My Best Tips for Flying With a Toddler

I’m not a naturally adventurous person. I have to make deliberate choices and force myself to take risks and push my boundaries. One of the most nerve-wracking (and exciting!) things I’ve done recently was fly across the country with my sixteen-month-old daughter.

For people who travel often, flying with kids might not seem like a big deal. For me (who is just beginning to travel), this was a source of major anxiety. The whole time leading up to the trip, I was plagued with thoughts: What if she cried the entire flight? What if she has a medical issue? What if we hit turbulence and she flies out of my arms?

Thankfully, none of that happened. It was actually a much, much easier trip than I ever thought it would be. In fact, Daphne slept for so long during the first flight, my husband and I were able to watch an entire movie! It was awesomely unexpected.

During the days leading up to the trip, I researched the best items to bring on the airplane. I brushed up on what I was allowed to bring and not allowed to bring. I did a lot of research, and I’ve compiled my best tips here.

Bring a few new toys.

This is really important. A few days prior to our trip, my husband and I stocked up on Dollar Store toys to keep Daphne entertained. I wanted to get her some things she’s never seen before, and the Dollar Store was a great way to do this without spending a ton of money. We bought a few books to read, a felt coloring kit, a bag of little rubber ducks, a baby doll, and an Elmo figurine. Every half hour on the flight (when she wasn’t sleeping), I’d pull out a new toy for her. She loved it!

I should also mention that we did bring some of her familiar favorites to give her a sense of comfort so far from home.

Daphne at the airport. She loved watching the planes take off!

Grab some snacks.

Flight delays are common and our flight was long. Snacks are great to pack because not only do they calm a hungry toddler, they can help pass the time. During our Dollar Store run, I was sure to pick up some energy bars, Goldfish crackers, and even some cookies to act as a worst-case-scenario distraction.

Pack a tablet and load some new games.

Prior to our departure, I loaded a few new games on the tablet: an Elmo telephone, a Sesame Street cooking game, a piano music maker, a digital storybook, and various others. Always make sure your games are available with or without WiFi, because you never know when the airline connection may get spotty.

Tablets, in my opinion, are best used as a last resort. They are engaging and guaranteed to provide at least a half hour of entertainment. If you use them too early in the trip, they may not calm a really fussy toddler when you need it. The tablet was a lifesaver during the last hour of the trip home: Daphne was pretty much done with traveling and trying to do somersaults in my arms.

Pack all electronics in an easy-to-access pocket of your backpack or diaper bag.

Security requires you to remove all electronics from your bags. I’d recommend having everything stored conveniently near the top of your diaper bag or backpack. Security is tricky enough with a little one; don’t make it harder by having to fumble through all your bags finding your electronics.

Bring extra everything.

Two extra pacifiers, extra diapers, extra food, extra toys, extra wipes. When traveling with kids, “extra” is your friend. When you bring enough backup items, you won’t need to stress when (notice I said “when” and not “if”) your baby angrily throws her pacifier and it lands on the floor of the airport. You’ll have another one nearby.

Don’t stress too much about germs.

Speaking of throwing a pacifier on the floor, I also wanted to talk about the “germs” aspect of airline traveling. My honest advice? Don’t sweat this too much. Babies touch everything, and no matter how had you try to keep their hands clean, they are going to lay on the floor or lick something dirty. It will drive you nuts if you worry about every germ. That being said, I was sure to have a packet of antibacterial wipes in a very handy place.

Know your airline’s policies, perks, and requirements.

We flew Southwest, and I would highly recommend them when flying as a family. They don’t have assigned seats, which is awesome because people won’t sit near you if they have another choice. They also give families priority boarding so you aren’t the last to board the plane.

I called Southwest a few days prior to learn about what items I could “gate check” (both the stroller and the car seat), the identification items that Daphne needed (a birth certificate, and a digital copy suffices), and how the family boarding actually worked (families board after priority and group A). I also learned from reading other blogs that Southwest often allows lap children to have their own seat if the flight isn’t sold out, which is a really kind thing to do.

Well, there you have it: my best tips for traveling with a toddler. If you’re on the fence about taking a trip with your kid(s), trust me when I say it was easier than I thought. I was pleasantly surprised about how nice everyone was to us (I had people help me with my stroller and another kind woman talked to Daphne on the flight) and I would do it again for sure. What are your best tips? Let me know in the comments.

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