Parents who travel with children can often face interesting dilemmas. An inquiry I received recently concerned airline obligations to legally sit a small child with a parent.

This question usually comes up after a parent and child were separated on a flight, even after the parents complained that it was unfair and unreasonable. This, thankfully, does not happen often, but when it does it can lead to a media frenzy.

A family vacation in Minneapolis will always start at the Mall of America!

Airlines I talked with said while there is no legal obligation, but they would do anything they could to not separate them. And the only ones that would ever be separated would be those parents who are with children old enough to take care of themselves. Or where there are two children and two parents.

With a family of four as example, one parent could be seated at the front of the aircraft and another at the back, which is fine in most cases. Other than that parents face the notion of paying more than hoped to travel.

This may not be acceptable to many parents.

Larger families especially, do face a bigger challenge if they have not been able to get seats in advance, which is becoming increasingly common since more and more, airlines are using seat selection as another ancillary revenue source.

Families can only afford so much when they travel, and substantive extra charges for seating can appear overwhelming.

Travelling with children can be a challenge for parents in other ways additionally. They are children after all, but passengers often complain about noisy and unruly children as well.


Here are some suggestions.

Try to create as much familiarity as possible during the journey. Bring along the toys or books they like the most. Don’t tell them what you’re taking ahead of time, then parcel them out one at a time, saving the items they like best for last. Familiar food may ease their stress more than airline fare, so pack their favorite foods in plastic containers to dish out along the way.

Boxed drinks can also help divert attention from their boredom. Bring along a new game or toy for a change from the familiar, and get them used to the idea of resting or sleeping on an aircraft by purchasing eye shades they can practice using at home as a part of a game or during afternoon naps.

Remember that children who are travelling on a paid ticket get the same luggage options as adults. While these benefits are largely erased with new first bag charges, there are things you can do to help plan for a better trip.


I would suggest you make them part of the packing process. With older children that is not usually a problem, unless they want to take along every piece of electronic equipment they have ever owned. For young children I recommend you fill a small backpack with them. It will give them a sense of possession, with something they can either carry on board, or check in with the rest of the baggage.

At your destination that daypack will really come in handy for any excursions you may take, from a full day motor coach trip to a short downtown shopping trip.

Make family travel a joyful experience, and you, can make for better experiences by planning ahead.