10 Tips for Flying with a Toddler
Flying with a toddler can be tough.
Toddlers don’t like to sit still. They are easily bored and always want to explore. Not to mention the random meltdowns when things don’t go their way.
An exhausting toddler screaming and running around an airplane cabin for hours on end is no one’s idea of a good time.
Parents who want to make their children happy, keep other passengers from being annoyed, or just get some peace of mind during the flight are always seeking that elusive secret formula in order to make it happen.
The truth is that there is no secret formula! But with proper planning and preparation, you can survive flying with your toddler.
Here are some tips for surviving plane travel with a toddler.
1) Plan Ahead
Know what the airline will allow in regards to babies and children traveling on their airplanes ahead of time so that you can bring the proper items.
Make sure you check all of the airline regulations before arriving at the terminal so that there are no surprises. Some airlines will permit a parent to carry on an extra seat for their child, but this is only if they register ahead of time online or in person.
Planning your trip ahead of time is also important to ensure that you are at the right terminal and have adequate time.
The airport can be a confusing place for a toddler, especially if they aren’t used to going out much. If you don’t arrive early enough then your child will likely get exhausted before reaching the gate.
2) Talk To Your Toddler About The Flight
Prepare your toddler for the flight by talking to them about it even before you leave the house. Tell them about the destination, who you’ll see, things you’ll do. Talk about the plane and the airport going through everything from what they will see, any people who may talk with them (such as airplane staff), all of the fun activities that might happen on the flight.
You can even go as far as to pack a bag full of items that remind them about the trip and talk through those things too- like their new swimsuit, hat, or favorite toy (it’s never too early for prepping). This will help your toddler feel excited rather than scared which is key when traveling.
3) Dress Your Child Appropriately
This can’t be stressed enough.
It’s important to dress your toddler in clothing that is comfortable and easy for them to move around in. This can prevent the need to change their clothes every time they get sweaty from walking or fidgeting for too long. You want to avoid anything that will restrict movement as this can make it difficult for them to sit still during the flight.
4) Be Prepared For Takeoff, Landing, and Turbulence
It’s important to expect the unexpected when traveling with your toddler. Before taking off or descending into another altitude prepare your toddler that there may be some bumps along the way in which they will feel like they are falling
You can explain to them that it is normal. It’s important that they know there hasn’t been an accident or a crash and they aren’t hurt- just bumps along the way.
Their ears might pop a little when this happens too so make sure you ask them if their ears ‘pop’ or feel funny.
5) Bring your child’s favorite toy or snack
There’s nothing a toddler loves more than feeling the comfort and security from things that are familiar with. Especially when they are in unfamiliar territory such as at the airport and on the plane.
Having some of their favorite things close by provides them may help to keep them distracted and from getting overwhelmed too easily.
In addition to their favorite toys, you may also want to pack a new toy that they have never seen before.
Who doesn’t love surprises?
This will help to hold their attention and keep them from being restless.
6) Pack An Extra Set Of Clothes For Your Toddler (and for yourself)
In addition to the toddler, it is always a good idea to pack an extra set of clothes for yourself.
You never know when a milk spill or snotty tissues or even worse a poop explosion will occur.
It’s not only your little one that will need changing.
Save yourself the potential for embarrassment by planning ahead with an extra set of clothes for all.
7) Bring A Tablet Or Device To Keep Your Toddler Entertained
I know that some parents reading this will roll their eye’s in disgust at the mention of using screens to distract your child.
Some may even feel like it is irresponsible for you as a parent, but let me assure you that this is not the time to be a purist.
It’s tough to find things for toddlers and young children in the airport or on the plane, so bring something from home like their tablet with some of their favorite shows downloaded onto it.
This will help them stay entertained while also decreasing your risk of meltdowns.
I know that this might not be the most ideal option, but it’s better than nothing and sometimes you just have to make a compromise for your sanity.
Helps them to distract themselves from feeling stressed or overwhelmed which can lead to meltdowns.
They can be an absolute lifesaver and will allow parents a break when they need one- this is always helpful!
It will all work out in the end I promise!
8) Consider Buying A Separate Seat For Your Child
Children under the age of 2 can fly for free on most domestic flights.
While this is a great cost-saving option, it may not always be the best.
It is hard to get my almost 2-year-old to sit still for 5 minutes on a good day.
Now imaging trying to get him to sit still on my lap for the duration of a long-haul flight.
The thought alone is exhausting.
You know your child best, so use your best judgment and purchasing a separate ticket if you would like to avoid dealing with that additional frustration.
Be sure that you are aware of any airline’s regulations as well for safety reasons, and remember that children under the age of two can fly free domestically or within Canada and Mexico which is helpful in some cases but not others either way.
9) Try To Get Your Toddler To Sleep On The Plane
There is nothing worse than a toddler that has been awake for hours on end.
This can lead to meltdowns and you will need all of your energy to travel with them, so it’s important to get some shut-eye too!
You might not be able to do this every time, but try when possible.
When we book our trips, we try to schedule them around nap times or bedtime in hopes that he’ll be tired enough to fall asleep more easily.
Pack the travel pillow and travel blanket that your toddler is familiar with, and try to get them to take a nap during the flight.
This is not always possible for all parents but it can help tremendously when they are able- this will go a long way!
You know better than anyone what your child likes or doesn’t like so use your best judgment and travel with them in mind.
10) Do A Bathroom Stop Right Before You Board The Plane
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often it goes overlooked with all the hustle and bustle at the airport.
It’s worth the extra time to make sure that both you and your toddlers use the bathroom before going on the flight. Nobody likes having to use the tiny plane bathroom.
Plus, it’s much easier for you to travel with your child when both of them are feeling comfortable and not having to worry about accidents!
This is also a good time to offer a snack if they need one too- this will help keep them happy during the flight as well.
The same goes for snacks and drinks as well, make sure that your toddler eats before boarding the plane so they don’t have a meltdown later on with hunger pangs.
And don’t forget to pack some travel wipes for on-the-go changes
11) Take Advantage Of Priority Boarding
One of the perks of traveling with toddlers is that you get priority boarding. This means that you get to board the plane before everyone else.
This is a travel hack that every parent will love- and most airlines offer it for free!
It gives you time to board the plane with your toddler before everyone else gets on and makes sure they’re settled in comfortably.
It’s not always entirely possible to take advantage of this, but it is a nice perk!
12) Always Stay Calm Yourself So The Child Is Less Likely To Get Anxious
It’s important to stay calm and avoid getting too frustrated when you travel.
This is obviously easier said than done but do your best.
Your toddler is less likely to have a meltdown if they see you getting flustered.
If they are already getting frustrated, try to distract them with a travel game or activity.
This might help ease their anxiety and give you some time to calm down yourself!
13) Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Listen! Traveling with a toddler is hard work- especially when you are traveling by yourself or you find yourself in a situation where you are outnumbered by your kids. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when it all gets too overwhelming.
I know it can be difficult to travel with a toddler, but once you have these tips under your belt you will find the experience so much easier.
It’s not always easy for parents to travel by themselves and I hope that this list of my favorite travel-friendly items has helped make some of those decisions just a little bit easier.
Lastly, here are a few of my favorite items that I was able to use on our family trip and they made it easier for me when we traveled with a toddler.
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