permitted. If you are traveling with formula, breast milk, or juice, please notify a TSA officer at the checkpoint and remove these items from your luggage. These items are not subject to the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule. TSA may want to test a small amount of the liquid for explosives or check for concealed prohibited items. If you would prefer them not to open the container or X-ray the liquid, you can request alternate methods of screening, which will include a pat-down and screening of other carryon property. You can also bring ice or gel packs to cool formula, breast milk, or juice as needed. Gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred, and processed baby food is also permitted, but may be subject to additional screening. As always, refer to www.TSA.gov for more information.