Flying with young children is stressful enough. Tack on holiday stress and the frazzled atmosphere of an airport and not even your favorite mindfulness app can bring achieve peace. However daunting holiday air travel may be, it’s not impossible. Here are tips on the best times to fly when you’re toting a baby, from the experts who fly the most.
Not only are the airports more crowded the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the two days before Christmas, but travel delays are much higher. According to a study done by Mental Floss, flights that depart on December 23rd have a 34% chance of being delayed. In addition, flights that leave on the 26th have a 33% chance of being delayed. When you’re already dealing with a. cranky toddler, even a 10-minute delay can cause havoc.
Thanksgiving Travel Dates/Times
Thanksgiving has always been one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, with millions of people zipping in and out of airports around the country. According to Hipmunk, the best day to depart is on Thursday. If you can, book a morning flight on Thanksgiving Day and avoid the crowds of the airport and the planes.
Plus, flying during the morning keeps your baby’s routine relatively intact. No matter what, avoid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, where airport occupancy nearly doubles for most airports and is as high as 4x more passengers at international airports like San Francisco International Airport (SFO), according to AAA.com.
Winter Holidays Travel Dates/Times
The experts at Hipmunk have found the cheapest and easiest days to fly during Christmas is the morning of December 25 with a return flight on December 26. According to Hipmunk, there are significant savings and less congested airports when you travel the day of the holiday. Since that seems relatively unrealistic, opt for flying the day of the holiday (if you can), and try to book your return flight for a Monday or Tuesday to avoid the stress of a Saturday or Sunday.
Travel Times & Tips
The days matter, but the time matters more — just ask any parent who’s tried to wrangle an over-exhausted toddler to sleep past their bedtime. To keep your little on a sleeping schedule, book your flight early after they’ve woken up for the day. If you’re dealing with a long flight, be prepared to have a full bag of toys and books to entertain them, as well as a warm blanket or swaddle to get them comfortable enough to nap.
If you have to book a later flight, be prepared to nurse them to sleep as you take off. Not only will this comfort them during the unstable takeoff, it should also lull them to sleep during their normal bedtimes. If the plane is too busy for them, keep your seat as relaxed as possible, with an iPad loaded up with nursery rhymes or relaxing videos, warm blankets, stuffed animals, pacifiers and your baby’s favorite pajamas.
If your child just won’t sleep (or relax at all), forgo forcing them to sit in their seat. In fact, according to Rebecca Love, a flight attendant with Virgin Atlantic, it’s actually okay to let your one move throughout the aisle — respectfully of course.
“Parents should not be scared of letting your little one walk up and down the aisles and even down to the back galleys, once we have completed main services and heavy carts have been put away,” Love told Mirror Magazine.
It’s never going to be easy, but traveling with a toddler doesn’t have to be awful, as long as approached strategically.