3 reasons we travel, and 3 tips for traveling with kids on airplanes!

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hi everyone! as summer comes to a close, i’ve partnered with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to share some thoughts today on why we invest so much time, energy, and resources into traveling together as a family, as well as 3 tips we’ve found tried and true for airplane travel with little ones.

3 reasons to travel with little ones:

1. impressions!

i know some people feel strongly that taking kids around the world is such a waste since they think the kids won’t be able to remember it all perfectly when they’re older. josh and i disagree with this argument because we believe exposing our children at a young age to different cultures, smells, tastes, languages and people, helps shape them as human beings and these experiences can leave a lasting impression that will make them the better people and better citizens of our world.

2. memories!

we have also found that in our experience, not many things have topped the memories our family has created as we have spent time together exploring and learning, discovering and trying new things together.  if anything, it has truly helped build a special bond i am very thankful for. also, documenting through photos and videos is a way to hold onto those memories in the years to come as our kids ask often to watch our travel videos again over time and to look at pictures from past trips. sometimes a certain photo or video will spark a memory from that trip we never documented and it’s fun to realize how they are remembering much of it all on their own and holding it near and dear even years later.

3. practice!

lastly, we hope to travel as a family later on in life too, and we’ve noticed that traveling and having adventures are like anything else, in that you get better with practice! our kids now know how to go through security like they’re frequent flyer platinum status travelers and have their preferred personal routines down so well on long airplane, car or train rides.  this goes for us parents just as much for the kids. it just gets better and better with practice!

as for tips and tricks for making your airplane ride with little ones a bit easier, i’ve included a few tips below. as well as some photos from our recent flight to europe with KLM, a Dutch airline with flights from the US via Amsterdam to all over Europe. we went through amsterdam on our way to spain a couple weeks ago and thought that their crew was really very attentive and helpful with our kids. they had meals and activity kits just for the kids too! you can also check out this post about traveling abroad with little ones a few years back that is more applicable if you’re traveling with two year olds and younger, as well as this extensive travel post with tips and tricks for traveling with kids from last spring, which has more tips about packing, hotels and spending days in a foreign city or place with little ones.

3 tips for airplane travel with kids:

1. disinfectant wipes!

bring disinfectant wipes on the plane and first things first, before you sit down, wipe down the arm rests, head rests, sides of plane if you have a window seat, the outside of the tray tables and especially the insides! basically everything. i used to think people sitting around us would think we were crazy but it’s amazing to see grown adults sitting nearby that’ll be like, “hey do you mind if i borrow one of those?!” i know airplanes have great crews that come through after each flight and clean the cabins, but i still think it’s a great thing to do with little ones who tend to touch everything and then touch their faces and mouths right after.

2. two bags!

two bags. we carry two bags on the plane besides the kids little backpacks. one is full of fragile and breakable items that we don’t want to check like camera gear, computers, and well, sunglasses :-) as well as important documents we want to have with us like passports. the other bag has everything we need for our kids and family. which breaks down to two main categories, food and fun. with a side of cleanliness like wipes and hand sanitizer and maybe an extra pair of clothes for any kids still perfecting their potty training. for food, we take fruits and veggies and nuts, a bag of popcorn which is a real splurge since it take up a lot of space. for fun, we have books with stickers and drawing and mazes or puzzles, our own headphones (including some sound blocking ones for kids) and tablets with educational apps and some downloaded shows and movies we curate for the kids. we start with food and books and work our way to the tablets later into the flight.

3. remain relaxed and calm!

the last tip i wanted to share is more for the mama or papa. i’ve noticed that the times i’m more relaxed and calm as we board the flight together, it makes all the difference in how the next few hours go. i think kids are so good at picking up signals from our own energy and moods, and it can dictate how they end of feeling as well. there have been times where i’ve been super stressed or nervous because the flight might be a red eye or someone isn’t feeling well and i’m worried we’ll bother other passengers or something will go wrong, and it seems my stress only adds to the experience and everyone else’s. so while it might be hard to do, having a moment to breath before boarding will go a long way for not just you, but your kiddos on your next flight! i promise!

you can see more tips from past posts on handling airplanes with kids HERE.

please feel free to share the reasons you love to travel with all of us in the comments, as well as the tried and true tips and tricks you have found helpful for airplane travel with little ones.

  1. Elena

    Hi, We love to travel as well and I always suffer with packing, could you show some pics of the 2 bags to take on the plane? please? Greetings and keep sharing :)

  2. Candice

    Thank you for sharing your tips! We took our first international trip (to Scotland) with our just 3 year old son this May. I was inspired by your previous posts on traveling with littles and used some of your advice. The trip was perfect and we had an amazing time. Afterward I started planning our next adventure. With the anticipation and the unknowns of traveling with a little one for the first time under our belt I feel invincible and like we can go anywhere. Like you I would much rather travel together as a family than leave the kids behind. I think the experiences are invaluable! Thank you again for sharing!

  3. Becca

    We just got back from a 12 day road trip out west and I totally agree with the practice philosophy. Our kids are 22 months and 4 – the older one might remember the trip but the 22 month old definitely won’t. BUT – we want to do this as a family on the regular and we know that if we just do it, no excuses, it will become normal for us. And I think we parents also get practice too, not just the kids. It can be hard to plan a vacation for a family but the more you do it (how many hours in the car/day? what to pack? what to carry-on? how do we best sleep in a hotel?) the easier it gets. And finally, Naomi, your original how to travel with kids post was extremely helpful and I encourage everyone to read it. We’re still using some of your tips – getting a hotel in the middle of town was a gem. We stopped in Vegas for a night on our trip and we stayed in a hotel on the Strip! We were able to truly see Vegas and get a fun dinner and check out the Bellagio fountains with minimal stress!

  4. Lindsey

    I totally love this post. I travel lots with my toddler and to expose her to different cultures, food and way of life is good for our little humans, plus who better than to have an adventure with.

  5. Jessie

    The best toys for flights (IMHO) tend to be the simple ones, ones that can be used a ton of different ways. I bought a cheap tube toy- literally it was a plastic purple tube that could lengthen, shorten & twist. On a ten hour flight to Hawaii, this little tube kept my 3 y.o. occupied *for hours*. He made it into a necklace, bracelet, sculptures, animals, played telephone with us, used it as a telescope, etc. Best $1 I ever spent :)

    Also, on the long flights I make sure to get up, walk around & if there’s room, stretch in the back of the plane. It breaks up the time & helps us all feel physically better.

  6. Sabine

    Our son is 2 and we have so far been to Croatia (3 times), London, Scotland, Mauritius, Canada, the Seychelles, Tuscany, Mallorca and in many parts of our home country, Austria. I want him to be as open minded towards other cultures as possible. I want him to know that people may look different but still, just like us love, live and have to deal with problems. I want him to know how privileged we are, since we have food and water and a house we call home. I want him to become a decent person who is empathic with other human beings and generally all creatures on our planet.

    • josh

      Thank you, Sabine! Well said!

  7. Teresa

    These are great tips. I agree with you that practice is good for them and that remaining calm is super important. Thanks for sharing these!!!

    xoxoxo
    Teresa

    http://www.aleandtere.com

  8. Marlo

    Your travel posts are always so helpful and I admire that you are able to take your three kiddos on such great adventures!

    Would you be able to link to any kids headphones that have been approved by your kids? We’ve had trouble finding ones that haven’t caused a problem.

  9. Marcie

    Great post! Did KLM pay for your flights? The biggest factor why it is hard to travel with little ones is sometimes the cost for several tickets. Curious if you have tips to keep these costs down for those of us that don’t get free tickets via partnerships.

    • josh

      We have signed up for Scott’s Cheap Flights and set our preferences for where we would like to visit. We get alerts when there are discounts and sales for fares, and sometimes there are even mistake fares! If you can be a little flexible with dates, it can cost less to go to Europe than to LA or out west from NYC. We got several emails this week actually about a big sale for flights to all over Europe from all over the US during the fall and winter months. It might still be going on. Google Flights and Momondo are a couple other sites/tools for discovering the least expensive times to book flights.

  10. Kelly

    Great post! We are a travelling family too(our 18mo son has been on two long hauls and over twenty domestic flights so far) and things definitely get easier over time. I’d love you to write a post about your packing – do you still fly carry-on only now that the kids are older? I often refer to your Italy post many times when I’m preparing us for our next flight. Kelly xx

  11. Pingback: 3 reasons we travel, and 3 tips for traveling with kids on airplanes! – parenting.newspaperperiod.com

  12. Remaliah Lacombe

    I’m curious to know how you transport your drone safely when flying internationally? We are moving back to Switzerland from New Zealand in a few months, and this time have a drone that we want to bring with us. I’m not sure if you take yours on all your trips, but when you have do you check it in or take it carry on?

  13. Kate

    Hi Taza,

    I took my five-month old son on the 16 hour Dubai to Auckland flight earlier this year and it was a pleasant surprise how easy it was! Travel is so exciting, but also so important for children to learn how people live across the world to understand and celebrate our differences.

    My tips for flying with a newborn here: https://www.withlovekate.com/home/2017/5/22/flying-with-a-baby

    I love your blog so much and have been following since Eleanor was born. Enjoy the new apartment!

    Kate

  14. Erica

    Love all of the travel posts! We are taking our second trip with our two kids, 5 and under, and just like the other commenters we feel like the experience is enriching whether it not they remember it. I’d love more practical tips – things you packed or didn’t pack. Do you have any travel pillows for the adults or do you power through the long flights while the little ones nap? The more advice I can find the better prepared I feel for travel with the kid :)

    Also congrats on the new place!

  15. Jennifer

    I love how you take your kids to differenbt countries and foreign places! My parents travelled with me since I was little and it definitely influenced me. Talking about family bond, I am 30 by now and still like to travel with my parents every once in a while.

  16. Fernanda

    That’s a great post and great tips! We traveled a lot this past Summer with our toddler too and have been traveling since he was a baby, and I had some people saying to me I’m crazy, I should’t be traveling with a toddler and blah blah blah haha. I think if you have the opportunity, it’s a great thing to do, even though they might don’t remember, but we will remember!! I always say that traveling with kids is not relax, but it’s the best adventure ever!
    Xx – Fernanda
    https://blogmeandthecity.wordpress.com/

    • josh

      That’s right! Someone said, “oh, you’re going on vacation this week.” I replied, “uuhhh, with kids it’s more like we are going on an adventure!”

  17. Leanne

    Travelling with your family is so important! As I get older I am more drawn to adventure-type travel, rather than vacation-type. When I was little my parents and my brother and I travelled a lot because my mom works for an airline so it was super cheap, and just like you, some of our fondest memories are from those trips. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’!

  18. When my brothers and I were little, we always made sure to pack something to play with, whether it was a pack of cards or a mini board game :) Now that we’re older, we bring other things to keep ourselves entertained :P -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  19. I absolutely love traveling with my kids! The exposure to different things and the memories that we make are definitely worth it.

  20. Kristin

    I’ve been looking for noise cancelling kids headphones for my 2.5 year old for the car when my 3 month old is screaming bloody murder (hates that car seat!). Where did you get yours?

  21. Gina Langford

    I love this post and totally agree with your philosophy although we haven’t had the opportunity to travel with our children as much. I love following along your family’s adventures! I would love to see a blog post sometime about your top 3 vacation spots with young children (especially for a family who might not be used to traveling as much as y’all!).

  22. Sirma

    It’s so inpiring to see other families on long distance vacations.
    I have 5 years old son and a girl on her way. We were traveling sinds he was 3 moths old. Always loved it, find it worth it for us all.

  23. Patricia

    Thanks so much for the post! We are embarking on a family “adventure” to Hawaii in November and for us it’s 2 five hour flights with a four hour layover. I’m traveling with a 2 and 5 year old so these tips are very handy.

    I also can very much identify with why you travel with your children. A lot of people say not to travel with young kids, wait until they are older. why put your life on hold? There are as many benefits to traveling for children as there are for adults. It teaches them to be adaptable to many different situations, to different food and culture and this is a lifelong skill.

    Wonderful post!

  24. brittany

    i love this post!! and you can definitely tell how used to traveling and being flexible your little ones are!! that is such a great thing. thanks for sharing!!

  25. Oneida

    I totally agree tee! We travel a lot by car (6 hr to 17 hr drives) or short flights for work and the kiddos come along. They are pros now, but we started when our oldest was about 4 mos. They are 4 and 6 now and used to travel long. We took our first int’l trip this summer to Ireland (we’re on the west coast), and the cheapest flight was a red eye to Boston, 14 hr layover, and a red eye to Dublin plus a bus ride then train ride to the city westayed in. I thought it would be crazy but it actually was really fun! The kids slept on the flights (though a lot less than they normally would at night) and we kept them awake in Boston by going around the city by subway. it exhausted them enough to sleep in the next flight AND I only had to pack cards and colored pencils with tiny notebooks for entertainment since they were night flights. One thing we don’t do is tablets or phones, but it is a major commitment from the beginning and takes a lot of effort. In the end they are used to not having them but that’s not for every one and every kid is different. But I totally agree that traveling opens up a whole new world of learning and appreciation for our kids. It also makes you as an adult learn to savor the small things, like watching how they load luggage or how airplanes work or why people do things differently, from grocery stores to just things you see on the street. It reminds you to always be a learner and to find awe in this great wide world we live in.

    • josh

      I love this!

  26. Stephanie

    I completely agree and we have been traveling with our son (now 6) since he was just a month old. He does great on long trips – we just arrived home from a six-hour trip across the state and took him cross-country this summer as well to see Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. Now that he’s in school though (first grade this year) we’re struggling with how to continue traveling as much. We feel like the experiences gained through travel are as important as schooling for many of the reasons mentioned but also want him to understand that education is very important and we expect him to be in school and doing his best work every day. He only missed two days of school last year – both because he was sick. We planned to trips during school breaks but it’s hard to go very far without wasting so much of the short break in airports or in the car. How have you balanced travel with school schedules?

    • josh

      We empathize with you, Stephanie. This last year, our first being tied to a school calendar, made planning our travel adventures much tougher. Still working on it!

  27. Great tips! I love traveling with my family the most as well. There’s nothing like making new memories and sharing experiences with your loved ones <3

    x Kristjaana
    http://www.kristjaana.com

  28. Emma

    I love this post! My husband and I don’t have kids yet, although we hope we will soon and we love to travel, so I’m banking this for future.

    I’d be really interested if you did a post on screen time for your little ones, I already know that it is something that I would want to minimise for my children (no TV, no phones, occasional tablets) but it seems that kids these days are just obsessed with them. How do you do it with your kids?

  29. Amanda

    We have traveled globally with our three kids since our youngest was 3. They have seen so many cultures and beautiful people. I pray it gives them a global worldview. As they have gotten older, it is just such fun. If it is at all possible for a family to do it, I cannot encourage it enough. Great job, Davis family!

  30. Kelly

    My parents traveled with me when I was little and I really think it shaped who I am today! You go mama!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

  31. Anna

    it seems like you are living a life where you are giving your actions and choices a lot of thought as a human and a believer; i wish that would include all your travelling as well! most importantly all those international flights and all the CO2. travel less with plane is the advice here in norway, and travel more locally! or by train! you are such an example for so many, i wish you could see this.
    and second: small children don´t need all those fancy vacations! if you do all those impressive travelling before you´ve even turned ten, how is the rest of your life going to cope with that? a great childhood [email protected] about travelling far away, but staying close – wherever your are.

  32. Amber

    Love your post (& your blog)! When my brother & I were kiddos (6 & 4) my parents decided that we would all begin traveling together as a family. Growing up in South Carolina, we always traveled to the beach but traveling out of state was a big deal! We went somewhere (out of state) each year & that yearly family vacation trip happened each year up into my early 20s. In my mid-30s now, I can still remember (& talk about) places we visited & love looking @ photos from those family vacations. It is from those trips that I developed my love of traveling and continue to travel to this day and a couple of times a year my parents will travel with me…it’s my way of getting to say thank you to them for making the decision to travel as a family when I was a kiddo (not to mention , they are really great travel companions!).

  33. Christy

    Love reading about your family travels and tips. We just took our three year old to Europe this summer. Family couldn’t understand why. We were nervous. It was her first international trip and first plane ride. But I read people’s tips and yours as well and was ready for most things. She did amazingly well. We aren’t huge screen time people but had tons of stuff downloaded “just in case.” If we could travel as much as you do we definitely would. I think it’s important to travel with my daughter and share those experiences. Luckily we live in DC so my daughter has been exposed to lines and museums and she appreciates culture and trying new things and foods. Not to say we didn’t find random parks or just let her run. As this was our first trip together I definitely overpacked which in the future I will not do. Despite reading your packing tips. lol didn’t want to be underprepared and so I was over prepared. Oh well. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Rebecca

    Do you think it’s crazy to take a 3-month old on an international flight? My husband and I just had our first child and we’re considering going to Tuscany in October, but really nervous about doing it all with an infant.

  35. Jelli

    Contrary to what the airlines announce at boarding, we always try to board near the end. That way we can take kids for another (tiring) lap around the airport, take last minute potty visits, grab a coffee, etc. before boarding so they have less time to be bored sitting on the plane. I’d love to fly KLM next time we go to Europe! With 3 kids under 5 in tow, it’d be fantastic to have an airline that “gets” traveling with kids and even offers card games or coloring packets!

  36. Olivia

    Hi, always so great to get some tips on travelling with kids. My kids love to have as much info about where they are going (appropriate to their age, of course). We look at the globe and maps before we go. Also, I try to find stories from the country we are visiting, we went to Greece this year and we listened to audiobooks of Greek myths, which they loved. They then went around the sights, spotting the statues of their favourite Greek gods!

    One point, or perhaps a plea…as s mother of s severely allergic little girl, please only eat nuts on an aircraft if you’re sure there is no at-risk person on your flight. Anaphylaxis happens fast on an aircraft and the air is circulated over and over again. Just opening a packet of nuts can cause a potentially fatal reaction in an allergic person. Thanks.

  37. Ysabel

    I don’t have a kid but I don’t get those people who are against traveling kids. Of course they’re expected to cry, shout, run, etc but they have the right to go out and travel. And it’s okay as long as the parents are being responsible. Also, it’s good to teach them how to socialize at a young age.