35 Tips for Toddler Airplane Travel



This past summer, we spent a lot of time traveling. We flew to Aruba for a week. We flew to Siesta Key for 5 days. That's a lot of time on a plane with a rambunctious, mobile toddler. In some ways, it was easier than traveling with an infant...and in some ways, more difficult. When P was 9 months old and we flew to Aruba, she cried a bit, but wasn't really antsy to go anywhere. As a toddler, she just wants to move all the time and so sitting for a nice 5 hour flight wasn't quite the ideal situation. There were times while we were traveling that I thought...why did we do this? Why didn't we just stay home? It wasn't always easy, but as I've said before, I vowed to not stop living just because I had a child, and so...airplane rides for everyone!

Because I like to keep it real, and because I feel like I've learned a thing or two, having taken 6 plane rides thus far with Penelope, for today's Baby Talk Tuesday, I'm sharing my tips for airplane travel with a toddler. 


Plan Your Trip with a Toddler in Mind:

1. Plan ahead. Where are you going? How long is the flight? How old will your child be at the time of travel?

2. Find out about seating arrangements. If your child is under 2, he or she can still be in your lap for a small fee, so take advantage of that savings. It's not the most comfortable situation, but it's a small price to pay.

3. Try to get extra leg room, or even better, bulk head seating.

4. If traveling with your spouse, book an aisle & a middle seat so that you can get up to use the bathroom or just to walk your screaming tot around at your leisure.

5. Ensure you have proper paperwork. Make sure your child is on your itinerary and has a boarding pass, even if they are sitting in your lap. If you are travelling internationally, she will need a passport! Even as an infant! Leave enough time to get photo taken and send away for the passport.


Getting to the Airport:

6. Decide whether to drive & park, take a taxi or have a family member drive you.

7. If you are driving, do your research on parking in advance. Consider having your spouse drop you and your child off at the terminal to begin checking in while he parks the car.

8. If you are taking a taxi, ensure that you are comfortable installing your car seat, quickly and efficiently. Practice beforehand.

9. Plan for transportation on the other side. Will you be renting a car? Taking a taxi? Again, make sure you know how to install your car seat. In Aruba, the taxis don't have LATCH systems, and so I had to do seatbelt installation.


Getting Through the Airport:

10. Check your carseat when you arrive at the airport.

11. Use curbside check-in if available, it rocks. For a $5 tip, there's usually no lines, friendly sky caps, and an overall pleasant experience.

12. Keep the stroller. Plan to use it through the airport, while in line at security and to wrangle your tot in the crowd.

13. At security, keep your cool. I always have anxiety about not holding up the line behind me, but with P in tow, I just try to move as quickly as I can without stressing myself out. I can only do what I can do, and usually people and TSA agents are friendly and understanding.


Packing: The Big Stuff

14. Decide if you will bring your car seat, or rent one upon arrival. We brought ours in this sturdy car seat bag, which we checked. Car seats are typically free to check.

15. Plan to gate check your stroller. We used our compact umbrella stroller and got an inexpensive gate check bag so that the stroller wouldn't get crapped up in transit (worth every penny!). We simply kept it folded in our bag, then opened it once we were boarding the plane and wrapped up the stroller.


Before Boarding:

16. Let your child run like the wind. Get out all of that energy so they will be nice and tired once settled into your seats.

17. Purchase milk and/or water for the plane ride.

18. Pick up a yummy snack for Mom and Dad. Maybe something that your little nugget will also find exciting. P loved the Doritos in my Munchie Mix (note to self: next time, pick something without orange dust)

19. Do one last diaper change so that she's nice and dry and as comfy as can be.


Packing: What to Bring on the Plane


20. Be thorough, but don't overdo it.

21. Find a really great bag. I bought this beach bag from One Step Ahead which rocked for the beach, but was also a perfect carry-on. Sturdy, not too heavy, and carried it all.

22. Bring favorite snacks - more than you think your child could possibly eat. Then bring some more.

23. Pack an extra outfit; short sleeves & long sleeves, in case it's warm or chilly on the plane.

24. Bring a lightweight blanket (or 2), to use as both diaper mat and/or in case it's chilly on the plane.

25. Pack a few select and special toys. Something you know your child will love, or a surprise new toy for the plane. P loved her travel doodler from her grandma.

26. Download apps. Peek-a-boo Barn was a lifesaver on the way to Aruba.

27. Pack 2 empty bottles and/or sippy cups. Fill with purchased water and milk once through security.

28. If your child takes a pacifier, bring a bunch. I felt comfortable with 6.

29. Don't discount video entertainment. P refused to wear headphones, but she happily watched videos on the iPad and on Direct TV on one of the flights, without sound.

30. Pack enough diapers and wipes for the worst case scenario (e.g., a change every hour).

31. Add extra wipes for sticky hands

32. Wipe down your seat arms and tray tables as soon as you sit down.


On the Flight:

33. Let the third person in your row know that you'll do what you can to keep your kiddo under control.

34. If your kid needs a diaper change, get up and take care of it asap.

35. Try to relax...in the end, you can only do what you can do! You'll probably never see these people again, anyway.


What are your tips for traveling with a toddler or baby?


also! check out tips for traveling with an infant!