Travel Advice

How to Survive Flying with a Toddler

My oldest son has been on six different flights and two of those flights it was just he and I. Talk about intimidating!

His first two flights were from Philly to Reno, with a layover in Arizona. We had less than an hour, opposite end from where our next flight was taking off, and needed to get my son lunch. Talk about stress! Thankfully, we made it. We walked as fast as we could with our carry-ons, toddler, and lunch… we even had a tiny amount of time to spare.

His next two flights were from LAX to Philly, with a layover in Nevada. These two flights I was completely on my own with my son from security to landing in Philly. When my husband dropped us off at the curb, I cried. I was not sobbing, but tears were definitely there. I hate going through the process of flying. So this was one of my worst fears happening. Dramatic, but true. Plus LAX and Nevada airports we both awful and not helpful at all.

The last two flights were nonstop, one to Miami from Philly and the other from Orlando back to Philly. I was pregnant with my youngest son and my husband, Jason, was there with us too. Philly airport was AMAZING and the only airport that was actually HELPFUL. Orlando was awful.

That is just a little bit of background I have flying with a toddler. He had just turned two when he was on the first four flights.

Bring LOTS of snacks!

I can’t stress this enough! Applesauce, goldfish, Cheerios, etc. If you think you have enough, grab a few extra.

Let them have their own tablet and child headphones

Make sure you have movies downloaded on the device and download games that do not require WiFi to play. My son LOVED the Thomas racing game on his fire.

Get them their own seat

Because my son had just turned two, he was required to have one. I can not stress enough that if you have a toddler under two, get them their own seat. It just made the plane ride much easier with space and carry-ons.

Be sure to pick your seats next to each other

Do not add stress to yourself by waiting or by not paying extra to chose your seats. It’s just not worth it.

Choose seats closest to the restroom

YES! We were potty training and it was great when ours seats were near the restroom. Even if you are changing diapers, it is still nice being close.

Get a window seat

When it was just my son and I flying, I chose a window and a middle seat every time. I sat in the middle and my son sat in the window seat. We had our “own” area and I did not need to worry about him leaning in the isle or being upset etc. then worrying about the stranger sitting next to him.

Coloring book and Triangular crayons

Most kids love to color and it’s a quiet distraction. They sell small travel pack with coloring pages, crayons, and stickers. You can always just pack plain paper, which my son prefers. Triangular crayons are great because you do not need to worry about them rolling around and onto the floor.

Pick a flight time (if possible) around your toddlers schedule

I tend to pick based on price and time. No red eye flights for us! I prefer mornings, because that’s when my son is at his best. Plus my son does not like to nap on planes, so afternoon flights I tried my best to avoid.

Choose a nonstop flight (if possible), because layovers just add stress

I HATE layovers, because it adds stress. Getting on and off the plane is annoying. Just a big NO when possible!

Pack what you need in your child’s personal bag and put it under the seat

You and your child each get a personal item to put under your seats. Pack all the essentials in these bags. Snacks, change of clothes, diapers, wipes, fun distractions, etc.

Get to the airport early

I am that person without kids and I am just as early with kids. Things happen and it is better to be too early than he too late.

Be prepared for security

Based on my experience, it varies widely from airport to airport. Be sure to read ALL the TSA guideline/requirements. Do not be afraid to respectfully challenge them when they are wrong. This happened to us over apple juice for our son. Wear shoes that you and your toddler can easily get off and on, keep all your electronics together, keep off you liquids together in your quart sized bag, and again read the TSA guidelines/requirements.

Give them a lollipop or pacifier for take off

My son only used his pacifier during naps and bedtime, but he complained on one flight about his ears and we gave him his pacifier to help.

Pack small blanket and small pillow

Taking a small blanket and pillow will make napping and/or resting a lot more comfortable for your toddler. My son didn’t like to nap on flights but he liked being able to relax when he wanted.



Do you have any tips or advice? Share in the comments below!

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