I just got home from a week-long vacation in California, which was also the first time I’ve flown with my new baby and toddler together — and I did it by myself, without my husband or any other adults to help! Flying solo with a three-month-old and a three-year-old is not for the faint of heart, for sure, but I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that might help anyone else finding themselves in the same situation. We survived with minimal tears (from the kids AND from me) and I hope these ideas can help you too.
Tips for Flying With a Toddler: Pre-flight
- timing. I like to schedule flights for either first thing in the morning (so the kids will be in a good mood) or nap time. My three-year-old doesn’t usually sleep much on airplanes but my baby does nothing but sleep, so decide on a time that will work for you. I also try to book only direct flights when traveling with a baby, so I can spend as little time in transit as possible. However, now that I have a toddler too I don’t mind a layover. It’s kind of nice to get out, stretch your legs, and lets the kid burn off some energy.
- pack accordingly. I pack a massive diaper bag before every flight — lots of diapers and wipes, changing pad, Clorox wipes, binkies, snacks, sippy cups and bottles. (They’ll let you through security with ANY liquid if it’s for your baby — you’ll just have to get it tested.) I usually hit up the dollar section before a trip to stock up on random stuff like stickers, mini toys, new books, etc. — and then I wrap them in wrapping paper. Unwrapping the “presents” gives you double the entertainment time, plus it makes it seem more exciting. I’ve even wrapped up old toys we already owned, just to keep the thrill going. I also pack things like crayons, note pads, pipe cleaners, books, and anything else I think might keep him occupied.
- airport fun. During the security line, I keep my baby strapped into his infant car seat in the Snap&Go stroller as long as possible, then check the car seat & stroller at the gate for immediate pick up upon landing (or, you can bring the car seat on the plane if there’s an extra seat). That way the kid is secure all during inspection and you just have to pull him out once everything is on the conveyor belt. I make my toddler walk along with me, but if you have a younger kid or one who can’t keep up, I recommend bringing a double stroller. I check as many bags as possible so the ONLY things I have to get through the airport are me, the stroller and my diaper bag. Once we get through security, I take as much time as possible to get to our gate (assuming we’re not running late, of course.) We browse the airport shops, maybe get a snack, watch planes out the windows (this is always a highlight), find an empty gate and run in circles around the chairs. The kids are going to be stuck in a small space for long enough on the airplane — get as much energy out ahead of time, and don’t waste good behavior on sitting on terminal chairs!
Tips for Flying With a Toddler: On Board
- get settled. The first thing I do when I get on the plane is wipe everything down with a Clorox wipe because I am a germaphobe. 🙂 Baby car seats are required to be next to the window, but I always try to keep myself on the outside — better to chance crawling over your seatmate once or twice than to give the kid the constant temptation to get out and run in the aisle. After that, I let my toddler go wild by exploring everything. Between the window shades, drop down trays, magazines in the seat back pocket, seatbelts, etc. — this usually keeps him entertained until after take-off.
- altitude changes. Be sure to nurse your baby upon take-off and landing, or at least give a pacifier, to help their ears adjust. You can get the same effect for toddlers by giving them a drink with a straw or a lollipop or having them yawn (yawn first in an exaggerated manner and Mother Nature will usually prompt them to yawn as well).
- killing time. I’ve only used my iPad maybe twice in all the times we’ve flown with my toddler. My diaper bag full of tricks usually keeps him occupied for a while, and when he starts to get bored I pull out a snack — besides the usual stuff, I pack a few “tantrum busters” like his favorite fruit snacks, which I know he’ll be excited to get no matter how grumpy he’s getting. I try to bring a few special treats too, like a Dum Dum or Nerds (Nerds are genius because they take FOREVER to eat if you give them only a few at a time). Also, the flight attendants usually give you additional treats for the kid, so eating his own bag of peanuts or pretzels usually takes a good chunk of time too.
There you have it — my best tips for flying with a toddler (and a baby)! What am I missing? Leave me your best ideas in the comments.