Flying with a toddler or an infant can be stressful.
Like really stressful. I don’t know about you, but I never want to be the parent who’s kid is running around like crazy or worse – screaming the entire flight. We all know most people are understanding and you’re never going to see them again, but for those hours in you’re in the air it’s torture. No matter how long your flight is your little one will probably not want to be held the entire time, which can be hard to deal with. Or maybe their ears will pop with take off and landing, which can be hard to comfort them. Or because they are a toddler they could just be unhappy because of no good reason.
Let’s talk about what you can do to make flying with your infant or flying with your toddler less stressful for them and for you.
Okay, a few weeks ago we traveled to Florida for our family vacation. We flew from St. Louis down to Orlando then had to get in a rental car and drove to Daytona Beach. It was a long morning, even though the flight was about 2 hours and the drive was less than an hour. But Moms you get it when I say it was still a long day. But the 3 hour overall travel day was a lot better than the 12 hour drive it would have been if we didn’t fly. So I’ll take it. We drove to St. Louis the night before and stayed with my sister who took us and dropped us off at the airport (hello! No parking fees!). Staying with her was great because we were able to follow our normal nighttime routine with our little man, which meant he was going to be rested before the flight. We also picked a pretty early flight hoping we could catch our little guy’s nap time to make it easier on him and us.
Here’s what I recommend you prep before flying with a toddler:
Do Your Research
Check the TSA guidelines when traveling with children to make sure no changes have been made since I’ve written this post. TSA does allow you to travel with breast milk, formula, and snacks for your little one. Since our little guy doesn’t breastfeed and is now on milk, I just poured milk in a bottle and went through. I had no issues and no question if it wasn’t formula or breast milk.
You will just have to be prepared to have them taken out of your bag to be scanned by the X-Ray machine. The worst thing to happen is to have spent time to prepare food, drinks and snacks for your toddler just to have the TSA worker throw it out. So make sure you follow the guidelines. For any liquids you’re traveling with they will test it for explosives. Which means they will probably have you unscrew the bottle, hold a test strip over it and then test it.
When we were leaving St. Louis the first test came back positive, so after two more negative tests we were good to go. Not sure how my test came back positive, but oh well.
Pack Only What You Need
Try to avoid overpacking so you aren’t trying to wrestle a huge bag that’s spilling over while trying to wrangle your toddler. Pack only what you need or think you will need. I personally hate having a huge diaper bag that’s super heavy filled with items I know deep down I will not need. Try to keep things light and easy on travel days.
Here’s what we packed in our carry on:
1) diapers and baby wipes
2) one small toy (that didn’t make any sound to be respectful for the other passengers)
4) snacks – see below for list of the snacks we took
6) change of clothes
My carry on was my new diaper bag I bought off Amazon. I love, love this bag. It worked perfectly. It zips close, which is great for putting it under the seat in front of me on the plane. It can be easily carried as a backpack or cross body bag, which was super nice to have. Plus it has the stroller straps so I could hook it onto the stroller through the airport.
Here’s my recommendations on the snacks for your toddler: keep it simple. Try to pack foods that can be easily closed or could be put into a sandwich baggie. Try no to bring anything for the plan that will melt or be too messy. Also think about the sticky factor. You know which snacks your little guy probably loves, but he ends up a sticky mess after eating. If he ends up sticky the changes of you getting sticky are pretty high.
The snacks we brought:
individual bags of cheese sandwich crackers
sweet potato puffs
baby food pouches
apple sauce pouches
We did bring more snacks and foods with us in our checked luggage to save money. This vacation was planned on a budget using a technique that helps us save for anything we want. So we didn’t want to overspend once we got to our destination. I knew baby food and snacks were going to be a lot more expensive at the beach in Florida than it would be in Southeast Missouri. We used freezer bags to make sure if anything was busted than it wouldn’t get over everything.
If you have a longer flight (ours was only 2 hours and luckily was running on time!) then you might want to add a few more toys or games to keep your little ones entertained. There is a great list over at Starlight Baby with some awesome ideas for you. I love their idea of bringing a kid-friendly camera with you. I can’t tell you how many times my little one thinks my phone is his just because he loves seeing himself in the camera.
Gate Check Your Stroller
Did you know most airlines do not charge for checking a stroller? You can strap your little one in and quickly make your way through the airport, which helps a lot when you have a suitcase to get from the baggage area. Just make sure you put a name tag on the stroller to be safe. The airline will put their own tag with your name and flight info, but as we found out the hard way that tag can easily fall off. So by having our name on a bright orange luggage tag we were able to quickly identify our stroller.
Check your Car Seat
Again, most airlines don’t charge for checking a car seat. You can gate check them, but we just put ours with the luggage. Actually, we bought a cheaper one that wasn’t as heavy since we knew we wouldn’t be in the car that much during our trip. Our chicco car seat is amazing, but it can be pretty heavy. They make car seat travel carts that looked pretty neat, but we just went with the easier option of checking it with our luggage.
You have to check your airlines reviews for traveling with a car seat. Some handle them really well and others are a bit more careless. I had read some horror stories of people traveling with their expensive car seats just for the airline to destroy them. The airline is obligated to replace any seat that is damaged, but most of the time they give you a cheap version and call it good. I didn’t want that happening with our big one, so we just packed a less expensive one.
This system worked great for our flight out. Our little man passed out before our wheels left the ground and slept the entire flight. We used the same technique on the way home, but our little guy wasn’t tired at all. Luckily J and I were able to sit in aisle seats so we could let him stand between us.
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