There’s no way around it: You have to visit your doddering in-laws in Boca this year. Which means flying…with children. But fear not, ye of little legroom. Just employ these eight genius tricks for smoother airport travel.

kids travel family suitcases
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Check your carseat at the gate

But bring your umbrella stroller as a carry-on, and ask the flight crew to store it up front, near the cockpit (you know, where they put the fancy first-class coats). Nothing sours the vacation mood like trekking six miles from arrivals to baggage claim with a toddler sliding down your hip. 

kid travel terminal

Divide and conquer

If you’re lucky enough to be traveling with a partner, have them board the plane early to secure your seats and overhead bins (definitely take advantage of that “families traveling with small children” privilege). But—hear this—do not board those kids until the last possible minute. The more energy they expel running around the gate area, the fewer meltdowns mid-flight.

kid travel airplane
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Depend on the kindness of strangers…and flight attendants

Need a diversion? More pretzels, please! Bored to (literal) tears? Chat up a friendly neighbor. Desperate to pee? Meet your new babysitter—the granny in 24D! (After all, she's not going anywhere.)

kid travel mom baby document phone
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Read document requirements in advance

Who knew you could be asked to present a birth certificate for a child under two on a domestic flight? Or that if you are traveling alone with your kid, you may need a “consent to travel” form from your spouse? And that kids’ passports expire every five years (if they were issued when the child was 15 or younger)? You, that’s who! 

kid travel toys

Pack plenty of toys

Sorry, but that educational app is gonna get old fast. Shop this list of mid-air-appropriate merch to make your journey just a bit friendlier.

kid travel indoor playground

Find a play zone

Some airports (like Seattle’s Sea-Tac) have actual, whimsical in-house playgrounds for little ones. (Amsterdam’s is forest-themed and has tree houses, slides and climbing equipment.) Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago airports all have play areas sponsored by local children’s museums. Move over, Chuck E. Cheese!

kid travel airport security
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Look for the “Family Lane”

Especially during busy holiday times, the TSA often sets up faster moving (or, at the very least, toddler tolerant) family lanes at security checkpoints. Ask the men and women in uniform to direct you. And FYI: Kids under 12 need not remove their shoes. But if they can walk, they’ll likely be asked to go through the metal detector alone. Prepare them in advance. 

kid travel planes
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Check in online and curbside

Print out your boarding passes at home and ditch those bags with the first porter you see (and tip generously). You’re already a parent. Don't be a hero. 

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