Need Air Travel Tips for Traveling with 4 Year Old

Updated on November 14, 2008
S.H. asks from Garland, TX
4 answers

My husband and I are traveling to Washington D.C. with our 4 year old daughter to see his mother for Thanksgiving. I haven't flown since '94 and this is my daughter's first flight. I need any advice that will make things go smoothly at the airport for check-in and security and for the flight. I know we'll have to take the car seat as well as our umbrella stroller. She'll need a stroller since we'll be spending all day at the museums and walking back and forth from the Metro stops and I know she'll get tired of walking.

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answers from Dallas on

TSA is supposed to be putting in "family" lines for security which should makes things move smoothly for you and more smoothly for those of us who do not travel with small children. That should be a help!

As for the flight, something to drink going up and coming down. Coloring books, portable dvd, playdough, we used to make puppets with the motion sickness bags.

Have fun!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

she's 4, so i'm not sure why an umbrella stroller is needed. my 3 year old has refused a stroller for at least a year now.

If she's met the weight requirements, take a backless booster seat so it's not as cumbersome.

if you are flying on wednesday, make sure you reserve parking b/c it is a pain and places get full quick. also, allow a lot of extra time if you're flying on wednesday. DFW is an absolute ZOO on that wednesday. We started flying on Thanksgiving day (butt crack of dawn) and that makes it SO much easier. and we never come back on that sunday either. just too crazy.

the portable DVD player is a MUST. Get GOOD headphones for her. those little bud things (like what comes with an iPod) just fall out of little ears.

take an empty cup through security so you can fill it up with water or dilute with juice once through security.

hand santizer.

lots of different snacks. check out 1-2 new books from the library.

be sure to pack her favorite blanket or security item in her suitcase.

carefully explain the rules BEFORE the plane takes off. don't assume she knows not to stand up, push buttons, kick seats, play rough with the tray, etc. I have a curious boy who wants to touch and try everything and setting expectations for behavior early really helps.

Let her take her own small suitcase that she gets complete control in packing. My son has a small scooby doo suitcase that he not only packs by himself (toys) but also carries with him through the airport.

if your 4 year old is anything like my 3 year old, they want to do all the things we do and they want to do it by themselves. my son and I fly by ourselves 2-3 times a year and he absolutely LOVES it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm a flight attendant for american and have traveled with my kids. i would check your car seat. and on america, we gate check the strollers so you could wheel her all the way down to the door of the plane and when you land it will be right there waiting for you. I would take a portable dvd player because you don't know what kind of plane you may be on and they may not have entertainment. that's american airlines anyway, not sure about others



answers from Dallas on

First, plan plenty of time so there won't be added stress of having to rush. That way you don't have to be worried about getting through security, bathroom breaks and to the gate in a short time frame. Get there early and make sure she has a bathroom break before boarding. (But, if she is like my 4 year old, she is gonna want to go to the bathroom on the plane no matter what!)

Oh - you may want to have her wear shoes that are easy off and easy on, tennis shoes may be a bit of a hassle through security.

I packed a small backpack for her. It included anything I could think of to help her pass the time. We had coloring books, crayons (in a ziplock bag), portable DVD player (with headphones), DVDs, books. I also packed a big kid sippy cup (empty but I purchased juice and a bottle of water once I went through security) and ziplocks of snacks - grapes, carrots, crackers, raisins, any of her favorites but limit the sugar cause you don't want a hyper girl on that plane. If she has a lovey, don't forget that.

I also would dress her in light layers, you never know if it is going to be hot or cold on the plane. And, just in case, a spare pair of panties and pants - she may have an accident due to the excitement. I also took some wipes, just in case there were any spills, etc. My daughter loves to chew gum, so we bought her favorite kind to help with her ears.

We talked about our plan everyday for about a week before the flight so she knew what to expect and that she'd have to be on her best behavior. We also discussed how extremely important it was for us to hold hands everywhere.

I didn't take a stroller, she wouldn't sit in it anyway. I checked her carseat with our suitcases. The least amount of stuff you have on the plane the easier it will be to keep up with her.

She will probably be more excited than anything. My daughter loves to sit by the window and watch the clouds. We also had a disposable camera that was just for her during our trip, she loved that she could take pictures of anything she wanted.

Most of all, relax. Our kids feel our stress and your stress may make her stressed. Enjoy your trip!

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