Traveling with a toddler on a plane can be an extremely stressful situation. I hate flying, but flying tends to be the quickest way to get from point A to point B when you’re traveling long distances. I moved from my childhood home in Northern California to Southern Arizona last summer, so going to home see my family these days always includes a plane ride. I’ve flown home twice since our move, once when my baby was 15 months old and again just a couple of weeks ago (my son is now 20 months). My first time traveling with my baby boy was a disaster. Okay maybe not a disaster, but it certainly wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in a span of 5 hours. Thankfully, I learned from my mistakes and the second time flying with my little man was a lot easier. Below are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned from traveling with a toddler on a plane.
Do’s & Don’ts of Traveling with a Toddler on a Plane
DO travel on an aircraft with open seating. This will make your life a lot easier if the flight isn’t full, you’ll be able to utilize that open seat next to you for your little one’s car seat, when you’re searching your diaper bag for something, or even to put your toddler in after take off!
DON’T ‘go in’ expecting that the plane will not be full. If you’re bringing your child’s car seat always bring a gate check bag just in case!
DO pack the essentials for your flight with baby. Snacks, toys, books, movies, etc. Anything to keep them distracted and having fun!
DON’T over pack! Bring one bag, your diaper bag. Consolidate your belongings and make sure to only pack the essentials!
DO organize prior to arriving at the airport. This is so important! There is nothing worse that scrambling at the last second trying to find things in your bag. When you arrive at the airport you will need your photo ID and your child’s birth certificate. I always go to the check in counter and they print my boarding pass right then and there so I then have everything I need to get through security.
DON’T keep things in random places. You’ll make things a lot more stressful on yourself if your ID is in your wallet, your child’s birth certificate is in the front pocket of your diaper bag, and your pre-printed boarding passes are stuffed somewhere in your bag. Do yourself a favor and keep everything together and somewhere easily accessible!
DO take your time. Remind yourself that airport etiquette is arriving about an hour and a half ahead of time. You’ll have plenty of time to take care of everything you need to do and you’ll still be waiting for your flight. Take your time going through security. When you take things out of your diaper bag during the security check, relax and take your time putting it back in the correct place after they scan it. Airport security seems strictly business, but from my experience they’re all pretty understanding when they see a toddler on your hip.
DON’T freak out if you get to your gate and everyone has already lined up for boarding. If you’re in the first group of boarding and you missed it, most airlines offer family boarding that you can catch!
DO ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help! Lost in the airport? Ask for help! Need help carrying your car seat down the aisle of the plane? Ask for help!!!!
- Buy drinks for the sippy cups once you’ve gone through security. It’s worth the $3 to not be held up for them to test the water!
- Bring pre-sealed baby food pouches- Happy Family, Plum Organics, etc. (Not Homemade)
- Pack comforting essentials for your little one in your carry on bag… their special blanket, pacifier, favorite dolly, etc.
- Bring sources of entertainment! Snacks, books, small toys, iPhone equipped with their favorite shows, etc. For my toddler I packed his iPhone (my old broken one that only works for videos) and our Fisher Price apptivity case so I knew that the iPhone would be protected if he dropped it.
- If you can, try to fly during naptime!
- If your plane isn’t full, utilize the seat next to you! So long as your little one is in the toddler stages and you’re comfortable with it, they will be fine sitting in a seat while the plane is up in the air. I was doubtful of this but the flight attendants reassured me that he will be more content with a little more independence. Talk with your flight attendant to see what they say about it and make sure to buckle them in for safety!
Carseat or Babywearing?
The first time I traveled home I brought my son’s car seat. His car seat is a Graco MyRide 65 so it’s pretty bulky. I had never traveled with a baby before and I was concerned about the plane ride and was so insistent to myself that it was necessary to bring his car seat on board. I prayed that my flight and connecting flight wouldn’t be full so I could bring the car seat on board for my toddler.
To make my life easier I purchased a GoGo Babyz Travelmate so that I could attach Baby A’s car seat and wheel him through the airport. Having the GoGo Babyz Travelmate made my first traveling experience so much less stressful. If you have to bring your car seat with you, I highly suggest and recommend the Travelmate. It’s a bit of an investment at around $90 but if you fly a few times a year you will feel that it is well worth the price.
If the flight was full then I could have easily put the car seat and the GoGo Babyz Travelmate into my gate check bag and checked it at the gate. I got lucky with all four flights (to and from home) and I was able to bring the car seat on each flight and strap it in safely to the window seat! Bringing the car seat was extremely useful but I will mention that it did add extra baggage (literally) and was just “one more thing” to carry with us.
Going through security with the Travelmate and car seat was easy, I had to take Baby A out and carry him through the detector and security had to do a wand test on his car seat, but getting him in and out was as simple as it would have been if his car seat had been in the car. Once he turns 2 and can no longer be a lap passenger, we will be counting on this system for our travels!
My second adventure home I decided to ditch the car seat (when we arrived we had one waiting for us, don’t worry) and use my Ergo instead. I had a hard time deciding between my Ergo and my Boba since I love them both equally, but I decided to go with the Ergo because my mom bought it for us and I knew she’d appreciate seeing it in action. Rather than pulling my son in his car seat with the GoGo Babyz, I wore him on my front through the airport and on and off the plane.
Wearing him this time was a lot easier because I was able to be hands-free and have him extremely close. While I was wheeling him through the airport on our first trip, although I knew he was perfectly safe being strapped into his car seat and having the GoGo Babyz securely fastened to the car seat, I still found myself constantly looking back at him as we walked making sure he was still there.
While using the Ergo, I never had to doubt or second guess that he was safe because really, what safer place could he have been? Going through security with the Ergo was as easy as could be, all I had to do was walk through the detector! My son was able to stay strapped to me the entire time so all I had to fuss with was my shoes and the contents of my diaper bag. The airlines asks that you do not babywear during take off and landing so I unstrapped my son once we had boarded the plane, but up until we sat down in our seats he was comfortable attached to momma’s front.
I really loved babywearing through the airport and if my son wasn’t about to turn 2 in September, babywearing would be my preferred method of mobility through the airport.
I want to mention that the safest, recommended place for your baby on an airplane is in an approved car seat. However, I’m also a mom and realize sometimes it just won’t work to get your child their own seat on the plane or bring a car seat. Do what you feel most comfortable with.
Recommended Travel Bags
There are a ton of bags on the market, whether they be diaper bags, purses, travel bags, backpacks. The choices are almost endless on which bag will work out the best for you during your travels! The first time I traveled with my toddler I made the mistake of over-packing. I brought a Petunia Pickle Bottom Sashay Satchel as my diaper bag and a Petunia Pickle Bottom Weekender as my carry on. That was also the trip that I used the Go Go Babyz so to say that I had my hands full was an understatement.
I learned quickly that I over-packed and next time needed to go lighter. My second trip I kept it simple and only brought my Petunia Pickle Bottom Cosmopolitan Carryall and it worked out much better. It fit perfectly under the seat in front of me so I had my bag by my side at all times. I’m not a fan of those overhead storage bins and always prefer to have my bag at my feet. I recommend picking a bag that is large enough to fit the essentials, that is organized, and that can fit underneath the seat in front of you while you’re on the plane.
You’ll want something that is comfortable for your carrying preferences whether it be messenger style, on the shoulder, or on your back. You’ll also want to make sure that it holds your belongings safely by zipping up or closing with a strong magnetic closure. Below are a few bags that I’d recommend based off of comfort, practicality, organization, and of course style!
- Petunia Pickle Bottom Cosmopolitan Carryall
- Petunia Pickle Bottom Cosmopolitan Carryall
- Perry Mackin Harper Bag
- 2 Red Hens Rooster Bag
Other Helpful Tips
Whether you like it or not, you will encounter less than delightful people during your travels. I always fly Southwest because the fares are reasonable and I like that it’s open seating. On my last trip home I had to switch planes about halfway through and when I was boarding I asked a woman who looked to be in her mid to late 60’s if the two seats next to her were taken. She looked up at me, saw that I was holding a baby, rolled her eyes (yep, didn’t even try to hide it) and got up to let us in. I politely said thank you and scooted in to get myself and the baby situated. When I looked up again I noticed that the woman not only had gotten up to let us in, but she also moved seats and was now sitting two rows behind us. I was shocked and a little offended that she would do that.
Then I realized it was because she thought my son would be rotten the entire flight. It was all that I had not to rub it in her face when we unloaded the plane and my son had slept literally the entire flight, not making a single peep. Moral of the story – there will be rude people everywhere you turn, so just make sure that during your travels you focus on you and your little one and let the rest of the passengers make their own judgments.
Now you know my tips and tricks for traveling with a toddler on a plane. I probably have missed something along the way but you’ll get the hang of it! I wish you safe and stress free travels! Do you have any tips or tricks that I may have missed? Leave me a blog comment!
*This is a guest post by Alex of the blog Mommy’s Craft Obsession. What works for her may not work for you so please use your best judgement when traveling with your little one(s). Alex was in no way compensated for mentioning any of the brands in this post and merely sharing them out of her fondness for their product.