Flying with toddlers: Tips for a Smooth Flight

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  • by:Little Academy Nursery
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Flying with toddlers can be daunting, but there are ways to make it easier on you, your child, and your fellow passengers. Try these mom-tested tips on your next trip.

Tip 1: Think about timing

Timing isn’t necessarily everything, but it’s not nothing, either. Some parents like to fly around naptime, so their little ones can catch some z’s en route. If your toddler is a fussy sleeper, though, this may not work for you — in which case, it’d be better to book tickets that don’t interfere with your kid’s usual sleep schedule. A lot depends on pricing, of course, but it’s worth at least considering how different flights might work with or against you.

Tip 2: Check airline policies

Be sure to check the airline’s policies regarding strollers (size restrictions, gate-checking, etc.), car/safety seats, ticketing (special rates, age verification, etc.), and baggage allowances. It’s also a good idea to review the TSA’s rules for children. You may be happy to know, for example, that kids 12 and under don’t have to remove their shoes for screening, or that formula, breast milk, and juice for infants and toddlers are exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule.

Tip 3: Choose your seat(s) wisely

If you book early and have the option to sit wherever you want, consider your choices carefully. Some parents like the bulkhead, because kids have room to move around without going into the aisle. Keep in mind, though, that since there are no seats in front of you, you’ll have to store all of your belongings in the overhead bin, which means it may be more difficult to get to things when you need them.

If you choose a standard row, consider taking the aisle seat for yourself, in case you need to take your child to the bathroom during the flight. Also: While most airlines allow kids under 2 to fly on a parent’s lap, it’s safer (and ultimately more comfortable for you) if they have their own seat. (Ask about discounted fares to save money.)

One important note: Try to resolve any issues with your seat assignments before you board.

“Once you get on the plane, it is very difficult for a flight attendant to switch your seats,” flight attendant Leisha Poage wrote for The Points Guy. “Our hands are tied as far as making any seat changes before everyone gets comfortably seated, and anything we do will have to be late in the game due to the continual boarding process and narrow aisles.”

Tip 4: Stock up on toys and snacks

Although many airlines offer both food-for-purchase and in-flight entertainment, you should pack as if you won’t have access to either. You may even want to wrap up a toy so your toddler has a fun surprise to discover on the plane.

“I made sure to bring one or two new toys that my son had never seen before,” Marla Garfield told “Post-its are weirdly fascinating, too. But don’t bring anything with small pieces that you have to chase around under your seat when they get dropped.”

Tip 5: Pack strategically

It’s not just what you pack that matters, it’s also how you pack.

“I organized my backpack so I knew exactly where everything was, and everything was in Ziploc bags,” Garfield said. “The stuff I knew I’d use most was on the top of each pocket in my bag.”

Tip 6: Leave with time to spare

Give yourself more time than you think you need to get out the door, to the airport, and through security.

Tip 7: Take a last-minute trip to the bathroom

Once you’re on the plane, it may be awhile before you have a chance to get up and use the lavatory, so do a bathroom run or diaper change a few minutes before you board.

Tip 8: Consider boarding early

Most airlines offer early boarding for families with young children. This is great if you have a lot of gear and need time to settle in, but it also means you’re spending more time on the plane. One option: If you’re traveling with other adults, have them board early with all of your stuff, and then board with your kids in a later group.

Tip 9: Soothe ear pain

Air pressure in your toddler’s ears can be painful, so bring something for them to chew or suck on during takeoff and landing.

Tip 10: Cut yourself some slack

Traveling with toddlers can be stressful, so do whatever you can to make it easier on yourself.

“I can’t stress this enough: Let all your standards of parenting go out the window when you fly with a toddler,” Garfield told “It’s about keeping them quiet and happy. If they want a snack you normally wouldn’t give them, give them the snack. If they want to watch movies or TV shows and you’re anti-screens, get a screen and do it anyway. Nobody has ever regretted keeping their kid happy on a plane.”



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