Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Flying with kids can be, for lack of a better word, turbulent.
They may get bored, scared, overexcited, overtired, hungry or all of the above. All of these inflight bumps can be smoothed out with a bit of clever planning and a backpack full of activities and snacks. However, you may be left in a lurch if mealtime approaches and the airline is serving something your picky eater doesn’t like.
Related: 14 mistakes parents make when traveling with kids
Luckily, airlines are well aware that kids can be finicky when it comes to food, and many provide kid-friendly inflight snacks and child meals.
Delta Air Lines is the latest carrier to join the growing list of those offering kid-tested, parent-approved meals and snacks. Delta announced on March 10 that it would bring back kid-friendly meals on select flights on April 1. (The airline had removed the service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Families can soon choose French toast with scrambled eggs, fruit and a blueberry muffin for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, they can choose cheese tortellini with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese, carrots and broccoli with ranch dressing, and fruit and graham cookies.
The meals will be available on long-haul international flights and most domestic routes for customers flying in first class. Travelers must reserve them at least 24 hours in advance through the “special meals” feature in their Delta account.
This is exciting news for kids and parents, but every airline is different regarding its kid-friendly food offerings. Here’s what families can expect from the other major carriers.
Air France offers specially made meals for children and infants on most intercontinental, long-haul flights. Kids between the ages of 2 and 8 will automatically receive the child’s meal; it comes with salad, a main course like chicken and pasta with cheese, a pastry, apple juice, cheese and crackers, fruit compote, and a dessert for lunch or dinner. Children will receive two mini pastries for breakfast as well as a yogurt drink or fruit juice, a compote, milk and cereal.
Children between 9 and 11 can still have this meal, but you must request it at least 24 hours before your flight’s departure.
Related: Flying with Air France? All you need to know about the menu
Parents of infants under 23 months can request baby cookies or jarred baby food up to 48 hours before the flight’s departure. However, the airline recommends you bring your own baby food and/or bottles to ensure you have enough for the duration of the flight.
In Alaska Airlines‘ main and premium-class cabins, complimentary meals are not provided. Various meals and snacks are available for purchase on most flights over 783 miles, though. One of these, the Kid’s Choice Picnic Pack ($7.50), comes with snack items like white cheddar puffs, turkey jerky, applesauce, a granola bar, gummy bears and a small toy to keep the child busy after eating. You can preorder these and other inflight meals online anywhere from two weeks to 20 hours before your flight.
First-class fares come with complimentary meals. While there is no meal specifically designated for children, there are multiple options to choose from when you preorder. So, you should be able to find something to appease your child. If nothing else, Alaska’s signature fruit and cheese platter should be enough to hold them over.
Like similar ultra-low-cost airlines, Allegiant provides something of a “bare bones” inflight experience. If you want to choose your seat, bring a carry-on bag, or have flight attendants serve you a drink and a snack, you’ll have to pay up.
The airline has snacks and drink packs available for purchase on select flights. This includes the cleverly named Deluxe Wingz Kids Snack Pack ($10) with white cheddar puffs, turkey jerky, and apple sauce, fruit snacks and cookies.
American Airlines offers a range of special meals, including a wellness menu, on select flights. Child meals are available for all fare classes on most international flights and come with “foods that appeal to kids age 2 to 5,” according to the airline’s website (though anyone can order this meal type). Baby meals are also available and come with jarred baby food. Both meal types should be preordered online or by phone at least 24 hours before departure.
British Airways conveniently offers meals for children and babies on long-haul flights. It follows a “Feed Kids First” policy that ensures your kids’ food comes out promptly, so you can eat in some level of peace. You should order your meals at least 24 hours before your flight. Child meals include dishes such as pasta, chicken, sandwiches, veggie sticks and fruit as well as snacks like chips, raisins or a small chocolate bar.
Jarred baby food is also available on long-haul flights, but the airline still recommends bringing your own.
Hawaiian Airlines provides complimentary child meals on most international flights in business class and the main cabin. Meals must be requested by calling the reservations department at least 48 hours prior to departure.
Like its Flying Blue partner airline Air France, KLM doesn’t skimp on tasty meals for kids. On all intercontinental flights, kids ages 2 and up can get a fun, travel-themed meal box with child-approved foods such as pasta, hamburgers and fries. Meals should be prearranged online at least 24 hours prior to departure.
TPG has previously sung the praises of Lufthansa’s children’s menus and for a good reason. The airline partnered with top chef Alexander Herrmann to develop aesthetically pleasing meals that look good, taste delicious and provide kids with balanced nutrition. The complimentary meals are available on select flights and are intended for children ages 2 and older. You must order at least 24 hours prior to departure.
Baby-appropriate foods like jarred food, mini Vienna sausages and soups are also available; you do not need to reserve these in advance.
Spirit Airlines considers almost everything other than your ticket to be an add-on, so it should come as no surprise that onboard food and drinks are not complimentary. The airline does offer a Kids Snack Box on the inflight menu for a reasonable $5.50, and it comes with cookies, crackers, fruit snacks, candy and a hand sanitizing wipe to take care of post-snack sticky hands.
When ordered in advance, United Airlines offers child meals on flights longer than 2,000 miles where complimentary meal service is offered. For breakfast, kids can enjoy French toast with sausage, fruit and a croissant. Lunch and dinner come with kid-friendly favorites like chicken tenders, grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit, dinner rolls and desserts.
United’s children’s meals are currently only available by request. You can add the request for a “Children’s Meal” when booking a ticket or add it to an existing reservation in the United app at least 24 hours before your flight’s departure.
If you are on a flight that doesn’t serve child meals, you’ll want to come prepared with plenty of snacks and drinks for your child. That said, just because an airline doesn’t offer child-specific meals doesn’t mean you are out of luck. Most airlines offer a varied menu, and your child’s favorite foods (or at least a few they’ll tolerate) may very well be on offer. At the very least, they’d be a fan of these TPG-tested, TPG-approved best hamburgers in the sky.