Flying with a toddler is stressful, plane and simple. Thankfully, there are some effortless ways to make things a whole lot easier. So don't just wing it! Take these pretty fly tips for flying with a baby and toddler and enjoy a first-class travel experience.
Tips to Make Flying With a Baby or Toddler a Success
I have traveled with a toddler by plane with no spouse in tow, and these simple additions to our travel prep and itinerary made all the difference! Here's what you need to know.
1. Choose an Aisle Seat
While it may seem appealing to let your toddler stare out the window, this activity might lose its luster quickly. The aisle seat, on the other hand, has a myriad of benefits.
First, if you are sharing a seat with your little one, this gives you a little extra space to sprawl out. Second, if you need to get up at any time during the flight to change a dirty diaper, calm your crying baby, or just stretch your legs, you won't have to climb over anyone. Finally, it allows you a quicker exit once your flight is through!
2. Inform the Airline About Your Baby's Seating Arrangements
If you choose to take advantage of the free seat that airlines offer to kids under two, it's imperative that you call the airline and inform them that you will have an extra person sharing your seat. Even though they won't be in a separate space, they are required to have a ticket.
This is also a great moment to confirm what documentation you may need to bring for them on your day of travel.
3. Find Out What You Can Check Free of Charge
Every airline is different, but most allow you to check a car seat and a stroller at the gate, free of charge. Some also accept foldable stroller wagons. By calling the airline to confirm what's free to bring, you can save yourself some headaches on the day of travel.
During the call, finding out the bag policy for kids under two can also be helpful. TSA does allow formula and breastmilk as well as the accessories required to cool these liquids, but packaging matters, so make sure to confirm these details with the airline.
4. Prepare for Diaper Changes
Diaper changes in airplane bathrooms are an undesirable activity to complete, but sometimes they must be done. To keep the process as sanitary as possible, I recommend bringing puppy pads to lay down over the changing space.
Also, keep a few diapers and a small container of wipes right at the front of your bag so that you don't have to dig for these essentials.
5. Set Expectations Early
This is one of the most important tips for flying with a toddler, especially if this is your first time on an airplane.
Airports can be a sensory overload for some kids. The sensation or taking off and landing can be scary. By taking the time to frequently explain the process of flying and the step by step plan for your upcoming travel day, you can help your toddler mentally prepare for the journey.
6. Dress for Success at the Gate Check
When flying with a baby or toddler, the last thing you want is a long stop in the TSA security line. My best recommendation is to nix the jewelry and accessories and put everyone, yourself included, in slip-on shoes. This can make this portion of your travel day a lot easier.
7. Bring an Umbrella Stroller
I cannot say enough good things about having an umbrella stroller! I bought mine for $25 at Target and it's my number one toddler travel tool. This makes going to the bathroom, waiting in line to board, and even running across the airport in those quick layovers so much easier.
Best of all, if you have traveled all day and don't have the patience to wait in the gate check line and the baggage claim line at the end of your journey, you can walk away without feeling like you threw out a bunch of money.
While this sounds ridiculous, after a long travel day, even I just want to get home, so having the option to say Sayonara to your stroller is nice.
8. Let Them Run Around
For the parents who get to the airport early and have plenty of time before their flight, let your toddler run around and use up some of that everlasting energy.
There always seem to be small sections of the airport that are a bit desolate and these are the best spots to let your little one play before they have to stay strapped into a seat.
9. Check All Your Bags & Take Advantage of Early Boarding
When a baby or a toddler is in the travel itinerary, it is always best to have your free hands. Thus, check as many bags as you can, minus the essentials.
Then, when the flight attendant says those magical words that families with young kids can start boarding, take advantage. This ensures ample room in the luggage compartment and less of a wait to get to your seat.
10. Pack Lots of Snacks
When stocking up for your flight, I recommend packing lots of small, individually packed snacks. This is a great way to keep your toddler occupied during the flight. Also, it's important to have some high-value beverages and multiple bottles or sippy cups ready as well.
11. Make Take Offs & Landings Snack Time
Why do you need high-value drinks? Because you need your baby or toddler to drink during the take-off and landing part of your flight. This can help their ears to pop and remove any discomfort that comes during these moments of your travel day.
If your child is not a big drinker, consider choosing chewy snacks, like gummies, for these parts of the flight.
12. Don't Forget a Busy Book and Tablet
Busy books are a great way to keep your kids distracted and learning at the same time. I always have one on hand for any sort of travel, no matter if we are flying or driving.
And for parents who allow their kids a bit of screen time, bringing a tablet along is another fantastic way to keep your toddler content throughout the flight. Just make sure to download plenty of movies and TV show episodes so that they can watch without internet service.
If you choose a velcro-style busy book, I highly recommend getting a small roll of velcro tape and placing strips at the bottom of each page. This ensures that all the detachable pieces can remain accounted for throughout the plane ride.
13. Pack Your Bag's Front Pocket With High-Value Items
For the meltdown moments that will occur during the trip, having a few game-changing items at your fingertips can be a lifesaver. Some great options to consider include:
Not only can these toys reduce anxiety, but they're also easy to throw in the front pocket of your bag without taking up a ton of space. And, of course, always have extra pacifiers at the ready. You can never have enough when traveling with littles.
14. Noise-Cancelling Headphones Can Also Help
Another awesome travel item I like to have on hand when flying with a toddler or baby is noise-cancelling headphones. This can help to block out the hundreds of noises that they will hear at an airport and help those kids who struggle with sensory processing feel a bit more comfortable.
15. Keep One High-Value Snack for Gate Check & Baggage Claim
Finally, after you have survived your long travel day and made it to your destination, it is important to have one more distraction up your sleeve. This can make that gate check and baggage claim wait a bit more bearable.
Take Off With Ease When Flying With a Baby & Toddler
Traveling with littles doesn't have to be hard. If you follow these tips for flying with a toddler or baby, you may actually find this new experience exciting! Just remember that this is a big milestone for your child, so take moments to pause and ask how they are feeling or if they need anything. This can help them feel valued and lower their stress.