Top 10 child travel safety tips

Traveling with children, especially infants and toddlers, puts special demands on the adults responsible for their well being. The following table has several key child travel pages, and following that are ten tips that can make the trip safer for the child.

Child safety

Child seats

Solo child travel

Solo travel rules

Baggage tips

Carry-on bags

Cabin safety

Fear of flying

  1. Plan ahead: Ask yourself what supplies you will need to have on hand to take care of any normal or special needs for the child. Remember, it is the airline's responsibility to carry passengers to their destination, but it is the responsibility of the parent or responsible adult to take care of any children.

  2. Use a child restraint system for small children: The US Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommends that children weighing less than 40 pounds (18.1 kilos) be put into a child restraint system appropriate for their weight. Children under the age of two may be carried on the lap of an adult, but the lap child should have some kind of restraint system. For small children, consider the following recommendations:

    - Find a way to conveniently carry an appropriate child restraint system through airports and into and out of aircraft.

    - If the child is over the age of two and less than 40 pounds (18.1 kilos), follow FAA recommendations for using child restraint systems.

    - If the child is under two, consider buying a separate seat for the child and use an appropriate restraint system for the seat.

    - If the child is under two and will be traveling on the lap of an adult, consider using an appropriate in-flight child restraint.

    - Also, bring along an appropriate child restraint system for a seat just in case you happen to be next to an unoccupied seat.

    - has further information about using child restraints on aircraft.

  3. Prepare for possible emergencies: Make sure you are aware of emergency equipment or procedures that would apply to your child:

    - Pay attention to the standard preflight emergency briefing.

    - Ask a flight attendant if that particular aircraft has emergency equipment like life preservers specifically designed for small children.

    - If your child has a medical condition that may become an issue during the flight, make a flight attendant, counter agent, or gate agent aware of that possibility before the flight.

  4. Take all essential items for your child in carry-on luggage: Take enough food, diapers, medicine, and other items to last through possible flight delays. If you put any of your child's essential items in checked luggage, you may run into problems if your checked bags are lost or delayed. Carrying all the child's essentials with you is especially important if your child is on a special diet or on medication.

  5. Keep your children under control at all times: You are responsible for supervising your child at all times. An unsupervised or unrestrained child could quickly wander way into dangerous areas such as galleys, especially if the responsible adult falls asleep. During a very long flight from Australia to the US, I observed a parent traveling alone with a child fall asleep and then saw their toddler wander down the aisle. You should also be careful when walking about the aircraft with your child so that they don't reach for cups of hot coffee, silverware, and other hazards.

  6. Seat your child away from an aisle: Small children enjoy reaching out and exploring, but if they are on the aisle they could get hurt if their little arms get bumped by a person or serving cart passing down the aisle. Ideally, two responsible adults should sit on either side of the child. Also, one can seat the child on a row with a window on one side and a responsible adult on the other.

  7. If emergency oxygen masks deploy, put your mask on first: This advice may seem cruel, but there is a very practical reason for it. If the brain is starved of oxygen (hypoxia), one can get confused or pass out and be unable to help themselves or their child. By putting on their mask first, the parent or responsible adult will reduce their chance of falling victim to hypoxia.

  8. Keep your child belted or in a child restraint system at all times: This is for the same reasons given in the Top 10 Airline Safety Tips page. Turbulence can happen at any time and without warning, so keep your child belted in as much as possible. If the child, wants to get up and move around, let them do so only if the seat belt sign is off. The FAA has related information in this brochure about child seats and turbulence.

  9. Bring along safe toys: Try to avoid bringing along toys that are sharp, heavy, or that break easily. If the child has an electronic game, only allow them to use it during the cruise portion of flight. Electronic games may interfere with an aircraft's navigational system during other phases of the flight.

  10. Take extra precautions for children traveling alone:

    - Escort the child onto the aircraft and check the area around the seat for hazards such as heavy carry-on items in the overhead storage bins.

    - Inform the chief flight attendant that the child is traveling alone

    - Ensure that the person meeting the child at the destination will have proper identification.

    - Make it clear to the child that they should report any problems to a flight attendant. This could range from feeling sick to having a suspicious character seated next to them.

    - If the child has to change planes, make arrangements for the child to be escorted between gates. This usually costs extra and is required for small children and is recommended for older children, especially those old enough to do it on their own but not mature enough to deal with potential problems or temptations at a busy airport.

    - Review the Top 10 Tips for Children Traveling Alone.

Related Resources
Using child restraints on aircraft
Top 10 tips for children traveling alone
FAA brochure on the safe use of child seats
FAA Regulation 121.311 concerning child seat use
FAA consumer hotline: 1-800-322-7873

Top 10 child travel safety tips -- Revised: 26 August 2014