Once you’ve nailed flying with one kid, you feel great. But what happens when you need to fly with a second, or a third kid in tote?

Preparing to take a flight and then being on a plane with multiple small children or toddlers is no walk in the park, but there are a few ways to make it less painful.

Check out these clever tips from parent friends of mine who are all-stars when it comes to flying domestically and internationally with their families. You may learn a trick or two about how to stay sane when traveling with multiple little ones!

Create a precise plan

If you’ve planned and mulled over the logistics of how to fly with a baby for the first time, you’re probably feeling the overwhelm. How much worse could it be, when planning the play-by-play of a kid and a toddler, or two toddlers, or three kids?

“Precise planning of what’s going where, who is carrying what, having a spot for literally everything and knowing exactly where everything is, saves so much hassle,” says my friend Kate. She traveled with a baby and her toddler and planned out all of the things that needed to happen in order to have a smooth airport experience with her husband.

When juggling two little kids, needs for naps, meals, feeding and delays, it’s hard to avoid overwhelm and anxiety. If it helps, write down the main ideas like which parent will carry the diaper bag and do a diaper change, or who will handle which child and their needs. (Hint: use a Kibou fanny for changing a diaper on a flight.)

Condense the family luggage

Just like you’d do for traveling with one child, plan out the exact luggage items and what will go in what.

My friend Sarah, who flew for the first time from NJ to Seattle with a one-year-old and a two-year-old, planned out her luggage to be condensed as follows:

  • Two rolling suitcases
  • The stroller
  • The car seats with the toddler’s in the stroller basket and the car seat backpack for the younger child

This is my friend Kate’s luggage and stroller/car seat setup for flying with a baby and a toddler; not pictured: a baby carrier and a diaper bag! This is for five days in Florida and was the bare minimum they could get away with bringing.

My friend Kate’s setup for flying with a baby under one year and a toddler was two checked bags, a diaper bag, a rolling suitcase carry-on and two strollers. They used a strap to put the Cosco car seat on the rolling carry-on.

After checking luggage at the counter, they went to the gate with “only” the diaper bag for both kids, the rolling carry-on suitcase and two strollers, which were gate-checked.

Shop my picks

Cosco NEXT car seat (safe for plane travel)

Certified for use on an airplane, this affordable car seat is a favorite pick for taking on a trip.

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Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base

For balancing plane travel with multiple children when one is a baby, the Doona car seat and latch base is key.

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Quince Check-In Suitcase

This lightweight durable suitcase is my go-to for checking luggage when traveling as a family.

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Remember to check luggage

“Car seats and strollers are safety items and can be checked for free. So, if you’re not using them on the plane, get rid of them,” says my friend Caroline, who flew to France. Of course, if you have any number of children do are not yet walking or walk very newly and slowly, gate-check your stroller(s).

My friend Jamie, who flew across the US with a four-year-old and a toddler, says, “Check bags: it’s probably controversial, but checking a piece of luggage will be one fewer thing to drag around the airport.” This is especially true for traveling with multiple little kids.

Check as much as you are able to (and remember to check your airline’s checked luggage requirements), so that by the time you get to the gate, your luggage might as pared down as in this photo (the tagged backpack item is our UPPAbaby Minu stroller bag):

Book early, and plan the family seating

In theory, booking a flight early is a no-brainer, but sometimes things come up like needs to visit families or trips that have to do with obligations, rather than leisure. Book as early as you can, to have a shot at getting the seats you want when you travel with several young kids.

For a two-kid setup, my cousin Joanna says, “Sit in between your kids if you are in a three-seater or traveling with one parent to two kids. Better yet, sit in different rows if you have two grown-ups. Even the friendliest of siblings will want to kill eachother midflight. This also means that you can have some control over your younger kid not watching your older kid’s movie.”

My friend Melissa travels from Florida to New York to see family, with three kids under the age of 10. She recommends getting seats in adjacent rows, in a kid-parent-kid-kid-parent setup. While this is ideal, available seating choices may not always permit this.

Keep in mind the goal when flying with multiple young children: for each parent to sit with one (or two) kids. If all else fails, ask around when boarding the plane if anyone is willing to switch seats so that both parents can be next to kids.

Utilize the lap infant rule

Whether you’re new to flying with your multiple children or not, consider that a child under the age of two can be a lap infant for free.

If you’re looking to minimize the cost of flying as a family, think about how long the flight is. Determine if the length of the flight would permit you to stay sane (ha!) while having a toddler on your lap for the duration of the flight.

Use a car seat backpack

“A car seat backpack is great because they’re enormous and can be a catch-all for random stuff,” says my friend Caroline.

When flying with our UPPAbaby Mesa car seat (designed for infants shorter than 32 inches), we used the UPPAbaby Mesa car seat travel bag, which has a backpack carry option that we used in the airport until we checked it as luggage.

For airplane-safe car seats like the Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat (which we mention in our favorite baby travel essentials), you can also get a generic car seat carrying backpack for your trip.

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Backpack Car Seat Travel Bag

Transport your child’s car seat for the plane, hands-free, with a backpack car seat travel bag for flying.

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Make a personal “kid bag” for each child

As an idea, Melissa suggests packing a personal bag for each kid, filled with snacks, activities, toys, tablets and earphones. This is good for kids any age starting at toddler, and up.

“That way, each backpack can go under everyone’s seat and you don’t need to rely on overhead space,” she says.

We like the kid backpacks from Quince, which come in three sizes, starting in K-3rd grade size with the Small, and up to the Large, which is for 4th grade and older.

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Quince Recycled Everyday Backpack - Small

This backpack for kids comes in three sizes and in four colors. It’s lightweight and can be packed into family luggage when not in use!

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Bring snacks for everyone

“First off: bring all of the snacks. Snacks are really expensive at the airport; they’re a good distraction for kids, and you never know if you’ll have a delay or cancellation. The last thing you want is hungry kids,” Jamie says, from experience.

“They can also be mood-boosters if you bring a snack that the kids aren’t typically allowed to have. It makes the experience seem special.” Jamie’s right: I even do this for myself!

Some suggestions are fruit pouches, kid granola bars and no-added-sugar fruit snacks.

Shop my picks

GoMacro Kids MacroBar Organic Vegan Snack Bars

These plant-based individually-wrapped snack bars taste great and are fun to eat.

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GoGo squeeZ Fruit on the Go

This variety pack of pouches has apple, banana and strawberry flavors with neat reclosable caps.

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BEAR Real Fruit Snack Minis

With no added sugar and 100% natural, these fruit snacks are a surprise treat for travel day.

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Helpful Tip

My cousin Joanna, who flies often with her two young kids, says to “go nut-free” if you can, when it comes to snacks. On one flight, just before take-off, her family was informed that someone in front of them had a severe peanut allergy, and she had a whole bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, they snacked in the back of the plane in front of the toilets!

Decide if you’ll board first or last

“Based on the tiredness/hunger levels of the kids, determine if you are going to board FIRST or last, to maximize or minimize time in the seats before takeoff,” Melissa recommends. Even if you get priority boarding, you can opt to board later for this reason.

Remember that if you have children under one year old, you may get priority boarding depending on how your airline gives out boarding groups. Also, if you’re pregnant and traveling with more kids, most airlines will let you board first!

Board later to avoid antsy kids

If you have a ticketed seat airline (any airline that is not Southwest), then opt for boarding with the family later. The boarding process can take a while, and kids can get more antsy the longer they’re contained in a small space or cramped seat. This is Jamie’s recommendation, from her experience flying with two kids under four years.

Or, board first to get the kids settled

If you’re flying with a baby, I found that getting to our seat and getting our bags settled was a good idea if the baby is in a good mood. If kids are excited to board the plane and start watching their shows or reading books, then by all means: don’t wait to board.

Avoid bulkhead seats for the family (see why)

Joanna says that bulkhead seats are “not necessarily better!” (If you recall, “bulkhead” is the term given to those seats that don’t have other seats in front of them, which means no under-seat storage for personal items. All backpacks and carry-on luggage has to go in overhead bins for those seats.)

“Entertaining kids and having to stow everything above you at the same time (and get up to grab it every time you need something) is somehow more miserable than having less space,” she says. What this means is: opt for regular seats so that you do get that under-seat storage option. Having everything at your fingertips could be more valuable than the semi-useless extra legroom.

Have an airplane bathroom plan for the kids

My cousin Joanna brought up the thing none of us want to think about: the bathroom plan with multiple kids when you’re all on an airplane.

“Make sure you have a bathroom plan, especially if you are solo with kids,” she says. “Plan who will do what. If you’re potty training, is your kid willing to use a diaper just in flight? If your kid wears a diaper, do an overnight diaper to avoid maybe one change during flight.”

She recommends determining if you need a “full-on portable potty,” or if your kid is bigger and only needs a “special toilet seat cover” so that they don’t fall into the airplane toilet. She says it was amazing on their last trip for their four-year-old!

Shop the top picks

OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty

This OXO travel potty product is the ideal folding seat for potty training.

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Portable Folding Large Non-Slip Potty-Training Seat

This folding toddler toilet seat is perfect for travel and easy to clean.

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Download shows beforehand for an iPad

“If you allow it, download as many movies and shows as you can to an iPad. WiFi can be hit or miss on a flight, and the last thing you want is to have the entertainment you brought unavailable,” Jamie says.

For older kids, they may want to watch the kid shows available on in-flight entertainment. But if your plane is old or the flight is short and doesn’t have TVs, make sure there is some sort of amusement.

Shop my pick

Apple iPad (10.9-inch display)

Having an iPad is for more than watching shows. Kids can read, draw and use an iPad for education while on the go.

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Use a travel stroller, or even a travel wagon

Jamie told me it’s a cool idea for traveling with multiple children to bring a wagon for the airport. It can hold stuff, and kids get tired of walking. It can also keep them “contained,” and you don’t have to worry about them running around.

“Just make sure you know how to open and close it easily for security and gate checking,” Jamie says.

If you haven’t seen a travel-friendly kid wagon before, check this one out. It folds into a travel-sized bag and you’re sure to get some heads turning in the airport!

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Ever Advanced Travel Wagon

Acting as a lightweight travel stroller for the airport, this wagon folds up into a portable carry bag.

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Don’t be afraid to use a travel carrier (even for toddlers)

If I learned anything in flying with children, it’s that having a carrier at the ready during travel helps “contain” at least one child. With an infant, it’s pretty easy (unless you’ve got a fussy one), and it is possible with a toddler or two-year-old. The key is finding a travel baby carrier that works for you, and one that aligns with your child’s weight.

Check out these recommended best baby carriers for travel as well as one that can be used from two to six years old (up to 60 lbs) like the Baby Tula Toddler Carrier. For children up to 30 lbs., I really like my lightweight compact travel carrier which I discuss in my Baby Tula Carrier Lite review.

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Baby Tula Cotton Toddler Carrier

It’s the best travel toddler carrier we’ve seen, and holds a kid up to 60 pounds.

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Pack toddler and kid “essentials” in a carry-on

Kate packed baby formula, changes of clothes, extra diapers and wipes in a rolling carry-on that went in the overhead compartment, in case anything happened to the family’s luggage.

As I mention in the list of tips for flying with a baby, having my luggage lost is one of my most irrational (yet very rational) fears. Having some necessary back-ups with you in the overhead bin creates peace of mind when traveling with multiple kids or babies.

Bring a water bottle (for parents, and kids)

“This one is probably obvious for all current parents, but bring a water bottle,” says Jamie. “Open cups on a plane is asking for a spill.”

My favorite “parent” water bottle is the lululemon 24oz Sport Bottle. It has a quick-release pop-open drinking spout and holds a lot of water.

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lululemon 24oz Sport Bottle

As a parent, I take this leakproof insulated sport bottle on the go all the time.

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Have extra sets of clothes for the kids

In your diaper bag, or “kid bags,” bring an extra set of clothes for your kids. “They will find ways to need a change of clothes,” says Jamie.

Whether it’s diaper blowouts, drink spills or food mess, have an extra top and bottom for each child, and don’t be afraid to find creative ways to change them before the flight or during it.

We really like our diaper bag for being one of the larger ones we’ve seen that also doesn’t “look like a diaper bag.” Check it out at our Nike Convertible Diaper Bag review.

Avoid daytime flights (for international flying)

Experienced dad and travel expert Adam says to book flights so that the departure time is around “usual kid bedtime.”

“Avoid daytime flights at all costs,” Adam says.

With multiple kids, this is a helpful tip because ideally the kids can go to sleep relatively easily, and the timing can help the whole family sleep for most of the flight.

Get a headphone splitter and bring headphones

Adam says, “If you have multiple kids, get a headphone splitter so your kids can put on headphones at the same time. Get the same color headphones for both of them to avoid conflicts.” This reminds me of when I was a kid and my sister always wanted whatever was pink!

This specific headphone splitter lets kids hear audio from media above the white noise of an airplane. It’ll help kids watch the same movie together on an iPad, while flying.

Set up a cozy airplane bed for kids

This tip also comes from Adam, who knows how important it is for multiple kids to sleep on the flight.

“The inflatable pillow you can put in the gap between the seats is great to setup your kids a cozy bed. You want your kids to be as cozy as possible so anything such as blankets, pillow, stuff animals from home is a great idea.”

Pack a “getaway bag” (or two)

My cousin Joanna calls this plan a “getaway bag” for flying with multiple young children: “I always have at least two empty Baggu-style eco bags stuffed into my carry-on. Nothing ever gets back into your bag the same way after exploding mid-flight!”

When you land, somehow all those toys don’t fit like Tetris blocks into your backpacks like they did only hours before, so deplaning with the extras in a fold-up tote bag is a great solution.

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