Travelling With Young Kids

Susan Pederson, our resident travelling parent, blogs about the (many) trials and tribulations of travelling with children at different ages and how to handle each age.

We vowed to love, honour and explore two new countries each year together. Since adding a couple of kids to the mix, that last promise seems as distant as my size four jeans.

My husband can’t see a plane without wanting to leap aboard. Me, I get a nosebleed when I think about traveling with young kids. In ten years of marriage, we have subjected ourselves to airline travel with one or both kids in tow, at various stages of tolerability, and have learned a few things about the best ages to drag your wee ones along for the trip.


Newborns can be a dream to fly with for a bunch of reasons. First of all, they get to fly free (and well they should, as they aren’t much more than a toy at this stage). Everyone LOVES a newborn and are much more tolerant to those still-tiny cries; with a little luck, they will sleep part of the way.

So, while you may be reeling with mastitis, and you will both be hallucinating from lack of sleep (which was the case when we flew cross-country with our three-week-old) all of you will be too oblivious to really notice.

6-12 Months

Six months to one year. Still free, they still sleep, and they’re still oh-so-cute. Plus, the shell shock of "new babydom" has subsided, and you’ve no doubt perfected your diaper-change-on-the-fly technique.

When we flew with our nine-month-old to Hawaii, we scheduled the shortest leg of the flight when she normally was awake, and the longest when she was likely to take her big nap. It worked.

But on the return trip, she decided the overhead lights were far more interesting than sleeping and arrived home wound up tighter than a spring. Still, at this age they can’t walk, and they truly can’t cry forever.

Terrible Toddlers

Just thinking about flying during the toddler years makes me want to run to a darkened room and reach for my lavender scented eye bag. The pull is that kids still travel free until they are two. The drawback is that you may need the equivalent to the cost of plane ticket in trauma counselling and sedating medications, but that’s just my experience. Six times. But who's counting?

The reality is you have to hope for the best, prepare for the worst (“number two” diaper malfunction in a Dash-8), and do whatever it takes to survive. I compare it to labour: everyone’s experience is completely different, things may not go according to plan, and in the end, you may just decide it is well worth it and may even do it again.


Four and up are the wonder years. No more diapers/strollers/pack ‘n play, no pulling off the headphones and trying to eat them, no screaming fits over the dropped container of Cheerios. Ever since our youngest turned four years old two years ago, I no longer break out in hives when my husband suggests a family vacation.

But I do ensure he sits with the two of them, and I take the seat on the other side of the aisle, so he can get their headphones, snacks and movie set up, while I leaf through the magazine I haven’t had the chance to read in years. Did you know Brad and Jenn split up?

Photo by jpmatth

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Susan Pederson

Susan Pederson is a Calgary-based writer and editor who lives with her husband and two daughters. She has written for Avenue, Homemaker’s, CBC Radio, The Globe and Mail, and Today’s Parent, often with one of her kids dangling from an arm or leg, and from wherever she can steal an Internet connection while travelling.

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