Flying with a toddler is a completely different ballgame than an infant. As the saying goes, it may not always be easy, but it’ll be worth it! Just as I started my flying with infants blog, I’m going to start off the toddler one the same way…
Going to get really real here first. Do not stress over the little details. Much like childbirth (yes, I compared the two, but read on), you can plan your travel day out; but, ultimately, you have no control of what happens and that’s okay! Roll with it and understand it’ll all be worth it when you get to your destination. Some travel days go perfect and others are the opposite. We’ve seen it all and not once has it stopped us from planning our next trip. Another thing we are all worried about is upsetting or annoying others. In all my travels, I’ve only had ONE miserable person to deal with. They are the exception, not the norm! You are going to try your best to keep your kids happy and quiet, people notice that.
If you’re flying alone with your kids, I suggest reading my post, specifically about that.
Booking a Flight
Once your toddler reaches the magical age of two, you are required to buy them a ticket of their own. It’s a bummer to have the added expense, but having a two year old on your lap for an entire flight isn’t realistic.
When booking their ticket, you will have to specify it’s a child and provide their age at time of flight. There isn’t a price break for kids. I always suggest to sit as close to the front of the plane as possible. One reason is because the front is less bumpy than the back. My kids get nauseous easily, so the less bumps, the better for us. The second reason is that you will get off the plan sooner.
If you haven’t already ditched the shoulder diaper bag for a backpack, do it before flying. You will have your hands free to tend to the kids and your shoulder won’t kill you. Here’s my video showing all the carry-on bag items I think are a must! I also have a post on the same subject.
You will be carrying the majority, if not everything, that your toddler will need for the trip. However, if you have an older child that will be bringing their own backpack, your little one may want to carry one too, which is a major score for you! Because the bag will have to be light enough for them to carry themselves, only have them put maybe a stuffed animal or other small items in it. The last thing you want is to end up carrying that bad, in addition to all of your gear.
Here’s a quick list of things I have found to be a must for toddlers, in addition to your standard Mom-bag items like diapers, snacks, etc.:
- Change of clothes: Potty training can be rough and toddlers wanting their independence pretty much guarantees some type of mess. Bring a complete change, just in case.
- Headphones: If your flight offers TV, you’ll need headphones. We got our kids headphones like this, as opposed to ear buds
- Small, quiet toys or games: Toys that will keep your kids occupied, but not make obnoxious sounds. Matchbox cars, little people figures, and activity books have worked great for us
- Ziploc bags: Great for soiled clothes if someone has an accident or if you need to save a snack that your toddler didn’t finish
- Plastic bag: Just in case the seat back pocket doesn’t have a sick bag. Also good to use as a garbage bag throughout the flight for your wrappers, snacks (that will inevitably fall on the floor), etc. Then you can easily give it to the flight attendant as they do their last garbage collection
- Paper towels or napkins: Always good to have on hand
- Lysol wipes: to wipe down any funky surface your toddler will want to slobber all over
- New toy/book: This is something I learned along the way. Buy something small like a new book or toy and don’t tell your kids. When you break that out in flight, they will be so happy and, theoretically, the new item will keep them occupied for at least a little.
I’m focusing on the flight necessities here. If you’d like some packing tips, check out this post of mine. I have it down to a science now. If you don’t have the time, here’s my vlog
Check-in/Security/Getting to your gate
Since your toddler has their own ticket, they’ll receive their own boarding pass. You do not need a birth certificate or any ID when traveling domestically. They will also be allowed to check and carry-on whatever baggage the airline includes with cost of ticket.
If you’re traveling with car seats, they will be checked with your luggage. I suggest getting a car seat bag, to keep it from getting beat up and dirty. This is the one we had. It’s universal, so it fits most car seats
Bringing a stroller is completely up to you. We always brought one for our kids, until they were about three or so. Mostly because it was a great place to store all your bags as you chase a toddler that loves to dart around the terminal. When going through security, TSA agents will ask if it will fit through the machine folded up. It’s always good to give it a shot. In my case, my stroller never fit. If you have a larger stroller, chances are it won’t fit either. If that’s the case, they will have to check it manually. A TSA agent will take your stroller and check it by hand. It usually only takes a minute or two. Be sure all pockets and compartments of your stroller are empty. When you get to on the plane, the stroller will have to be gate checked. When you get to your gate, go to the desk. They will put a special tag on your stroller and a carbon copy for you. The stroller will be left, folded up, at the door right before you step on the plane.
When going through security, your toddler won’t have to take their shoes off. Additionally, they won’t go through the full body machine. The TSA will guide you to the old school metal detector that you will walk through with them.
About five minutes or so before boarding, I always head to the bathroom. If your toddler is still in diapers, put a fresh one on; if they’re potty trained, force them to go. You never know when you’ll be able to change them or bring them to the bathroom once you’re on the plane.
When boarding starts, listen carefully, as they will pre-board anyone flying with small children. If people are being annoying and blocking the gate, push through. You will need this time to get settled in!
Once you’re at the bottom of the ramp, fold up your stroller and leave it right by the door. Someone will take it and put it on the plane. Find your seats and get settled in. Anything you won’t need during the flight should be put in the overhead compartment. Anything you may need, should be put underneath the seat in front of you.
Keeping the seat belt on a feisty toddler during these times can be tough. Believe me, I’ve held my kid in their seat as they scream during take off because they didn’t want their seat belt on. Was it fun? No, but safety is most important and I couldn’t have cared less if anyone got annoyed. Oftentimes, they’ll wear themselves out and pass out or get distracted and move on.
To avoid any ear pain, I’d suggest a drink or snack during take-off and/or landing, so their ears will pop.
I’d be lying to you if I said flying with a toddler is a breeze. Sometimes it is and other times it can be rough. The best thing you can do is be prepared. Have everything you need easily accessible and roll with it. The most important thing for you, as a parent, is to keep your cool. I’ve had moments where I almost flip my lid, but it’s important to realize it’s not worth the extra stress, kids feed off that, and you’re trying your best!! You got this!
Once you land
After landing at your destination, when you get off the plane, your stroller will be right outside of the door of the plane. If it isn’t there, just wait a couple minutes and someone will bring it up. If there is somewhere else they bring them, the crew will let you know.
If you checked a car seat, that will be at baggage claim, with the rest of your luggage.
As a Mom, you’re always preparing for everyone else, thinking about every possible situation, and keeping everyone happy and fed. When traveling, just remember to roll with the punches and it’ll all be okay….and think about that first cocktail when you arrive at your final destination! 🙂