If your family members live far from Des Moines, you may be considering an airplane trip during the holiday season. This summer, we vacationed in North Carolina, and we flew with our toddler for the first time. I was terrified and excited, and I spent a lot of time on Pinterest searching “flying with a toddler.” I got some great advice online and figured some things out on my own.
Here are some tips to have a great trip when flying with babies and toddlers.
1) Decide between a lap seat or a paid seat.
For children under two, you have the option of purchasing a seat for them or holding them on your lap for free. We are ever so budget conscious, so we opted to hold our 23-month-old. There are varying schools of thought on this. Some experts recommend buying the seat as it may be safer (see fellow Des Moines Moms blogger Jody’s views on this). There are also products on the market to offer additional restraints. There was a little turbulence on our trip, so we just held our little lady tight while facing us and all was well. Although, in addition to safety concerns, I would probably recommend splurging for the paid seat if you can afford it. I think she would have been more content in her own seat, and well… a sleeping toddler gets really heavy on a long flight.
2) If you have a “lap infant,” make sure he or she is listed on your ticket.
I ordered my tickets through a discount travel site rather than directly through the airline. The website didn’t give me the option of adding a “lap infant,” so I just assumed I could carry her on without that noted anywhere. About a week before the trip, I called the airline to make sure all was well and to ask if I needed to bring her birth certificate to prove her age. They said no to the birth certificate; however, they said I needed to add the “lap infant” note to my ticket.
Here’s another important tidbit I learned: children have to be seated on the right side of the plane (at least for that particular airline/aircraft) because that’s the side with the extra oxygen masks. They had to move our seats, as we were originally seated on the left side. Do your research!
3) Bring a stroller.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but really — even if your kiddo can walk, that stroller will come in handy. We took a cheap umbrella stroller that could be folded up easily, and we gate-checked it in a drawstring bag. We used the stroller going through the airport when she was sleeping as well as in the security line so she couldn’t run away!
4) Be prepared for the security screening.
Yes, littles have to go through security just like us, but if they are under 12 they can leave their shoes, jackets, and hats on. You will need to put your stroller, car seat, or carrier on the conveyor belt. Formula, breast milk, and juice are allowed to go through security in larger quantities than typical liquids. Just give the TSA a heads-up if you have those items. They may scan them, but in my experience, it’s not too traumatizing. If you have a baby or small toddler, you’ll be asked to carry him or her through the scanner. Read more from the TSA.
5) Bring food, plenty of diapers/Pull-Ups, and extra clothes.
If your kiddos are still in diapers or Pull-Ups, be sure to pack extras, as you never know when your flight will be delayed on the tarmac or diverted due to storms, etc. The same goes with extra clothes. Babies eat a lot, so you’ve probably got that covered whether you’re nursing or carrying on formula, etc. I packed A LOT of snacks for my toddler. I packed dried fruit, Goldfish crackers, applesauce pouches, candy (since it was a special occasion), and so on.
6) Keep them busy!
I did a lot of research on what fun items to put in an activity bag for a toddler. Various articles said to buy a few new things so kids are excited and intrigued. I filled a whole bag full of stickers, paper and crayons, books, a Magna Doodle, a baby doll, etc. All of that effort, and my daughter ended up watching Frozen about 30 times on our iPad. But, hey — it’s always best to be prepared, right?
You can’t control the weather or flight schedules, but if you do your research, plan ahead, and pack strategically, your trip should be as smooth as your baby’s bottom… and you should reach your destination with smiles intact.