10 Tips for Flying With a Toddler

And I thought traveling with a baby was hard… with a toddler, it’s a whole new ballgame!

But I’m happy to report that in the past month, our family flew to San Diego (4 hour flight) and Fort Meyers (2 1/2 hour flight) with no meltdowns or hysterics. Woo hoo!

Here are my top 10 tips for traveling with a toddler.

  1. Find a flight that isn’t too full
    Not always possible, but when you can, chose flights that aren’t that full. You can see how many seats are still available when you book your flight and want to chose your seat. If you see lots of empty spots, book that flight! If you see only a few openings in the rear, keep looking.
  2. Schedule flights during naptime or bedtime
    Our mantra is the less baby is awake on plane, the better for everyone around you. Griffin isn’t the easiest guy to fall asleep and even he went down easily on several flights. Having the middle seat open helps a ton since baby has his/her own “space.” You and daddy can then tag team soothing to get baby to nap (back rubs, keeping them from trying to climb all over, singing, stroking hair, etc.) Can’t find a flight that works during normal sleeping hours? No worries. Encourage baby to take a late afternoon or mid morning “catnap” which can do wonders.
  3. Book an aisle and window seat
    This might sound counterintuitive as we normally want to sit next to our husband, child or travel companion but this way you have a better chance of scoring the middle seat and acquiring the whole row for your family.
  4. Arrive at the gate early and talk with flight attendant
    If you book a flight that isn’t full, most airline attendants will move things around for you to get the empty middle seat. One tip, when you go to talk to him/her, bring your baby with you. It brings your challenging scenario to “life” a bit more and helps breed compassion :).
  5. If child is under 2, bring proof of age
    Griffin has been on 1/2 dozen flights and we’ve NEVER been asked this until our flight home last week. According to FAA regulations, all lap children need some sort of identification to show “proof of age.” (Aw, isn’t that cute… they are getting “carded”). Medical records, copy of a birth certificate or even a picture of your child’s certificate that you can show via your phone will all work.
  6. Bring extra diapers, drinks and food
    You want to be prepared for on flight blowouts and the munchies. Just like we tend to eat more junk at the airport, I pack treats for Griffin since it’s a special occasion. Some ideas include: freeze-dried fruit, Wasa crackers (Griffin loves to chew on and 1 cracker takes him 1/2 hour to finish. Great distraction!), grapes, Starbucks smoothies, ice chips from the online drink service.
  1. Bring special toys and books
    This goes without saying but pack toys and books for plane. Since we don’t want to carryon heavy luggage, chose a few of the choicest toys you own. For us, this can include Griffin’s musical book, an etch a sketch and toy phone. Regular old books are great additions since it gets the child to be still and sleepy. Not to mention, they can copy what many adults are doing around them… READING.
  2. Dress your little one in layers
    Planes can be cold. Planes can be hot. If you dress your tot in layers, you can roll with any temperature with ease.
  3. Wear a nursing shirt
    For many youngsters, nursing is a soothing activity for take offs, landings and before nap time. My favorite shirt is Mountain Mama’s Olema shirt since it has 2 layers and keeps my belly covered. Chose one that works for you.
  4. Bring a pillow onboard
    OK, sounds kinda fussy, but find a really soft, packable pillow to bring onboard. This will help soothe the child and make holding, cuddling and nursing much much more comfortable. Even when we didn’t get the middle seat on one flight, Griffin fell asleep on me thanks to the softness of a pillow. And if you DO get the middle seat, you have an instant pillow top mattress!

So there you have it… our top 10 tips when traveling with toddler. Now if I could only find a way to neutralize all timezones… LOL!

How about you?

What are your travel strategies with your little ones? Share with us!

Make your home safer and more natural

32 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. Put your child in an overnight diaper for the flight so there is less chance of leaks.

  2. Keep first aid kit, wet wipes, sick bags, change of clothes, toilet roll and liquid antibacterial soap together in an easily accessible place in the car cabin so they are readily available in case of car sickness, spillages, accidents or unplanned toilet stops! Have a rubbish bag handy in the car as well as some large sealable sandwich bags which can be used for storing snacks, small toys and crayons. When driving at night try simulating sleeptime by changing the children into their pyjamas, pillow, slippers and blanket. You can then either read them a bedtime story or put on an audio tape to settle them down for the night. Get more tips at : http://wholetravel.com/tips-to-mind-while-traveling-with-tiny-tots/

  3. Im nervous! We are traveling my husband and I with our son that’s now 10 months to Europe! Any tips!? Its a 10 hr flight!

  4. Thankfully I’ve never had to fly with kids by myself, actually we have never flown at all! The longest trip we took was a 7 hour drive by car and we left at their bed time, drove through the night. napped when we got there, and it was pretty good. Minus a few teething episodes with our then 6 month old. The 3.5 year old did awesome! That’s a good age to travel with. I can’t wait until they are all older to go place we want – except the ticket prices of course!

  5. Thank you so much for this! I will be flying in a month with my 4 year old for the first time. He is usually a well behaved kid so I am hoping with all the recomendations, we can take off without a hitch. Plus my flight is only 1 1/2 hours. He has a leapster so we will probably take that instead of movies or shows. Lots of snacks! Loved the empty cup idea! Again, thank you very much!

  6. I am so glad I found this list! I am traveling alone with my 15 month old daughter in a few weeks. I bought her a seat and am going to bring her carseat so I am hoping she’ll nap most of the time. But the tips are SO helpful! I had no idea about the notarized letter (my husband is graduating basic training so I will have to bring his POA instead) and the proof of age…and since he has her birth certificate that is something I will have to work on now.

  7. Do you use cloth diapers when you travel? You wouldn’t have a sprayer in a hotel or at someone else’s house, so how would you clean them?

    • I don’t own a sprayer so I swish but in the air plain I flipped the poop in too the toilet or scarped it off with a bit of tissue. The thing is on the plain there is no real place to toss diapers so the bigger problem is for the disposable diaper mom who dose not own a wet bag. I was going to my mom’s house and since she is the crunchy queen she was happy to let me use her washer. I would think before you pack cloth you need to find out a head of time if there will be a washer you can use. I know some diapers (like my Flips) you can buy disposable inserts which I would think would be better then going all disposable.

  8. Traveled with my 1 year old on a 3-4 hr flight total, with a lay over. We let him roam around and play at the airport as much as he wanted, we did books on the plane, and I brought a bunch of little stuff for him to quietly rattle around on a chain (paper clips, etc.), I heard a tip to bring a favorite toy and a new toy so we did that. He did nap, and he also loved to play with ice cubes. One flight was rather empty so we wandered to an empty area and I let him crawl a bit (he wasn’t walking yet). Then when things got a little testy we went to the bathroom where I let him pull out as many tissues as he wanted. A lot of fellow passengers gave him attention, smiles, and waves too. He did very well! Now I get to do it again in a couple of weeks, BY MYSELF, but thankfully it will be only a 1 hr flight (at 22 months old) we are taking the Ergo so I can handle everything by myself.

  9. I’ve flown solo with my two (they were 3.5 and 1) and they were fabulous. We talked about it with the older one the few weeks before and had some books and his Tag reader to play with. Having my Boba carrier saved me though as I had to navigate with 2 carry on bags and a diaper bag and holding the 3 year old. Gate checked my stroller so I could load that up and navigate through the airport, and if I had a quick connection I could put the 3 year old in it and keep the baby in the Boba. We two 2 shorter flights instead of booking what I thought would be the more convenient 1 long flight and it worked much better. They got a treat and my son got some juice (watered down 1/4 juice 3/4 water) which he never gets. By the time treats were done, it was almost time to land! Becareful of time changes! We took them to San Diego (across 3 time zones) at night and got in at 11 there, (1 at home) both kids were up by 4 in the morning with nothing to do! We walked around the parking lot looking at cars. My son now nows all the different car brands!

  10. Awesome tips! Our 3 youngest children have yet to make an airplane trip but that maybe changing soon. These will come in handy! Also, I see one of your trips was to where I live, Fort Myers (everyone tries to include an extra E, LOL). Hope the weather was fabulous for your visit! 🙂

  11. I concur with your tips, except the “schedule a flight for nap time” because my daughter absolutely will not sleep anywhere but a crib in a dark quiet room. Really. Not in a car seat, not in a baby carrier, there are no exceptions to this rule. Believe me, we’ve tried! We schedule our flights as early as possible in the day so she’s got a full night’s sleep in her tank, and then nap upon arrival (our usual flight to visit my parents is 4.5 hours).

    My other tip would be to adopt the realistic mindset that you will need to pay 100% attention to your child(ren) for 100% of the flight. Any spare quiet moment is just a bonus.

    • Thanks for this comment. My daughter is the same way now… she used to occasionally take a nap in the car but at around 11 months just stopped. She will not sleep anywhere but our dark and quiet room. I will be sure to plan around her nap if I can!

  12. I also suggest buying somesort of a new toy for them to discover while on the plane. Right before a meltdown is about to ensue, break out the new prize – it buys you some extra time for sure. 🙂
    P.S. Love, Love, Love your site – I think you are just wonderful. thank you!

  13. What does organic vanilla exract in the gums do? Soothing?

    • Oops, sorry, just read the whole thread!

  14. I should mention that these trips were taken while my children were 2 yrs old and 2 months old, and then 3 yrs old and 1 yr. 🙂

  15. I have a 4 and 2 yr old and have had the pleasure of flying with the both of them BY MYSELF.
    A couple of times.
    As this is NEVER recommended, sometimes it has to be done.
    My number one rule–ignore all rude stares and/or comments, which, keep in mind, come from people who do not have children of their own.
    I also take along a portable movie player with children’s headphones. As I do not allow much TV as it is this is a great distraction and will grant me some much needed breathing time.
    I take bottled water from home for the children. Security will test the water, but then it is all yours- and a lot cheaper than airport water. Definitely take a lot of water, it seems like they are rationing it once you take flight.
    Bring lots of ziplock bags- for diapers, throw-up, etc.
    Bring a light blanket. When your little one wants to sleep you can drape it over the back of the seat and tent them to block out light and stimulation.
    Lastly, pray that passengers around you are kind and understanding, they can be encouraging and helpful if you are lucky:)

  16. I have only flow on one trip with a baby. She was only 6 months but still very busy and crawling so she didn’t want to he held. The lesson I learned is that you SHOULD spend the money if you at all possibly can on that extra ticket and have your kiddo have a guaranteed seat with you. I bought tickets for a supposedly half empty flight that was then filled to the max with standby people.
    Another good tip I learned was so worth the extra packing room in my diaper bag was to bring my soft carrier (one that can do back or front) because after canceling our flight home and telling up we would have to wait 7 more hours at the lay over air port they also lost my gate checked stroller so I had no where to put down baby or bags.
    I will never fly solo with a baby or toddler again if there is any possible way not to. After they kindly and without my permission refunded me the money for my ticket ($60) and then offer to sell me back a ticket (for $400) I swore I would never fly again. Since there are places I would like to go in to world where cars can’t take me I will probably go back on the oath but for now while my kids are small and I will just drive, or take the train.

    • Ugh, Emily! That sounds so tough. Haven’t flown alone and hope to not have to do this until Griff is at least 5. LOL!

  17. Great list! I concur, and I have logged many hours traveling alone with my kids as babies and toddlers. To your list I would add, especially for moms traveling alone or with multiple kiddos, the following:
    – hands free baby carrier. Makes boarding, hauling luggage, pacing the aisle, and long customs lines easier.
    – notarized letter with Dad’s signature authorizing Mom to travel with kids. (Or vice versa if Dad travels alone with them). Airlines are required to check for this letter; often they do not. But, technically, they could prevent you from boarding the plane if you do not have travel authorization.
    – disposable diaper changing pads. Airplane changing tables are notoriously small and germy (on those planes that have them!). Disposable pad gives you a clean surface if you suddenly need to change a diaper on your lap, the seat next to you, on the floor of the gate waiting area, etc.
    – your “happy place”! When traveling with babies and young kids, all bets are off. No predictions can be made with regards to anyone’s level of contentment at any given moment. That said, your calm, patience, love, and kindness will work wonders putting you and your child(ren) at ease. Ignore rude people (travelers, airline employees, etc.); they are not where you need to focus your energy. Take a deep breath, pray for travel mercies, and thank God for giving you these precious kids and the opportunity to travel together.

    Bon voyage, crunchy mamas! 🙂

    • Wow, good point on the notarized letter! Thanks for sharing… Oh, and does vanilla extract on gums taste good or feel good?

      • (real, not imitation) vanilla extract is helpful because it’s made from vodka… 🙂

      • Both! And naturally soothing, and calming!

    • Good tips!! But as a flight attendant myself, please please please do not change your baby at your seat or on the tray table! Unless you do have a blanket or something to put under, but even then, it’s not so cool for the next passengers who will be sitting in this seat as there can still be bacteria and germs! And god knows that the seats are very rarely cleaned! 🙂

  18. Agreed with the tips!
    – for the opening of ‘new’ toys every hour: we went to the dollar store, were able to stock up on a budget. The wrappers alone occupy 15 minutes of interest!
    – and as a controversial tip: we bring the iPad. There are lots of educational games: bugs and buttons, Elmo’s not another monster, it’s a small world, PBS kids. Lots of preschools/ schools in our area have already incorporated them into their curriculum, as a ‘way of the world’….and they see adults using them, and want to imitate.
    – lastly, a little organic vanilla extract on the gums. Ahhhh

  19. I just wrote (but haven’t published yet) pretty much the same post (different tips!). Great list though, I concur with all of it. If I’m not mistaken though, there are only 9 items in your list!

    • Cool! Oh, and there was a little formatting issue. Thanks for brining to my attention!

  20. -bring scotch tape (it takes up very little space and can take up a lot of time)
    -bring water bottles that you fill up after security
    -if it’s a long flight, bring new little things you open up every hour or two
    -bring extra snacks and toys for kids/people around you
    -wipes, wipes, wipes
    -change of clothes for you and your kid
    -drink heavily 🙂

    • Jojo, I concur with drinking heavily when flying with toddlers. I have nieces and nephews… need I say more. 🙂

    • LOL! GREAT tips! Thanks for sharing!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*