9 Tips for Flying Budget Airlines with Kids

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We’ve been traveling with our son since he was 8-weeks-old. After nearly 3 years, we’ve mastered flying on budget airlines with kids.

Although budget airlines have a bad reputation for nickel and diming you on everything, we’ve mastered how to travel cheaply without paying additional fees.

We think budget airlines are great.

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We’ve flown from Cancun to Florida three times for less than $500 for our entire family. You can’t beat that price, especially if you are a large family.

Here are our tips for flying budget airlines with kids. I’ve even included a few hacks we use to get more through without paying additional fees.

Related Post: 20 Tips for Flying with Toddlers

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance


These tips don’t just work for budget airlines. With airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, and United Airlines starting to charge for more things, you can use these tips with them too.

We always have snacks ready, to avoid a hangry toddler

1. Always purchase your luggage when you buy your ticket

If you need to purchase luggage, the cheapest time to do so is while booking your flight. Budget airlines bombard you with unnecessary ” add-on ” options; that’s why it takes so long to get to check out.

The cost of your luggage can increase by as much as 50% if you wait to pay for checked luggage until you get to the airport.

If you think you may need to check or carry on a bag, you can always add it on the airline’s website before your flight. It will be a few dollars more, but far less expensive than waiting until you are at the airport.

Related Post: Best Beach Toys for 2-Year-Olds

2. Set an alarm to check in exactly 24 hours before your flight

Immediately after booking a flight, I set a reminder to check in 24 hours before the flight. Checking in early is crucial because this is when your seats are assigned.

Most people check in later, so for anyone who didn’t purchase a seat, you have a better chance of your family being seated together.

We’ve been doing this for nearly 3-years and have never been seated separately on a flight. Now that we have to purchase a seat for our 2-year-old, we take up an entire row, so it’s nice.

Everything we need for 4 days for our family on a quick trip to Vegas.

3. Don’t overpack

When traveling with kids, it can be easy to overpack. One of the ways we save money is by using one suitcase.

We’re a family of three, so we typically travel with one large suitcase. If we are going to pay for luggage, I’d rather pay for one large bag instead of three small ones.

We’ve learned that method forces you not to overpack. Everyone gets a large compression cube, and once it’s full, you cannot pack any more clothes.

Family Travel Accessories

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4. Bring a reusable bag or tote

If you overpack your bag, having an extra reusable bag is perfect for taking a few things out of your suitcase to decrease the weight.

My wife always packs a canvas grocery bag to throw things in and carry it onto the plane. We’ve never paid an additional fee for this bag. It’s usually small enough to fit under the seat in front of us.

Tote/Canvas Bags

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5. You don’t need to purchase advanced seating

There are always questions in family travel groups from parents asking if they should purchase their seats in advance for a guaranteed seat next to their kids.

Purchasing your seat in advance is a personal preference, but I’ve never done it. The catch-22 about advance seat purchases is that you are not guaranteed that seat.

Flying Volaris from Cancun to Guatemala City (budget airline in Mexico)

You can be moved to a different seat even though you’ve paid for seating in advance. If you are thinking, that’s total bs, I’m with you, but airlines pretty much make up their own rules and change them to fit their needs.

The price of a seat goes from $9 to $30. For our family, we can easily add $200 to our itinerary for a roundtrip.

This is why we do not purchase our seats in advance. My wife and I are fine with not being seated together. Our only concern is that one of us is assigned a seat with our toddler.

Tip: If you notice that you are not seated with your kids, inform the gate agent as soon as possible. They can ask for volunteers to move and even offer upgrades for solo flyers. We’ve done this once and even got upgraded to premium seating because no one was willing to give up their seat.

Related Post: Best Travel Toys for Toddlers

6. Bring plenty of snacks

Budget airlines make their money from credit cards, in-flight service, and luggage fees. That is why you can find tickets as cheap as $25 to some destinations.

To avoid spending money on in-flight service, always pack snacks when flying budget airlines with kids.

Parents are concerned about food through TSA, but all food is allowed through security. All you need to do is pack it in a clear bag for TSA to identify quickly.

Trust me. We’ve flown with frozen sausage, cheesecake, cookies, Chinese food, and even a salad. Liquids for small children are also exempt, so we’ve gone through TSA with juice boxes and his sippy cup with no problems.

Related Post: 20 Toddler Travel Essential

7. You are going to need activities

There is nothing to do on budget flights with kids, so you’ll need to bring entertainment, especially if you have toddlers. We have a list of the best toys for airplane travel with toddlers, but here are a few examples.

These are just a few ideas to keep your little ones busy when traveling on budget airlines. Remember, you must bring headphones to listen to the sound on tablets or computers. 

Related Post: 20 Affordable LEGO Alternatives

Entertainment for Kids on Flights

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Since our son is 2-years-old, most of our hacks apply to families flying with babies or toddlers.

Having a little one with you is one of the best ways to get additional baggage allowances, with or without a paid ticket.

Here are the luggage hacks we use to save money when flying budget airlines with our toddler.

8. Use a stroller or car sear bag for extra space

One of the advantages of traveling with a baby or toddler is having a stroller or car seat. A car seat bag or stroller bag is the perfect place to pack extra items such as a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, or shoes.

We’ve flown on at least 20 budget airline flights with our baby/toddler, and we’ve never had a problem bringing a stroller or car seat.

We throw any extra bags in the bottom basket or even hook them to the stroller, and we’re on our way.

Read More: 10 Reasons to Travel with Toddlers

9. Ask restaurants for hot water

We all know how expensive airport food is. We went to burger king in Cancun while waiting for our flight to Guatemala and spent almost $30 on two meals and hashbrowns.

Now we make it a priority to have food to make at the airport. We usually bring mac n’ cheese for our toddler, so we ask for hot water to cook it.

We only grab a fry for the little one because we have sandwiches (usually grilled cheese), yogurt, fruit, and he has mac n’ cheese and fries. Travel days are not healthy food days for us, especially with a hungry toddler in tow.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance


I know quite a few people who refuse to fly budget airlines with or without kids, but they are missing out on saving money.

The money we save on flights makes it easier for us to spend more on awesome things to do when we travel.

With the money we saved flying to Orlando on a budget airline, we did fun things in Orlando with our toddler without spending a fortune on our vacation.

If you can’t tell, we are all for flying budget airlines with kids, especially toddlers. Our only concern is safety, as long as we get to our destination unharmed, that’s all that truly matters.

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