Flying with toddlers? No sweat! Here are tips and tricks to make your next flight a success. Pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!
Flying with babies is one thing, but flying with toddlers is a completely unparalleled experience. Are you going to get the sweet toddler who gives you snuggles for no reason or are you going to get the toddler who has just been told that screen time is over? Flying in general may be a little stressful but throw in the unpredictable element of your toddler and it has the potential to be the perfect storm.
Don’t worry though! Like with parenting in general, if you are equipped with some handy tips and tricks up your sleeve, flying with toddlers can be such a smooth and even pleasant experience. So buckle up, take a deep breath, and let’s get started!
This blog post has all of our tried and tested advice to help you survive and thrive when you fly with a toddler.
Flying with Toddlers
Parenting a toddler can be a challenging experience for any parent. So taking them out of their environment to get on an airplane and confining them to a small space for hours can be overwhelming for them. I mean, you’ve seen how much energy they have, right?
Full disclosure, by flying with a toddler on an airplane unprepared, you may have to deal with tantrums, restlessness, and fussiness, all while trying to keep your toddler safe and entertained. And that’s not all. As parents, you also have to worry about navigating the airport, finding and getting on the right airplane on time, and making sure you and all of your people are fed so as to not have any hanger meltdowns.
That all sounds amazing, right? I know, I’m probably not selling this, but don’t forget to read the “Unprepared”. Because if you are prepared, all the things that happen will not even phase you!
The tips and tricks in the post will help make your next flight with a toddler so smooth and fun that it will leave you ready to fly with a toddler! As promised, we will go over all of the ways you can be prepared, from before you even get on the flight, to how to keep your toddler entertained on the flight and all the way to post-flight logistics.
Let’s be honest, being prepared doesn’t just end when your plane lands, am I right? By the time you finish this post, you’ll have so many ways to have an enjoyable flight with your toddler that you will be ready to do this full-time! Ha, no? That’s ok. Let’s just get you through your first flight and then we can talk.
Pre Flight Preparation
First things first. Let’s prepare you for your flight!
Packing Tips for Traveling with a Toddler:
When it comes to packing for flying with a toddler (just the flight, not your trip), it’s important to be prepared for all the things that could happen. Here are a few things you remember to pack and have easily accessible:
1 . Bring snacks and drinks
Toddlers are notorious for asking for snacks. And drinks. So bringing a bunch of different snacks and drinks that your child enjoys can be a game-changer. Try to limit the number of new things in the snack department though because toddlers can also be notoriously picky.
2 . Bring entertainment
Packing books, toys, and electronic devices to keep your toddler entertained during the flight will be huge. We love to get a small new toy like a car or a new coloring book and wrap it for longer trips to keep our son entertained for longer.
3 . Bring a change of clothes
Not sure if you know, but toddlers can get messy. So having an extra set of clothes for your toddler in case of spills, accidents, or unexpected weather changes is huge.
4 . Bring medications and first aid supplies
Accidents happen and so does illness so make sure to pack any necessary medications and first aid supplies, such as bandages and fever reducers.
Choosing the Best Seats on the Plane with a Toddler
Ok, a lot of people will say that there is a “best” seat when flying with a toddler on an airplane. I don’t know that it is a “one size fits all” though! What works for my family, won’t necessarily work for yours! Let’s talk about the benefits of each though and you decide what is best for you!
Seats with Extra Legroom
Ok, I lied. There is a “best seat” when it comes to flying with a toddler and it is the seat with extra legroom. However, this seat also costs significantly more than regular seats so this is not always an option! If it is an option though, I recommend it, especially for longer flights.
- You board earlier
- Better pick of overhead bin space
- Toddler has more room to move in your seat area
- Costs extra
Aisle seats for you and a middle seat for your toddler are nice because they allow you the flexibility to get out without having to climb over a passenger!
- Can get out easily without having to climb over anyone
- Can get knocked by passing people
Again, I would only recommend the window seat if you have the entire row for your family!
- Use the window as a form of distraction
- Can create a zone for your child
- Needing to climb over the aisle seat companion to get out
Front of the Plane
I’ve heard a lot of people love the front of the plane, or as far toward the front as you can get in economy class, because you get off faster. When flying with toddlers though, the days of us getting off an airplane quickly are far behind us!
- Get off the plane faster
- More traffic
Middle of the Plane
The middle of the plane is pretty much a safe bet when flying with a toddler.
- Not as bumpy as the front of the plane
- Airplane wings can be fun for kids to look at
- Longer walk to the bathroom if there are only bathrooms at the front and back of the airplane
Back of the Plane
I’ve heard mixed feelings about the back of the plane. You be the judge! We personally love it for longer flights when flying with a toddler.
- More space and privacy if the flight is not full
- Less traffic, unless there is a bathroom nearby
- More time to gather your things when it’s time to get off
- Can be bumpier
- Last to get off
Tips for Navigating Airport Security with a Toddler
Airport security can be stressful just for you, so navigating it with a toddler is just another level. Here are a few tips to make the process easier, but if you want all of the information you could ever want, make sure to check out the blog post below!
1 . Arrive Early
You never know how long security can be and you definitely don’t want that to cause you to be late for your flight, so making sure that you arrive early for your flight when flying with a toddler is helpful! Especially because we all know how notoriously slow toddlers can be and if you have a toddler who insists on walking the half mile to your gate… well, arriving early can help alleviate any tension that may cause!
2 . Be prepared before you even get to security
By this point, I should know all of the liquid rules when flying, but somehow, I still don’t. Bless all the TSA Agents who have been so nice to me when I brought something too big and they let me take it through. Either way, be prepared by packing your liquids and gels in a clear, plastic bag. If you have a laptop or tablet or other electronics, have them easily accessible so that you won’t have to open your entire suitcase to get them out and stop the entire line while you do so. Although that didn’t happen to us, it did happen to the guy in front of us and oh boy, did it delay the line.
3 . Bring a stroller
Chances are, your toddler may be too big for a carrier. Even if they are not though, I would recommend a stroller over a carrier if you are particularly worried about security. And because toddlers are slow walkers! So if you get tired of carrying them, their short little legs will not be able to keep up with you, especially if you are in a hurry.
If you have a carrier, you will need to add that to the list of items to remove when going through security, so I have always opted for a stroller. It makes navigating the airport easier when flying with a toddler and allows your toddler a place to sit while you do your thing at security.
4 . Dress for comfort. And for airport security.
Dressing in comfortable clothing and shoes that are easy to remove will be huge in diminishing your stress in general. If it’s winter, try to opt for a coat that is also easy to remove when going through security. By making everything you need to do through airport security as seamless as possible, anything your toddler does will be more manageable.
Tips for Navigating the Airport with a Toddler
You’ve made it through security! Now let’s prep you for your actual flight with a toddler!
Gate Check Your Stroller
We use our stroller for the airport just as much as we use it for our trips, so what do you do with it when you get to the airplane? You gate-check it!
If you aren’t familiar with that, when you are flying with a toddler, you can gate check 2 of the 3 items: stroller, car seat, pack and play. For free! Just head to your gate, give them your name, and they will tag your items. You keep your items until you get to the personnel entrance on the walkway to the airplane and leave it there! When you get off the plane at your destination, it will be there waiting for you! If not though, just wait a little bit and they will bring it out!
Use Airport Assitance
Does this sound weird? I should have probably titled this, see if your airline overs family boarding. For most airlines, like Delta, family boarding allows you to get on the airplane after First Class. Or sometimes after Comfort Plus. Either way, this gives you the ability to get on the plane with your toddler early to get situated!
With other airlines, family boarding isn’t that early. Either way though, it’s really great because it allows you to get on the airplane with other families with littles and we all get each other so the stress is reduced when trying to wrangle little ones.
Do the Wiggle Dance
We didn’t always do this, but when we started to, it was really great in helping reduce the number of airplane wiggles. We have a wiggle song that we started doing at home to help our son get rid of his wiggles before bed or other times when we were trying to teach him to sit still (well, as still as a toddler can sit). It’s a specific song so when we play it at the airport while waiting to board, he knows the drill and will dance his little heart out and get out all the wiggles.
During the Flight
Let’s talk about the flight with your toddler! This is the part that most people worry about, but it can be a great time!
Tips for Keeping Your Toddler Entertained on the Airplane
Keeping a toddler entertained for longer than five minutes is sometimes tricky. That’s why, if you see me walking through the airport, I always have my diaper bag full to the brim of activities. Ha. No diapers, just activities. It’s definitely paid off though! We’ve been able to keep him entertained for hours at a time with all of the different things we’ve brought for him. It definitely makes my heavy bag worth it! Here are some of our favorite tips and some of our favorite toys!
- Bring New Toys
I mentioned this earlier, but nothing provides a toddler more joy than something new. Whether it’s a new Hot Wheels car or a new coloring book, it can be huge in providing your toddler with some entertainment and giving you a little break. With bringing new toys though, we’ve had to be extra careful because if you make it too new, you run the risk of your toddler losing interest.
- Download Movies and Shows
Although many airlines will have kid shows, they are not always age-appropriate or what our son loves. Because of that, we have a kid tablet that we use and download some of his favorite shows and movies. This helps make sure that the show or movie can keep his attention while also making sure that there is a good variety.
- Download Audiobooks
If your toddler loves audiobooks, downloading some that he or she can listen to while playing can be really helpful in keeping them entertained! Spotify has some great toddler audiobooks. We also love Mommy and Philip and the books they read. If your toddler isn’t familiar with audiobooks, I would recommend introducing them before your trip so they can get used to it.
- Play Games
If your little toddler understands games, these are always fun to do! Simple games like Simon Says or I Spy can provide some good entertainment. They also aren’t super loud games so they are great for the plane when flying with a toddler.
For a full guide on some great activities to keep your toddler entertained during a flight, check out the blog post below!
Now let’s talk food when flying with toddlers!
Bringing your toddler’s favorite snacks is so huge when flying with toddlers. There is never a guarantee that the airport will have your favorites or that your toddler won’t decide it’s one of those days when a million snacks are in order. We like to overpack the good snacks to help keep up with whatever our toddler’s stomach decides it has in store for us. Also, try to keep the new things to a minimum. There is already a lot of new happening for your toddler, so keeping the comfortable and familiar items will go a long way.
Plan Ahead for Mealtime
For a long time, Ollie loved chicken nuggets. That’s all he wanted. And then it was mac and cheese. And then it was grilled cheese. So whenever we book trips over a meal and can’t smuggle things in, we make sure that we find a restaurant at the airport that has those items. And then we hype up the food like it is our job. And it works sometimes! When it doesn’t though, we just stick to snacks. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. And we gotta keep our kid from getting hangry.
Navigating Sleep Time on the Plane:
I don’t know about you, but bedtime/naptime was always one of the most stressful parts of flying with a toddler. Well, just parenting in general. So much so that we avoided booking flights over mealtime and naps for the longest time. Once we got brave though, we realized that with a little preparation, flying with toddlers during naps or meals wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be! Here are a few tips that helped us make these times easier:
Stick to your Routine
I can’t stress this enough. Sticking to a routine is so helpful when it comes to sleep time when flying with a toddler. If you read a book and give your toddler a sippy and put them in a sleep sack, try to do the same thing on the plane. If you snuggle up and sing a song, do the same thing! But maybe hum the song in your toddler’s ear 😉
It obviously isn’t going to be the same, but giving your toddler’s brain the signals you give it at home that it’s time to sleep will really help them be more comfortable falling asleep.
Bring a Pillow/Blanket/Stuffed Animal
Sometimes, it’s not easy to bring a pillow or blanket, but if you can, I recommend at least the blanket. Even if it’s a small one, having sometime comfy, especially if they have a blanket to sleep with at home, can really help them fall asleep on the plane.
Our son loves to sleep with a stuffed animal so we have him bring one with him every time we fly with a toddler, even if it’s not over nap time or bedtime. This helps him be more comfortable on the flight and feel good about sleeping if he is tired.
How to Handle When Things Go Wrong
Here I am, being a realist. Life happens, you guys. As prepared as you are, sometimes, flying with toddlers is not all rainbows like the influencers will have you believe. Toddlers will still have meltdowns. Other times, they will wake up really early on the day of your flight and be overtired and cranky. Or maybe they will decide that they want to be extra wiggly and not be into food even though they are getting HANGRY. Here are some of the tips we have for these moments!
You’re rolling your eyes right now, huh? Gurl, I get it. I rolled my eyes when people told me this. I still roll my eyes when my husband tells me this! But, being stressed doesn’t actually make anything better when flying with a toddler! It can make things worse though. Staying calm and taking some deep breaths can help you have a clear head to help your child.
Find the problem
Toddlers rarely have a meltdown just because. There is usually a reason, however small it may seem to us, for their behavior. Finding out what is causing their reaction and addressing it in a calm manner can help resolve that little meltdown of theirs.
Yep, we are not above distraction. And many times, neither is your toddler. If they are off and on the verge of a meltdown or tantrum, distraction can be a game-changer. For our son, tickling or whispering silly things in his ear is helpful.
Arrival and Post-Flight
You made it through your flight! Look at you. So experienced. Do you think you’re done? Girl. I wish! Now you have to get through the airport on the other end! This side of the trip should be a lot easier though. Let’s get you out of the airport and back into civilization in one piece!
Do the Wiggle Dance
Ok, you did the Wiggle Dance before the plane. Now your toddler has just spent 1 – XX hours in a confined metal plane. I think another Wiggle Dance is in store! Perhaps even a victory Wiggle Dance? Letting your toddler know which behavior of theirs was good on the plane can help their little brains know that is the best way to behave on a plane.
If it was a short flight, this may not be needed. However, for longer flights, freshening up is really helpful to get you ready to face the world after flying with a toddler. Freshening up is also really helpful for your little toddler. A bathroom break, some water, some sun, and maybe a snack can help prepare you for whatever comes next.
Even if you are at your destination, things can still go wrong. Your car rental may take a while, your luggage may be really late, or your toddler might need a diaper change just as the bus is pulling in. Staying calm and pivoting can help you have a much more enjoyable experience.
That’s a wrap for all of our tips and tricks for flying with toddlers! As long as you are prepared, flying with toddlers can be a fun and hopefully a repeatable experience!
I hope you found these tips helpful! If you have any that you want to share, I would love to hear them!