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Flying with kids can be… exhausting.

While some closer destinations definitely make more sense to get to by car, longer road trips may not work for your family (especially if you have a short window of time to work with).

To help calm your nerves and successfully plan for your flight, check out these tips for flying with kids.

  1. Take advantage of early boarding

Before the scheduled boarding time, most airlines will make an announcement that those with small children or individuals who need extra assistance may start boarding the plane early. For numerous reasons, take advantage of this.

This early boarding time is the airline’s way of giving you extra time to get your carry-on luggage stored away in the overhead compartments before you have to worry about working around all the other passengers.

It also gives your kids a chance to adjust to the environment before they are overwhelmed with the crowdedness of the plane during regular boarding time. When you board early, by the time everyone else starts to board, you’ll be comfortably seated instead of trying to keep track of kids and luggage in a large group.

Use this time to explain to your kids how everything works, what happens during takeoff and landing and what you get to do when you land. No matter how old your child is, involve them in knowing procedures and rules so they know what you expect from them.

  1. Bring activities

And lots of ‘em. When planning which toys and activities to bring for your kids, keep in mind how long they generally play with each toy. Now is also a great time to hit up the dollar store to get cheap new toys that will keep them busy.

Depending on your child’s age, you may be able to buy 15 minutes to an hour of busy time per activity. Use this to help plan how many toys and books you bring. For example, if you have a two-hour flight with a two-year-old, bringing four of their favorite activities might be enough to keep them entertained for most of the flight.

Kids also stay engaged with activities longer if they have someone to play with, so find ways for your kids to quietly play with one another on the plane, and don’t forget to dive in and play with them too!

Don’t count on sleeping time when choosing how many activities to bring for your kids. If you’re lucky, they may sleep for part of the flight, but with lots of stimulation and new scenery (the inside of an airplane), chances are pretty high that they won’t be sleeping much.

  1. Bring snacks

Yes, you really can pack snacks! Be sure to check with your airline and TSA guidelines to ensure your snacks can fly.

Snacks can be just as entertaining as a toy to some kids, and in addition to giving them something else to do, having their favorite snacks will also prevent them from becoming grumpy and whiny if they’re hungry.

Don’t depend on the airline food for your kids. If the airline doesn’t have what your kids want or they run out of something by the time they get to you, you’re out of luck. Avoid a potential meltdown by packing the appropriate snacks for your kids.

Packing snacks is also a great way to save some money rather than buying snacks at the airport. Along with packing snacks, pack reusable water bottles (be sure to empty them before going through TSA) so you don’t have to continue to buy water bottles for the family. During a long day of travel, it’s important to stay hydrated!

  1. Book direct flights

Booking direct flights will help you avoid any unexpected issues with layovers, delays, lost luggage and multiple takeoffs and landings. Don’t risk two stressful takeoffs if you could settle for one.

Also, if your kids are able to take a nap on the flight, you do not want to have to wake them up in the middle of their nap to hop on another flight. Booking a direct flight helps to keep them settled once they’re settled.

Another cost-saving tip for booking flights is to look at the time of day. Although you may have to get the kids up at odd times, early in the morning or late at night flights are oftentimes less expensive.

  1. Check rental costs

Before you go, you’ll want to look into the costs of bringing your own things (such as strollers and car seats) compared to renting. Having a stroller in the airport is a great way to carry luggage, corral kids and take naps.

Check out our blogs on golf getaway locations and things to know when traveling to Wisconsin state parks for some more travel inspiration. Want to travel, but don’t quite have enough saved up? Set up a savings goal and automatic transfers in online banking and watch your savings (and travel dreams) become a reality.