11 Must-Do Tips on Flying with a Toddler

This is for all the parents out there who have felt like me at any point in time. Flying with my children was seriously a fear of mine! When my son was a young baby it was fine, but when he stepped into toddlerhood, that’s when I became extremely hesitant. I did get over it eventually, out of necessity (lol), but it took some trial and error.

Needless to say, I felt a strong need to write about some great tips on flying with a toddler that could ease the mind of another parent like me. In this post I not only talk about general  air travel with a toddler but also helpful things to pack and thing about as well. These are tips that have worked for me and I hope they can be helpful for you too!

 

Flying with a Toddler

 

1. Board last on Full Flights

I picked this tip up from a reader and just HAD to put it first (with her permission) because I loved the advice! And I qoute, “Get your luggage to the boarding gate, then go find the play area, or just let them explore the airport as much as possible. Do not board with the “child priority” that means you will be stuck on your plane with your toddler way longer then anyone else. We always board last, so that we take off quickly.” Is that genius or what???

2. Plan flight time around nap

The way I look at it, we have two options. We either want our toddler to sleep on the plane, or we just want them to be entertained sufficiently on the plane. You know your child, so you know what’s best! Don’t pick a flight time that will set you up for a guaranteed meltdown. For me personally, my toddler has gotten used to following a routine pretty closely, so once we pass 12-1230pm, he gets really sleepy. Airplanes can have a lulling affect on your child while for others it may cause them to perk up.

So here is my suggestion: for an in-flight nap, plan your flight board time for an hour before nap time (or mid morning), that way he or she is not cranky and they will have the time to settle down, get a snack/lunch, and then get sleepy by the time you are puling off. If this is not realistic, plan a flight for early in the morning so they have plenty of time before the crankiness of nap time. Alternatively, at least shoot to plan the flight in the evening after they have gotten some shut eye, so again, we have no sleepy crankiness!

Is your toddler super-cranky during the pre-dinner “witching” hour? Then don’t pick a 5 pm flight. Does your little one really need a full night of sleep to make it through the day? Then waking them early for a 6 am flight is not for you. Again, make plans based on your child’s temperament to make it easier on yourself! There is no shame in that lol.

 

3. The Extra Seat: Increase your chances of scoring one!

If buying a seat for your toddler is not in the cards for you, you could possibly utilize empty seats on a flight.

Southwest actually makes it easy to grab an extra seat due to their policy of sitting basically anywhere you please.

For other airlines you can always try the old trick of booking an aisle and window seat, leaving an empty middle seat near the back of the plane. You take a chance but these seats tend to be the last filled. If it doesn’t work out, people are almost always willing to switch to a window or aisle seat so they don’t have to sit in the middle.

 

4.  Pack the fav “blankie”  or “lovey

You may be saying “DUH” when you read this tip but its important nonetheless! With all of the planning going on when traveling with kids, sometimes the simplest things can be left behind. Anything that gives your child extra security or just adds an element of familiarity can ease the anxiety caused by traveling to an unfamiliar place for your toddler. Don’t forget it!

 

5.  Child’s Birth Certificate

Airlines will ask for your child’s birth certificate or passport because they don’t usually have another form of I.D. Don’t forget it!

 

6.  Arrive at the Airport Earlier Than Usual

So you can navigate to elevators if bringing a stroller.

The great thing about most airlines is that strollers are checked for free right before you board the flight. Alowing my toddler to ride through the airport instead of walking was much easier for me. The only problem I ran into was that I had to find elevators every time we made a move! Often times we had to go out of the way to get to one and then make our way back out to where we were supposed to be in the first place. It was still very worth it. Just plan for elevator locations, toddler bathroom breaks, etc.

 

7.  Restroom before Flight

Okay. We all know that  airplanes have teeny, tiny bathrooms. It is a tight fit for one adult by themselves, but twice as tricky with a little one. If your toddler is still in diapers, I suggest changing the diapers RIGHT BEFORE boarding, that way you may be able to avoid squeezing two people into what they call a bathroom. The same goes for if your toddler is out of diapers. If it’s a short flight, have beverages before hand so they can use the bathroom beforehand as well. Then maybe, just maybe, they will not have to go on the plane. (Did I say maybe?) 🙂

 

8.  Car Seat and Stroller

This was partly mentioned before but don’t hesitate to bring forget to bring all necessities you will need for your toddler. A stroller can make life easier away from home and of course a car seat is a must. Most of us are hopping in a cab or a family member’s car to get to our destinations. The great thing is that these items are checked for free right before you board the plane. There are even bags available to combine a car seat and stroller if you have a pair.

I used this one. It was awesome but it took a good amount of effort to pack it up. And it costs. $$

stokke prampack stoller bag

Stokke PramPack Stroller Bag

Also, if you decide to travel by car, check out my review of the best seat organizer for toddlers ever.

 

9.  Snacks

No explanation necessary. Snacks literally save the world and keep us sane 🙂

 

10. Toys/Tablet

Okay I think we all know this one is a must! Toddlers are not equipped with an attention span to last for hours like some of us mature adults 😉 I never expect my toddler to just sit for hours just because I want him to do so, they are not designed that way. So we need to make sure that we plan for the inevitable! Bring their favorite toys, window stickers, and download some of their favorite videos on a tablet just in case there is no free internet. I even sometimes introduce a small new toy or project as well because the curiosity of something new takes up time. Whatever it takes, prepare! A little video time for a trip will not damage your child 🙂

 

11.  Necessities for hotels stays or relatives

Hotel: Call ahead to see if a crib or pack n’ play is provided! You may not need to bring yours. Also, you can see if they have high chairs! I remember at one hotel stay, they actual brought a high chair from the restaurant up to my room. I was floored! and it was wonderful lol. If not, there are numerous portable high chairs to buy if you feel they are necessary for your child, they usually are not. For me, a sound machine is a must as well. You can drown out hotel noise or just noise from your own television in the room. Works every time.

Relative’s Home: More than likely you will just need to bring a portable bed or pack and play. I never forget this one because I like my sleep too much! i.e. I get no sleep with my son in the bed. The sleep machine is still great to have and a portable high chair is your choice as well. Whatever makes traveling easier for your family.

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus: Traveling with Lap Toddler

This deserves a separate list! If you are flying with a toddler in your lap, take a look at these awesome tips

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed these tips! Let me know in the comment section below if you have any questions or some great tips that you have tried! I would love to see them. Also don’t forget to share this post if you like the tips!

 

 

7 thoughts on “11 Must-Do Tips on Flying with a Toddler

  • March 10, 2017 at 10:33 am
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    Hi Kayla,
    These are great tips! I have two boys, and I’m happy to say traveled around with them a lot when they were very little and had no trouble at all due to thinking and planning ahead and using a lot of the kinds of tips you’re offering here. Preparation and understanding that the little ones simply won’t travel the way we will gives you a great chance at an enjoyable journey.
    As long as all the basic needs were taken care of, we found the kids were fascinated by the new environments and stimuli. The trick is to not let them become over-stimulated and then crash. That was a tough one, but you give yourself a better chance if you get all the other stuff right.
    Great tips! Keep up the great work.
    Best wishes,
    Kevin

    Reply
  • March 10, 2017 at 10:51 am
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    Some very great advice here. I was on a plane some time ago and fortunately it went pretty well. But my wife and I will be off again in September with our two little girls. The oldest will be 3 1/2 and the youngest 8 months. So it’ll be a struggle.

    Now that we have two kids I fear that I will forget something. I am pretty organized at the best of times but I’m sure I will forget something so will keep this list of tips in mind when we fly later this year.

    Thanks,
    Owain

    Reply
    • March 10, 2017 at 11:39 am
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      Great Owian! Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  • March 10, 2017 at 10:53 am
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    I have been preparing for a flight and I thought it would be necessary to check a few things in regard to the topic hence landing to a wonderful information there. I have always been worried whether I can fly with a kind but now you made it easy for me. Thanks for sharing such an informative and helpful piece.

    Reply
  • June 27, 2018 at 11:59 pm
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    Great article, I have been travelling with my son since he was only 4 weeks old, starting with a ten hour flight. By the time he was one he had already flown 60 hours, with ten hours being our shortest flight! We just did our next 15 hour travel at 2 years old, and sadly my husband really didn’t understand that travelling a red eye around there bedtime is the BEST OPTION. So we were stuck with a morning flight, I was dreading this for weeks. It ended up being not terrible. We got the little guy to bed a bit earlier then normal, and got him up early. He stayed awake for the first 2 hour flight. By the time we boarded our second flight (10 hours) he fell asleep when he hit the seat. My advice is to keep them busy in the airport. Get your luggage to the boarding gate, then go find the play area, or just let them explore the airport as much as possible. Do not board with the “child priority” that means you will be stuck on your plane with your toddler way longer then anyone else. We always board last, so take off is quick. You can always pack your own food snacks from home as long as it is packaged. I have a piggie boy, so we pack a lot, and a giant bag full of games. Also, I am full supporter of the ipad learning games…..it’s much better then listening to a screaming baby for 10 hours.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2018 at 9:47 am
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      Oh Wow! That was an awesome story and I am with you 100%. Red I would have been much better for you but it sounds like you knew what to do to make it work. I love the advice that you gave as well. Staying busy in the airport, not boarding with the “child priority” because that means you will be stuck on your plane with your toddler way longer then anyone else and packing your own package food. I will remember that forever lol. And amen to he IPad learning games LOL.

      Thanks for your great comment!

      Reply

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