When I gave birth to my son, everyone wished us, “Congratulations!” and then followed up with, “That’s the end of traveling for you!” My husband and I disagreed. As two world travelers, we were definitely going to continue traveling. We just wouldn’t expect our travels to be the same as they used to be.
Since then, my son has traveled to five countries and six U.S. states — and we have lots of stunning travel photo books to prove it! What I’ve learned is that flying with a baby is easy. Sure, they come with some extra gear, but all they really need is to eat, sleep, and be held. Flying with a toddler, on the other hand, takes a little more talent. But it can be done successfully — and even with minimal tears. Here are my tips for taking peaceful flights with your toddler:
Choose the less popular airline
Many people believe that flying with a brand name airline ensures a more comfortable flight. But, when traveling with a toddler, I always choose the least popular airline. Why? Well, tickets are cheaper, which is always a plus. But most importantly, there’s a good chance that your flight will be less full. Emptier flights mean more room for your toddler to move around and for you to move around with your toddler.
Book a bassinet seat
My toddler will be just under two when we fly to London in a few months, so we won’t yet need to purchase him his own seat. But, we will reserve a bassinet for him. Though he’s definitely too big for the bassinet itself, the bassinet seat comes with all sorts of benefits that it make worth the extra $70 or so. I call it, “First class for parents.” You sit at the front of the economy section and get tons of extra leg room — perfect for storing your toddler’s toys and snacks, or giving him room to dance and toddle around. I know one mom who even sticks a small mattress in that space so that her toddlers can get in a peaceful snooze.
Pack Tons of Snacks and Drinks
Airplane food may be a perk of flying internationally for you, but not for your toddler, who probably wants exactly what he wants — and not just one of two unfamiliar choices. Bring a hefty supply of snacks and drinks that will keep your toddler satiated and happy. My son, like many kids, is a picky eater, so I bring items that I know he will eat and that won’t spoil on a flight — avocados, bananas, cheerios, granola bars, and bread. Be sure to offer your little one food or drinks during take-off and landing because swallowing reduces ear pressure.
Take a Carrier
When our son was a baby, we never left home without our carrier. The carrier was essential for hands-free holding, easy nursing, comfy coffee dates with friends, you name it. Now that my son can walk, we hardly use the carrier — except when we’re on planes. Once the airplane’s overhead lights are dimmed, we stick our little one in a carrier and walk up and down the aisles with him, lulling him to sleep. Without the carrier, our arms would get tired fast!
Bring Airplane-Friendly Toys
As a baby, my son was simply happy to nurse and maybe play with a rattle. But now that he’s a toddler, he absolutely loves his toys. When preparing our carry-on bags, I pack toys that are highly entertaining, hard to lose, and jampacked with fun activities. Some toys that fit the bill are musical activity books that include songs, puzzles, colorful pictures, and stories, and magnetic blocks that won’t end up all over the plane.
Explore the plane
Now that my son can walk, he wants to walk all day and night. So, we see our seats as our home bases, but not as our main hang out spot. During flights, my husband takes my son all over the plane, finding empty seats where they can set up shop, walking up and down the aisles, and, when my son becomes drowsy, swaying with him in the flight attendants’ area at the back of the plane.
Raising a child really does take a village, and that’s especially true on flights! On one solo flight with my son, my kind neighbor held my then-baby as I got organized and when I went to the bathroom. On another flight, my fellow flyers cheered up my cranky toddler with funny faces. On many flights, flight attendants help out — bringing my little one water and snacks, and offering encouraging words. I love seeing the kindness of strangers come to life while we’re up in the air.
Of course flying with your toddler may not be the least stressful experience, so always keep your destination in mind. You’re flying to ultimately see new places and make beautiful memories. But don’t forget to take a few photos during your flight and to add them to your travel scrapbook. After all, flying is an important part of the journey!