Are you leaving on a Jet Plane? Pack your bag, grab your carry on, your toddler, their carryon, the car seat, and a bag of tricks. Traveling with little ones is exciting and so fun but can make for some extra stress if you’re not prepared. Here are my 8 tips for navigating the adventure of air travel with a toddler.
Going through Security
Security definitely isn’t easier with small people, but you can plan ahead and be ready in efforts to make it as smooth as possible. Slip-on shoes, elastic waistbands, no jewelry (or as little as possible). Make sure, if you have water bottles, that you empty them FIRST. You can fill it again once you’re through. And I always suggest one last look through their personal’s and carry-ons to make sure there’s not a hidden tube of toothpaste or sunscreen that didn’t get 3-1-1’d as a liquid. It never feels good to have the TSA worker say “Is this YOUR bag?” Without fail, I immediately think I’ve somehow accidentally packed something terribly dangerous.
Car Seat 101
If you’re planning to bring a car seat for the flight, make sure that it’s a flight approved seat and that your ticket notes that you’ll have a car seat. We learned the hard way, on a late-night flight that you can only put a car seat in the window seat. *Cue the tears from the big kid hoping for a window view* They’ll move you or even sometimes have to gate check your car seat if it doesn’t fit in your assigned seat.
When someone offers you help; the answer is YES! Your kid’s shoe is untied, and a kind fellow passenger offers to tie it while you’re tripping down the aisle? Yes, please! You have 14 bags that you can’t lift into the overhead compartment and the young, single rider 20-something offers to lift it for you? Yes, please! As parents, we try to just get the job done but sometimes it takes a village to get parents through the journey. Embrace it.
Let your kiddo bring a backpack with activities. This will give them a “job” that they can maintain reasonably but also that way they get to pack what’s important to them. You know, dinos, race cars, 1500-piece puzzles… (you laugh, but this was something found in one of my kids’ bags…) But being the cool parent that you are, you’re going to have a hidden bonus prize stashed in your bag so that when the novelty of all the things they packed wears off, you win the day with an amazing new thing to keep them busy for that last bit of travel time.
Little ones and their little ears can struggle with the pressure adjustments of take-off and landing. If your kiddo uses a pacifier, make sure they’ve got it and have a solid suck going before take-off and landing. You can also use a sippy cup or if you’re trusting enough, a small piece of gum to chew on. Just like you and me, this will help to open up those eustachian tubes and alleviate pressure from the quick rise and fall.
Ask the flight attendant if they have first flight wings or any small memento to offer the tiniest travelers. There’s a certain amount of pride a little person feels when embarking on such a grand adventure for the first time. Having a cool gadget to go with the memory is fun. Also, if you’re really lucky, you may even be able to ask the pilot for a peek at the cockpit. Kids go crazy over all the lights and buttons (obviously for looking, not for touching).
If your little travel buddy tends on the side of queasy, I highly recommend buying some emesis bags on Amazon. Not the paper folding ones that the airline offers, I’m talking about the hospital grade plastic ones that can catch everything, tie off and go easily into the trash. Keep a few stashed in every bag for quick access, just in case. You may think this is overkill… but I promise, if you end up needing one, you’ll thank me later.
Enjoy this adventure. I know that it feels stressful and like you might misplace a kid or two at some point, but when you stop and think of the marvel that is air travel, it’s magic. I mean… you’re sitting (mostly) comfortably in a chair 30,000 feet in the air. Especially if this is your child’s first flight, soak up every little detail of the experience. It’s really something to remember forever.
Hi there! I’m Jess. I’m a wife, mama, homeschooler, and doula. Life is busy in our neck of the woods but we love our time together as a family and do our best to make it all work.
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My passion is for educating mothers and families during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and providing resources for support and encouragement along this wild road of parenthood. Come join us on the journey!