The Hidden Costs of Airplane Travel with Kids

This will not be enough food to sustain the total of 100 pounds of my offspring for two hours.

This will not be enough food to sustain my offspring for two hours. They weigh a grand total of 100 pounds combined. My children, not the snacks.

It’s summer! What better time to get away for a few days. There are often some pretty amazing travel deals – particularly to the warmer parts of the country – during the summer that may seem too good to pass up. A trip to San Diego for only $150? Yes please! What could go wrong!

However, even after adding in all the airplane surcharges and taxes and so on, you are still only looking at a fraction of what it costs to travel with kids. Here is a breakdown of some of the most commonly overlooked hidden expenses. This applies to my family of 5, but the baby does not yet need his own ticket, so let’s say we are starting with a base cost of $600. I’m also being incredibly generous here and assuming that you are superhuman and do not need to bring every single thing you own with you onto the plane, thus saving approximately $40,000 in baggage costs.

  1. Various costs associated with making sure the iPad is still in working order. May as well buy an extra set of headphones and an extra charger, because if that thing goes out, you are s-c-r-e-w-e-d. Cost: $20.00 (includes impulse buy of two sticker books, because you can never be too careful).
  2. Snacks bought in preparation of trip. We have three children under the age of five. You would think they would not be able to eat as much as an entire football team. This is wrong. At least when we get on a plane. I am not advocating this type of behavior on an everyday basis, but there is a time and a place for filling your kids up with bite sized food items that will take a long time to eat and keep them occupied for 45 percent of the flight. That time is now. Cost: $30.00
  3. Snacks bought at airport. Because you realized you probably did not buy enough food, you may as well throw in three individually wrapped granola bars. Total cost both ways: $12.00
  4. Water bought at airport. One of these days I will remember to bring our refillable water bottles. This trip will not be one of those days. Cost for two bottles of water assuming we can share: $8.00. Cost for four bottles of water because for the love of all that is holy this is not the time to engage in a power struggle: $16.00. We’re looking at $32.00 in water for the flight there and back.
  5. Starbucks fuel for the grownups. For a trip like this you need to be on your A-Game. You need to have so much caffeine flowing through your body that people should actually be able to hear a small buzzing noise if they get close. Starbucks, you had me at Grande. Total cost both ways: $20.00 for me and the hubs.
  6. That thing that you have 14 of at home and knew you were going to forget and then forgot. Inevitably this will be at least four times more expensive at the airport. Think sunscreen, Tylenol, phone charger. Cost: $25.00
  7. Adult beverages on the plane. Don’t judge. Did I mention the three children 5 and under bit? Cost both ways: $20.00 for me and the hubs.
  8. Those little packets to apologize for bringing small people with you onto the plane. Bwa ha ha. Sorry seatmates, not happening. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about it’s thisCost: $0.00
  9. 1 hour appointment with chiropractor. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would bet good money that there’s some secret deal between chiropractors and airlines to make traveling as taxing as humanly possible on your body. Let’s see, how about strapping a baby onto your chest, wearing three backpacks, and dragging a suitcase while running through the terminal, and then sitting completely still for two hours except for bending under and over things at absurd angles and trying to stretch your arm out like Gumby himself across the aisle to pass out more snacks. Cost: $100.00
  10. 14 hours of your life back spent packing and repacking. Really, this is priceless. But let’s go ahead and put a dollar figure on our sanity and time. Cost: $350.00

All right, let’s tally up here. Our original steal of a deal plane cost for a family of 5 was $600. Total cost after these hidden expenses: $1209! That’s right – slightly more than the entire cost of the tickets will have to be forked over for these expenses that the airlines just don’t tell you about.

The conspiracy is real my friends. The conspiracy is real.

4 responses to “The Hidden Costs of Airplane Travel with Kids

  1. Bahaha the chiropractor part is SO TRUE! Traveling with kids is insanely taxing on your body. And I’m impressed you spent so little on food at the airport. I tend to end up spending like $50 each way on food my daughter doesn’t end up eating because I didn’t pack enough because I was trying to pack light. It’s a lose-lose.


  2. Yep, travel is tricky. I always think this about camping too…you just pack up and leave right? No. Wood, lighters, food, and everything else just loads on. But in the end…worth it for the experience. 🙂


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