Skip to main content

How To Fly With Toddlers: 10 Tips to Have More Fun and Less Stress

Flying with kids can be overwhelming for both the parents and the kids. You want them to enjoy the eye-opening experiences of visiting new places, but how do you make the journey there bearable?

Yes, bearable is the word, because traveling with kids will definitely not be a smooth experience.

The older they get, the easier it is to travel with them. However, before you get there, there is a lot of prepping and things you must do to make things easier for the kids, yourself, other passengers, and the airport and flight staff.

We have got you covered in tips that you can use to make your flight less stressful. Keep reading on.

What is the Best Time to Start Flying With Your Child?

Infants of any age can fly. However, Dr. Mark Waltzman, an assistant professor in Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School, advises that you wait until the child has had their first set of immunizations before you get them on a plane. He says he wouldn't take a child on the plane before that unless it were an emergency. He adds that the recirculated air in a plane can be risky for anyone, but riskier for babies because their immune systems are not as robust.

Besides, airplanes are generally not clean places.

Dr. Waltzman also says that ear and sinus infections increase children's risk of a ruptured eardrum. If your baby has had these, you can consult a physician before flying with them. 

10 Tips for Flying with Toddlers and Young Kids

Now, let's get into the tips that would make your flight easier if you are tagging along with your kids.

1. Selecting an Airline to Fly With

When selecting a flight, the cost matters the most in most cases. However, when flying with your toddlers, you need to ensure the carrier is child-friendly.

Keep the following factors in mind:

  • Do their planes have changing tables and bassinets?
  • Do they have a child menu?
  • Do you need to reserve these things in advance?
  • Are there restrictions on where these things can be used? For instance, some airlines would not allow bassinets in business class. Some also come with height and weight restrictions and are used on a first-come, first-served basis.

You want to ensure this is on the airline's site and with a call to the management.

Always choose a flight that has child-friendly perks.

2. Book Direct Flights or Minimize Stop-overs

We are in an era of budget travel where everyone is trying to reach their dream destination for the least money possible.

However, when traveling with your toddlers or kids, think more about your convenience than saving money.

One way to do this is getting direct flights.

There is so much stress with connecting flights, and it worsens when you have toddlers. With a direct flight, you will save yourself the stress of:

  • Possible delayed layovers,
  • Increased chances of losing your luggage ( you don't want to get to your destination and your child's items are nowhere to be found)
  • Multiple takeoffs and landings which can be overwhelming for the baby,
  • Rushing to catch your connecting flight,
  • Passing through security points several times.

Doing all this with a weary toddler under your care can run you insane.

3. Getting the Right Seats

There are a few things you want to consider regarding seat reservations.

For starters, you want to book your seats in advance. If you are traveling as a family, you want to all be seated together. Double-check to ensure you and your children are all seated together.

Yes, reserve the seat earlier to get what you desire, even if it means paying for it. Remember, convenience makes more sense while traveling with kids than saving.

Secondly, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that you get a seat for your toddler. According to the FAA, the safest place for a child on a plane is on a government-approved car seat, not on your lap. They further explain that your child is unsafe in your hands, especially during unexpected turbulence, which is the number one cause of pediatric plane injuries. The FAA also recommends that you go for child restraint systems certified for use on motor vehicles and airplanes.

Besides safety, getting a seat for your toddler is suitable for your comfort. Picture this, your toddler is asleep on your lap, and now you cannot move for fear of waking them up. It will paralyze you!

What Seats are Good for Babies?

I recommend you get an aisle seat for your toddlers. This way, you can quickly get them off the seat and let them have a walk along the aisles.

However, older children may prefer window seats for the view.

4. Reserve Your Kids Meals in Advance

If it is a long flight, always reserve your kid's meals in advance. Some airlines would not require you to do so, but most of them would need you to make the meal reservations at least 24 hours before departure.

Always call the management to inquire.

You need to do this because child menus are served first before the adult service. This will allow you to feed your child and allow you some time to take your meal when yours is finally served.

5. Bring As Many Snacks as You Can

Pack your kid's favorite snacks and much more.

Yes, you will use snacks to distract them from the discomfort. If it is a long flight, you want to have a wide variety; they will help when pressure changes in the cabin.

Remember that you will need to reward your child, and even bribe them to get through the journey with less stress.

Give them a lollipop for good behavior or bribe them with a cookie to calm them down.

You also want to surprise them; don’t show them everything you have packed. Giving them chocolates would be a pleasant surprise when they thought all you had was apples. One thing at a time would make the journey easier.

6. Bring All Sorts of Entertainment

Bring all sorts of activities to keep your child engaged during the flight.

You know you cannot have them draw and color the entire 15-hour flight. They would not do it!

Some of the things you can bring to keep your kids engaged include:

  • Coloring books and pencils,
  • Pop-up books,
  • Stuffed animals,
  • Dry-erase books and markers,
  • Sticker books
  • Tablet with headphones,
  • Portable DVD player
  • iPad
  • Stacking cups and puzzles,
  • Just any activity your child has done or can do.

Also, you want to have a little surprise for them. Later into the flight, you can bring in a new toy or activity they have never done before. You know how kids favor new toys over what they already have.

You also want to have a power bank as a backup to charge your devices.

Besides, download more than enough movies, nursery rhymes, games or cartoons before you get to the plane.

Remember: This is not the time to try to limit screen time. Yes, you can do this at home as you wish, but these can be great "bribes" and rewards while traveling.

7. Pack All You Need in Your Carry-On Luggage

While traveling with kids, you want to pack light. Avoid bulky luggage as it will overwhelm you. However, this does not mean that you should leave behind the things that you need.

Flight attendants recommend that you have everything you will need 24 hours after your arrival on your carry-on luggage. You never know what will happen; your luggage could delay or get lost.

Here is what to include on your carry-on luggage:

  • Extra change of clothes for both you and your toddler,
  • Pacifiers for when you are taking off or landing,
  • Diapers (don't underestimate how much you will need),
  • Anti-bacterial wipes,
  • Diapers (pack extra),
  • Formula/Bottles,
  • Extra tissues,
  • Soft blanket and toys,
  • Comfort toys like special blankets or soft toys,
  • Baby food,
  • Bags to put waste in,
  • Feeding spoons,
  • Medication like pain relievers or nasal spray (as a precaution),
  • Extra tissues,
  • Hand sanitizer,
  • Stroller.

Pack enough of these will help you in the airport, on the flight and even when you arrive.

Tip: A backpack is better than hand luggage if you are traveling with kids, as you will need your hands to be free.

8. Wear Them Out Before the Flight

Do not try to contain your child in the airport; let them play all they can.

There are a lot of activities you can do at airports, such as plane watching. You, however, want to go for more physical activities to wear them out.

There are airports with children's play areas; find out if your airport has one and use it well.

It, however, does not have to be a designated play area. You can find a free space and run laps with your kids. I have also seen parents use the moving sidewalks over and over, which is a good idea to wear out kids.

Such rigorous activities will make them sleep not long after they settle on the plane.

This does not guarantee that your child will fall asleep on the flight. If they do, lucky for you. If they don't, understand that it is not the most comfortable environment unless you are flying first class. And even so, they may still stay awake all flight long; just try to engage them with the activities you brought along instead of pushing them to sleep.

9. Always Ask for Help

Not everyone would be willing to help with your kids. Some are even irritated with kids running around the airport or the aisle.

This should, however, not discourage you from asking for help. Ask the flight attendants, the checking-in staff, and other passengers for help whenever you need it. You may be lucky to find someone to lend you a hand or help calm down your restless kid.

Children can be a handful, especially if you are the only adult traveling with two or more kids. Do not hesitate to ask for a helping hand.

10. Board Early or Last Depending on Your Child's Age

If you have a crawling toddler or younger, you are better off boarding first. This will help you tuck away all your luggage and settle in the seats before the aisles become crowded.

If you board first, you have an excellent chance to have some minutes before everyone comes in.

However, if you have an older child, you are better off boarding last. Going in last means less time confined in the car seats or the plane. If your child quickly gets restless seated in their car seat, go in last.

You can also take this time and have one last lap around the airport.

Bonus Tips for Flying With Kids

  • Dress in layers and strip or add more as needed.
  • Prepare the child for change in air pressure; carry needed medication and chewing gum or lollipops; talk to them about it if they are older.
  • Consider flying during their nap time and try as much not to alter their day-to-day routine.
  • Remember that you have to get a seat for any child older than two years.

Final Thoughts

Flying with kids can be overwhelming, especially if it is their first time. Create a checklist of everything you need to pack and do before the flight. When you get there, try to be open-minded; your child may sleep or may not. They may turn into the most hyperactive being you have ever seen. Try to accommodate them to make things convenient and less stressful for you.

Also, as much as you are encouraged to ask for help, you must understand that not everyone would openly offer you help.

Just prepare yourself, go in open-mindedly, and have the best time (hopefully) flying to your dream destination.

About the author

Rachel Akinyi

Rachel is an experienced copywriter and content creator with a keen interest in health and wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, pets and frugal living niches. She's also a teacher, so if not in class, you'll find her writing, reading, and taking walks or road trips with friends.