Tips for Flying with Toddlers

We finally did it! A week vacation, out-of-state with our 4-year-old daughter. We traveled to Florida by plane for a Disney World Vacation. This was our daughter’s first flight. My first flight wasn’t until high school, so I wasn’t sure how this would go. Our little first time flyer was so brave and had a great experience flying high in the sky. For those traveling on spring break or making summer vacation plans, here are some tips on how to make the first flight with your little a success! Read on for tips on flying with toddlers.


Airplane Selfie of Family with Face Masks

For any vacation, I like to know before I go. Research is key to a successful trip, especially while traveling with kids. We decided to fly Delta, which is our airline of choice. I was very impressed with how smooth the entire process went. My daughter even received a “first time flyer” pin from the flight attendant. If the price is right for your family, I would highly recommend the airline for easy travel with kids.

Airport Security

A few tips that will save you time and sanity! Bring your birth certificate. We weren’t asked but I had my daughter’s birth certificate handy just in case. It gave us peace of mind as we prepared for our first flight. Airport security was fast, I think we all just have to remember to be kind and people will be understanding, especially with little ones. Turns out if they are little they also don’t have to take off their shoes, which is an awesome bonus to know since we all know taking shoes on and off of littles can be difficult. If you end up at an airport where shoes do have to be removed I recommend wearing something easy to slip on and off, even for bigger kids it will be a time saver.


Luggage Bags

We are carry-on people who rarely check a bag. This not only saves money, but it also saves time when you get off the plane. Read the reviews when purchasing your luggage to make sure your carry-on bag will fit in the overhead compartment and your personal item bag fits under the seat in front of you. Remember, wheels and the ability to stack the bags is a plus in my book.
My daughter was old enough to require a ticket, so she also received the luggage allowance as anyone else. Which to be honest was a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, we could pack a lot in her carry-on, and personal item, and didn’t have to add her stuff to our bags. On the downside, her luggage was difficult for her to maneuver herself, so that was two extra bags my husband and I had to lug around in addition to our luggage. Next time, we plan to upgrade our luggage to be more compact with spinner wheels and get our daughter smaller luggage, so she can carry it herself.
I think I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, I’m an over-packer. Since we were going to Florida in February, it was difficult to pack due to the changing weather. I will be the first to tell you, we packed way too much for our trip. There were plenty of items we didn’t need or things we should have just shipped to our room instead of packing. Learn from my mistakes, remove some items, roll all your clothes tightly, and utilize plastic bags or packing cubes to organize your luggage. This also leaves a little space for souvenirs.

Strollers & Car Seats

Since we were renting a stroller for Disney World when we arrived we didn’t bring our own. We thought with a child, we could board the plane early. But each gate attendant did this differently. Some called for those with small kids to board early while others did not. For those with young kids, I recommend bringing your own stroller. Not only does it save you money by not renting, but those with strollers were always allowed to board the plane early and check the stroller at the gate. Next time, we will bring our stroller.
As for car seats, we chose not to bring our car seat, or child restraint, for the plane. We used a bus service instead of renting a car for transportation to and from the airport, so a car seat was not required. If we would have taken a car share service or rented a car, we would have purchased a light-weight car seat for travel purposes.
If you do bring your own stroller and car seat there are a few things you should know. You can check your carseats at luggage drop-off, with no extra charge, if you are flying Delta. I highly recommend getting carseat bags to put them in so they are protected as they go through security and onto the plane. For your stroller, you can check it at the gate for free, and they will give it right back to you when you get off the plane. I also highly recommend getting a bag for your stroller so that the seats don’t get ruined during the flight, down in cargo.

Things to Do while Flying With Toddlers

Just like anything else, keeping your child occupied is the best way to have a successful flight. The monitors at each seat on Delta was a plus for added entertainment. They have free kids games, movies, and shows for every seat. My daughter had her own headphones and loved being able to pick what she did on her screen. If you happen to be flying without TV’s the Fire Kindles are great for kids, or you could pre-load movies onto your phone, or consider bringing a laptop and purchasing in-flight wifi.
Even if you don’t bring a screen there are still plenty of things to do to pass the time. We also packed sticker books, coloring books and triangle crayons (so they don’t roll off), search and find books, and cards. She also had a stuffy, neck pillow, and small blanket for nap time on the plane.

Be Prepared for the Unknown

When flying with kids, there are a lot of unknowns. How will they handle the flight? Will they nap? How will you handle a potty accident or illness on the plane? Will my child cry or throw a tantrum?
I had plenty of supplies to prepare for the unknown including sanitizing wipes, extra clothes/face masks, wet bags for accidents, super absorbent towel, and suckers for popping ears.
On the way to our destination, my daughter did great on the plane. But on the way home she experienced motion sickness. It was alarming when she got really sweaty and vomited in the paper bag located in the seat pouch in front of which was a lifesaver. I think the combination of wearing her coat, falling asleep with a face mask on, and a really early flight contributed to her getting sick. Thankfully it didn’t last that long and we were about to exit the plane. We definitely learned from that experience for next time.

Most of my advice above is dependent on the age of your child and/or the airline you choose for flying with toddlers. Be sure to read the tips and policies specific to your airline before your trip. If you’re considering a Road Trip with Toddlers this summer or spring, head here for tips! Safe travels!

Brandie Yates
Brandie grew up in the small town of Ithaca, MI. She moved to the Lansing area to attend Michigan State University. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with a focus in Broadcast, Public Relations Specialization and Dance Specialization. She currently works as the Marketing Manager for the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA). Brandie lives in Mason with her husband, two daughters, and two golden retrievers. Her hobbies include spending time with her family & friends, traveling, cooking, dancing, and going to the theater.


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