how to travel with a toddler on a plane

How to Travel with a Toddler on a Plane

Traveling with a toddler on a plane can be a daunting task for any parent. Long flights, cramped spaces, and unpredictable schedules can make the experience exhausting and stressful. However, with some careful planning and preparation, traveling with a toddler can be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your child. In this blog post, we’ll share some tips and tricks for how to travel with a toddler on a plane.

Book the right flight

The first step in traveling with a toddler is to book the right flight. Choose a flight that fits your toddler’s schedule, so they are well-rested and in good spirits during the journey. I understand that flights get delayed or canceled, and sometimes it’s just difficult to find an affordable itinerary for the date and time you want, so just do your best (it won’t be perfect).  

Try to book a non-stop flight if possible, as it reduces the chances of delays and makes the journey more comfortable for your child. If you have a choice of seats (and we always pay the few extra bucks for that privilege), try to book a seat near the front of the plane, as this is usually less noisy, can give your child a better view of the cockpit, and typically minimizes the amount of time spent on the plane since you’re more likely to be among the last ones on and first ones off..

Pack smart

Packing smart is essential advice when you want to know how to travel with a toddler on a plane. Pack enough diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks, small toys, and a blanket to keep your child entertained during the flight. If your child has a favorite stuffed animal or blanket they like to sleep with, be sure to bring it along as well. Our kiddos all have a favorite “lovey” that is an essential item for each of their backpacks.

If you are traveling with a car seat, check with the airline beforehand to see if it is allowed on board and meets the specifications. Many don’t realize this, but according to the Federal Aviation Administration it’s actually much safer for your little one to travel in their own seat as opposed to being a lap child.  We’ve tried out several of these travel seats and our favorite is the Cosco Onlook 2-in-1 for rear facing, and the WAYB Pico travel car seat for forward facing.  Both are compact, lightweight, and very easy to carry through an airport when strapped to a piece of your rolling luggage with a travel belt.

Check-in early

Checking in early is important when traveling with a toddler. Most airlines allow you to check-in online or at a kiosk, which can save you time at the airport. In fact, most online check-in can be completed up to 24 hours prior to your flight’s scheduled departure time, so getting that done the night before can save a ton of time and stress waiting in long lines on the day of travel.  If you have any special requests or requirements, such as a bassinet or a wheelchair, make sure to inform the airline beforehand. This will help them make the necessary arrangements before you arrive.

Arrive early at the airport

Arriving early at the airport can help reduce stress and anxiety for both you and your child. Allow plenty of time for check-in, security, and boarding (especially for international travel). If you have some time to spare, let your child run around and burn off some energy before the flight. Many airports have play areas or family-friendly facilities that can help keep your child entertained, or simply go for a walk around the terminal. Our children often keep themselves entertained by finding a spot at the terminal to watch planes coming and going, getting fueled, and loaded with luggage.

Use a baby carrier or stroller

Using a baby carrier or stroller can make traveling with a toddler much easier, especially since our toddlers are not always the fastest moving members of the family and you need to stick to a schedule. 

A carrier allows you to keep your child close to you while leaving your hands free to carry luggage or handle other tasks. Just keep in mind that the carrier will need to be removed when going through security. A stroller can be used to transport your child and your carry-on bags around the airport. Many airlines allow you to easily check your stroller at the gate, which means you can use it right up until you board the plane.

With four kiddos of our own we usually need to employ both a stroller and a carrier for our two youngest.  Our favorite stroller is the gb Pockit+ as it can quickly and easily be folded up for gate checking and takes up very little space once it is completely folded and placed into its own carrying bag.  Our favorite carriers are the Lillebaby Airflow and the Lillebaby CarryOn as they’re comfortable for your toddler and provide great back support for the adult (which was very helpful while moving luggage and kiddos through the airport).

Be prepared for takeoff and landing

When learning how to travel with a toddler on a plane anticipating when your little one might struggle the most and having a solution at the ready is key. Takeoff and landing can be stressful for toddlers, especially if they have never been on a plane before. To help ease their anxiety, give your child a pacifier, bottle, or sippy cup. This can also help with ear pressure during takeoff and landing. Encourage them to yawn, swallow, or chew gum if they are old enough to do so. You can also distract them with a favorite toy or book during takeoff and landing.

Keep your child comfortable

Keeping your child comfortable is important when traveling on a plane. Dress them in comfortable clothes and bring a blanket or sweater in case the cabin temperature drops. Make sure your child is well-fed and hydrated throughout the flight. Offer them snacks and water frequently to prevent them from getting hungry or thirsty. It’s also a good idea to bring a small pillow or cushion to make the seat more comfortable for your child.  If your toddler is still in diapers be sure to put on a fresh one just before boarding.

Use the lavatory before the flight

Before the flight, take your child to the lavatory to ensure that they have an empty bladder. This can help prevent any accidents during the flight, and simply reduce the number of in-flight bathroom visits which are not always the most convenient tasks for both the child and parent. If your child is potty training, bring a portable potty seat or training pants in case they need to go during the flight.

Be patient and flexible

Traveling with a toddler on a plane can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be patient and flexible. Be prepared for delays or changes in your itinerary, and try to keep a positive attitude. Remember that your child may have a meltdown or get restless during the flight, but it’s all part of the experience. Take breaks as needed and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the flight attendants or other passengers.  Remember, if you are showing how stressed and anxious you are, that will make your toddler stressed and anxious.

In conclusion, when learning how to travel with a toddler on a plane some extra planning and preparation is required, but it can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your child. Book the right flight, pack smart, check-in early, arrive early at the airport, use a baby carrier or stroller, be prepared for takeoff and landing, keep your child comfortable, use the lavatory before the flight, and be patient and flexible. With these tips and tricks, you can enjoy a stress-free flight with your little one. Happy travels!