It could be the most wonderful time of the year if your travels go smoothly. And as anyone who has traveled with children before can attest: It takes a lot of prep work to keep them happy for the entire length of the trip.
According to Kelli Carpenter, co-founder of KelliGregg Travel, preparing your kids (of any age) for the air travel experience and planning ahead to keep them occupied while in transit are the key factors to making family travel go smoothly.
“There’s two parts to this, because entertained is one part of it but also to make it not an awful experience for the parents, there’s some things you can do in advance,” she told USA TODAY.
Here are some of the things she said you can do to help make your family’s winter wandering less stressful.
Deals ‘too good to be true’:Why booking flights on third-party websites can be risky
An 18-mile hike with a baby?:Why this mom and grandma tackled Big Bear as a family
Prepare before you go
Carpenter’s first tip was to do what you can in the booking process to mitigate any disruptions, including booking direct flights whenever possible.
“Changing in different airports is complicated, especially with younger children,” she said. It’s usually a good idea to take the first flight of the day because they’re the least likely to be canceled.
Carpenter also recommends being strategic about the seats you pick when you’re traveling with little ones.
“Don’t be far from the bathroom,” she said. “If you have little kids who are newly potty-trained, you don’t want to be 20 rows away from the bathroom. When they gotta go, they gotta go.”
Travel tip:Try smaller airports to avoid the worst lines in Europe
And, Carpenter said, it’s a good idea to tell your kids about what to expect if they’ve never flown before.
“Just start talking to them about the process,” she said. “It’s a weird process to go through security. You have to take things off, and you have to walk far, and boarding an airplane is weird. … If you talk them through the process, they won’t walk in and be like, ‘What do you mean I gotta take my shoes off?’ “
Inflight entertainment options
Once on the plane, keeping your kids entertained is key. Carpenter suggests researching what the onboard entertainment options are for your flights and considering paying extra to fly on airlines that have built-in entertainment systems if you have that option.
But, she said, even if your flight is supposed to have seatback screens, you can’t always count on them to work.
“It’s important to have that backup plan,” Carpenter said. “I always have just a Ziploc bag of crayons and coloring books and small games.”
A travel throwback:This airport will let you meet your loved ones at the gate, like we used to do
Other special treats can help your kids relax.
“You know your kids’ favorite snacks, and there’s a pretty good chance they’re not going to have it on the airplane,” so consider packing some in your carry-on, Carpenter said. “If they’re snacking and watching their favorite show on an iPad, they’re going to be pretty content.”
Does American Airlines have inflight entertainment?
American Airlines has been converting much of its fleet to a bring-your-own-device model, with built-in entertainment screens now available only on certain planes, mostly on longer routes. However, the airline lets passengers stream movies, TV shows and other content on their own devices through the American Airlines app – just make sure you bring your charger and extra batteries if you have them.
Airline-sponsored inflight entertainment is not available on flights operated for American Eagle on the smallest regional jets.
Does Delta Air Lines have inflight entertainment?
Delta offers seatback screens on all of its Airbus aircraft, plus all Boeings except the 717s. All of its planes except the smallest regional jet that operates for Delta Connection also offer onboard Wi-Fi, which allows customers to stream content on their own devices as well.
Does United Airlines have inflight entertainment?
United offers a mix of options, with some planes having seatback entertainment screens and some with only bring-your-own-device access. Check with the airline to see what will be available on your specific flight. Only the smallest regional jets operating for United Express have no onboard entertainment available, while some of United’s newest planes allow passengers to pair Bluetooth headphones with their seatback screens.
Does Southwest Airlines have inflight entertainment?
None of Southwest’s planes have seatback screens, but all flights allow passengers to access the airline’s media library on their own devices.
Does JetBlue have inflight entertainment?
JetBlue offers screens at every seat. On some of its older planes, only live TV and a small selection of movies are available, but its newer aircraft and those that have been updated feature touchscreens with pre-loaded content as well.
Does Spirit Airlines have inflight entertainment?
Spirit does not offer any inflight entertainment, but the airline does sell internet packages onboard that can let you stream content on your own device.
Does Frontier Airlines have inflight entertainment?
No. Passengers on Frontier should plan to pack their own diversions with them.
Does Avelo Airlines have inflight entertainment?
No. Passengers on Avelo should plan to pack their own diversions with them.
Does Breeze Airways have inflight entertainment?
Breeze offers streaming entertainment to personal devices on some of its jets and plans to start rolling out inflight Wi-Fi and more entertainment options on the rest of its fleet in January.
Does Allegiant Air have inflight entertainment?
No. Passengers on Allegiant should plan to pack their own diversions with them.
Does Sun Country Airlines have inflight entertainment?
Sun Country offers at-seat power on every flight and allows passengers to use their own devices to stream content from the airline’s media library.