Five Tips for Flying with Littles

Little man earned his flight wings!

Little man earned his flight wings.

There’s nothing I love more than a good road trip. Give me some music, a book, a few snacks and I’m good to go. My husband and I have made our fair share of road trips over the years, with a large number of them ending in Iowa. It probably doesn’t seem like a glamorous destination to you, but to this small-town farm girl it’s home. Although Atlanta is home to the world’s busiest airport and the hub for several major airlines, driving to Iowa has its benefits. We can take our two dogs with us and bring much more than a single suitcase (which is especially great after holiday trips). Now that we have a toddler, my enthusiasm for road trip travel has substantially decreased. 

My husband started making plans for a recent trip to Iowa by asking what time of day we should we should “hit the road.” I responded by showing him the flights I thought we should take. My son is only a year old, but we have already driven to Iowa twice since he was born. (15 hours, one way – but who’s counting?) He was two months old on his first Iowa road trip, which meant he slept the majority of the time. The second road trip at eight months was a MUCH different story.

It took some convincing, but my husband agreed to take Cameron on his first flight. I can’t blame my husband for being nervous with all of the viral “screaming Exorcist baby” flight horror stories. We prepared for every worst case scenario, only to have a happy and excited toddler on both the flight there and back. After our trip, my husband even said the words every wife wants to hear: you were right.

I realize two flights does not make me a toddler traveling expert. However, I did want to share some things that worked really well for us. Hopefully, this will make your first, second or third flight with a little one just a tiny bit easier.

Travel with a car seat dolly.
Ordering a car seat dolly was the best decision we could have made. We strapped our little guy into his car seat and rolled him through the airport while he happily ate snacks and people-watched. Many airlines allow children under two to sit in your lap, but we chose to buy a seat and bring the car seat on the plane. Delta was super accommodating and helpful. They allowed my husband to board early to install the car seat, slipped us a few Biscoff cookies before takeoff, and gave Cameron his flight wings and a cute little plane pin. (Shout out to the MLI gate attendant who rushed down the jetway to make sure we got the latter!) The dolly folded up easily, took up little space in the overhead compartment and rolled smoothly through the airport.

Download favorite shows to your tablet or phone.
I once swore that Cameron wouldn’t watch any TV until he was at least two. Then I experienced the 15 minutes of silence that only Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood could provide. We downloaded a few episodes of each onto my iPad (so no WiFi would be needed). I brought out the iPad when he was on the verge of getting upset, and 15 minutes later we had a smiling little guy.

Encourage drinking during takeoff.
We’re in the process of transitioning off the bottle, but we took full advantage and used it while traveling. We prepared a bottle right before take-off and gave it to him as we lifted off the runway to help with the pressure changes. We also encouraged him to drink water out of his sippy cup while landing. I could tell he could feel the pressure change because of a few faces he made. But, the drinking greatly helped with the adjustment. My sincere apologies to all the moms who thought I was going to suggest ordering wine or a mimosa with this tip!

Take advantage of special assistance security lines at the airport.
The people in this line are moving at your speed, and this line is significantly shorter. There’s no need to worry about impatient travelers behind you when you have twice as many items to scan and a little one to wrangle. There is a LOT of patience and empathy in this line.

Everything is AWESOME.
Take a cue from The LEGO Movie and have a positive attitude (even if it’s forced). From the time Cameron was strapped into his car seat on the dolly to the time we landed, I smiled and laughed like it was the BEST. DAY. EVER! I pointed out the luggage moving on conveyor belts, the planes taking off, and fun things spotted in the terminal. Moods are contagious, and kids are intuitive. Yes, the airport crowds can be a pain and it can be a hassle to carry extra bags. Try to view this new and exciting experience through your child’s eyes.

Do you have any tips for traveling with an infant or toddler? Share your knowledge below!

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2 Responses to Five Tips for Flying with Littles

  1. Ashley November 23, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Great post! My toddler has taken 27 flights now, but the first few times were nerve-wracking! We love our gogo babyz travelmate. So easy to get through the airport and onto the plane with a car seat. I would also suggest bringing stickers and a bookto put them in. Of all the distractions we’ve used, this entertains the longest. Happy flights!

  2. Traci
    Traci December 7, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Great tips! I have flown solo with my daughter a few times (at 6 months, 18 months and 23 months). During those trips we never bought her a seat and got lucky more than one with open seats next to us. If you fly Southwest you will likely find that the seat next to the frazzled looking lady with a tiny child is one of the last to go! Also, I found it helped to go straight to the back of the plane and to make friends with the flight attendants (they helped keep my extra seat empty).