Traveling can be stressful, especially with toddlers! And if you’re a parent of a toddler, then you know just how the idea of traveling on a plane with a toddler can feel daunting. Yes, travel in general can be so worthwhile, filled with memories and unforgettable experiences. But the logistics of traveling with toddlers on a plane can be filled with lots of big emotions – for both parents and toddlers! Today I’m sharing all of my best advised effective and practical tips for flying with toddlers to make your experience through the airport and airplane as smooth as possible!
10 tips for traveling on a plane with a toddler
From the never-ending packing lists to boarding a big plane with lots of new people and different sounds, just about everything in regard to traveling with toddlers can feel overwhelming. But with a little extra prep work and planning ahead, traveling with toddlers on a plane can be simplified so you feel more prepared and your toddler feels more at ease.
Follow these 10 essential tips for traveling on an airplane with your toddler.
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Book direct flights if possible
Even without toddlers, traveling on a direct flight is simply better. So if you’re flying with young children, and have the option, choose to book direct flights to shorten the travel time and minimize the risk of travel disruption.
Take advantage of pre-boarding wisely
Some airlines will offer pre-boarding for families with children ages two and under, while other airlines are more vague with pre-boarding options for small children. If you are traveling with another adult…divide and conquer! While you stay behind and let your little kids burn off some preflight energy, have the other adult board the plane and find your seats, wipe down the tray tables and seats with sanitizing wipes, secure overhead storage for carry-ons, and install the car seat.
Avoid the aisle seat
Make sure to have your toddler sit in the window seat. In general, this is a safer option as it will give them a bit more freedom to move without risking running down the aisle or interfering with a service cart or flight attendants. Yes, it can feel awkward to ask a stranger to get up if you and your toddler need to get to the bathroom, but people are generally understanding.
Book a seat for your toddler
If your toddler is less than two years old and it’s in your budget, book an extra seat for your toddler. You won’t regret it. Having the extra space will be appreciated by both you and your child. While flying is overall very safe, severe turbulence is becoming more common due to climate change. For this reason, especially, it is safest for your toddler to be in a toddler car seat in their own seat. Check your car seat to see if it is FAA-approved and if it will fit in an airplane seat. For older kids, this airplane harness is a great way to offer added seat belt safety!
Pack your diaper bag efficiently using zippered bags for easy access
Pack an extra change of clothes
For parents and kids – we know that spills happen. Luggage gets lost. Having extra clothes easily accessible can be a lifesaver and save you a lot of stress. Focus on packing comfortable clothes and dressing in layers. Never hesitate to bring your kids to the airport in their pajamas during early morning or late night flights.
Bring all the snacks!
Toddlers are constantly growing (and eating)! And there’s no better way to keep a toddler happy and occupied with a snack. So pack all of their favorites. You can never pack enough options, which is why I love these snack spinners that will keep their bellies full and their minds busy.
Set realistic and reasonable expectations
Travel days are tough for adults and toddlers. Especially because traveling usually involves upside-down schedules and routines being thrown off which results in a lack of sleep. Your toddler may become more easily dysregulated due to overstimulation, a missed nap, and simply not being at home. This can mean more whining and tantrums. Don’t worry about onlookers – stay present and focus on yourself and your child.
Be flexible with schedules
Keep the routine but don’t hold yourself to a strict schedule. For example, bring your chid’s special lovey and sound machine for naps but don’t expect your child to nap at the same time they would at home. Routines can be soothing for toddlers because they create a sense of safety through predictability. Anticipate that your toddler might have more screen time than usual, and that’s just fine.
Keep in mind that flying on an airplane with your toddler is temporary. If you find yourself struggling, visualize arriving on your vacation or back in the comfort of your own home. Think about how good it will feel to get there. Hold onto these visualizations and keep bringing them to the forefront of your mind if things get tough. Remember, you and your toddler are human. So give yourself and your toddler some grace on travel days!
Plane travel essentials for toddlers
Whether you’re traveling with toddlers in the car on a road trip or flying on an airplane, getting to your destination can be made easier and smoother with all of my favorite toddler travel essentials!
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Potty Seat Reducer
This potty seat reducer folds up and comes with its own travel bag that you can toss right inside of your diaper bag. Potty seat reducers make the toilet seat smaller and safer for your toddler, which is why they are essential for setting your toddler up for success in public (or airplane) restrooms.
Spill-Proof Snack Cup
Avoid losing those precious snacks all over the airplane with this one-piece silicone spill-proof snack cup.
Spill-Proof Sippy Cup
No need to worry about your child’s water or milk getting spilled with these no-spill sippy cups.
Food Catching Bibs
Keep your toddler’s clothes clean from baby food with these silicone food-catching bibs that catch all the snack crumbs. They are easy to wipe off and roll up for travel so you can toss them right into your diaper bag.
Travel Baby Carrier
We love a good baby carrier! Having a supportive carrier that travels easily is essential to freeing up your hands and making your trip through the airport more comfortable for you and your toddler.
Keep your toddler busy and having fun with this reusable mess-free painting activity that is perfect to do right on the airplane tray tables.
Reusable Sticker Books
Stickers are a toddler’s best friend! These reusable sticker activity books are a great way for your child to practice fine motor skills while traveling.
Travel Busy Board
Busy boards are a wonderful way to keep your toddler busy with endless options to practice many different types of fine motor development. This busy board zips right up for travel, giving your toddler lots of ways to explore and play on the go.
Having a great travel stroller is essential to keeping your toddler comfortable and contained plus your hands-free. My personal favorite is the BABYZEN YOYO2 Stroller because it fits easily in most overhead compartments.
Suction Cup Spinners
This fun (and affordable) little suction cup spinner travel toys stick to the window or tray table! My personal favorite suction cup spinners are made of high-quality silicone, which makes them great for teething too!
If you’re looking for more travel must-haves, check out my favorite Plane Travel Toys & Essentials for toddlers to help make flying more tolerable for you and your toddler.
Make airplane travel easy for everyone
Whether you have a toddler or not, traveling can be stressful and overwhelming. But with a little prep work and a lot of patience, you can do this!
Regardless of whether you’re gearing up for your first flight with your toddler or looking to fine-tune your travel experience based on your last flight with your kids, I am here for you! If you’re looking for more guidance and support as you navigate all things toddlerhood, don’t miss out on any of the Transforming Toddlerhood Parenting Classes to help you out along the way!
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many things that make traveling with a toddler on a plane challenging. Changes in routine, sleep schedules, and the overstimulation of new places, faces, and sounds all contribute to the challenges of traveling with a toddler on an airplane.
Doing some prep work to feel prepared for flying with a toddler is so important! One of the best ways to stay organized when traveling on a plane is to pack your travel essentials in clear, zippered bags so you can see your items and belongings for quick and easy access.
Snacks, toys, and extra clothes are all basic essentials to pack for travel on a plane. Oh, and more snacks!
You can bring your diaper bag, baby food, snacks, a travel stroller, and carseat through airport security.
You can travel with a car seat by simply either checking it at the counter or gate, but make sure it’s in a travel bag for protection. If your child has their own seat assignment, you can fasten them right into their toddler car seat during the flight (which is the most preferred and safest option for flying), as long as it is FAA-approved and fits in an airplane seat.