Infant in Arms: Flying with an Under-Two Toddler

While I can’t speak for having multiple children while flying quite yet, today I’m sharing my experiences and some things I’ve learned flying with a child under two. I have flown a number of times with her, both with my husband and alone. I will be talking about the most recent time we flew (when she was nineteen months and still considered “in arms”) in hopes of helping out some others who might be nervous to fly with toddlers!

This post will be packed with detailed info, so here goes!

Bag #1: Primary Diaper Bag – I keep this with me at my seat on the plane with the essentials. I recommend a backpack that can easily fit under the seat. This is the one we have and we use it for our main diaper bag, (check out what I keep in it daily in this previous post). We were gifted it and it’s definitely served its purpose, and then some, these last two years.

  • Personal items – wallet, phone, phone charger, chapstick, gum, Boogie Wipes because they’re awesome to wipe her face after she eats, hair ties, bobby pins, teething necklace (she doesn’t use it so much anymore, but it worked wonders when she was older.
  • Snacks – Cheerios, goldfish, granola bars, PB crackers, raisins, yogurt drops, pretzels, squeeze pouches for meals that we’ll be traveling during, and applesauce pouches. We also put her empty water cup on the side and buy a bottle of water when we get to the airport. We also bring her snack container and a banana or piece of fruit to eat for breakfast (if it’s an early flight) for right when we get there. I also use old Puffs containers, cleaned out, for smaller snacks.IMG_4355.jpg
  • Toys – Since we started flying with her when she was young, we would grab a new toy or two at the dollar store. This is one of my favorite tips I’veIMG_4129.jpg gotten. Something that lights up or catches her attention or makes some noise and cheap. Now that she’s older, this time, we got her a new popup book since she’s really into them lately and loves books. I also picked up some window clings from Target dollar. We didn’t actually end up using them this trip since she was SO focused on just looking out the window, but this is a great recommendation I’ve gotten for flying with toddlers.
  • Headphones (a friend recommended these toddler-safe ones) so she can listen a show on Amazon Prime Video on our phones. This is something new we tried for the first time this trip. Although she does watch some tv (mostly music related/dancing shows) at home, we don’t willingly hand her our phones in the grocery store or out. She’s not used to this so it’s a good treat and distraction AFTER our other tactics are wore out. Ironically during this trip she kept taking the headphones off her head and preferred to just look at and play with my phone during our last-minute attempt to calm her on our longer flight. Hashtag, whatever works.
  • Misc – Change of clothes, pacifier (she only gets one at night currently, but I’m not ashamed to have at least 2 in the diaper bag for flying). SSC – I love my Lillebaby! Also helps her ears for takeoff and landing – I’ve heard of using DumDums as well for this purpose. Plastic bags, extra pair of socks, placemats (pictured) for the tray table on the plane, and lysol wipes for the plane area.
  • Medical – thermometer, diaper cIMG_4293.jpgream/lotion, Tylenol (teething, ugh!)
  • Extra diapers, change of clothes, lightweight books, backup toys
  • Her little dog Skip Hop toddler backpack…with leash. Yep, I wanted to be sure she was safe in a major crowded airport now that she can walk…and run. We actually purchased this right before our recent trip this time as a ‘just in case.’ She loves wearing it around the house but we didn’t end up using it in the airport this time. We had a two plus hour layover in ATL and didn’t bring a stroller**

Bag #2: Tote Bag – this is the secondary bag I use and contains all the extras and spares. This one goes in the baggage storage above our seats. It’s still a carry on, but it’s out of the way. We can get to it if needed on the plane, but only if we HAVE to. Also a good place to store some things for a longer layover (extra food mostly, because…toddlers. With babies it’d probably be more extra clothes and diapers, spit up rags, teething toys etc). Something sturdy and lightweight, but easy to throw over my shoulder. When I traveled alone I wore my daughter in the LLB, put the backpack on my back, and slung the tote bag over my shoulder and it worked really well for easily maneuvering through the airport during our layover!

***Stroller situation: so a few times we’ve had the stroller and surprisingly it’s been easier to wear her in the carrier and put the two bags on top of the stroller. I personally don’t like lugging and gate checking the stroller/car seat. We are fortunate enough to have the use of both a carseat and stroller at my parents so I generally nix the necessity of a stroller while traveling and opt to carry and then let her walk around in the airport (toddler) or wear (younger baby) her while flying/during layovers. I know this probably sounds crazy but I also have a very independent toddler who’s quickly hating on the stroller and it’s confinement. HOWEVER, the first few times we flew we did bring our Chico Liteway stroller which is easy to maneuver and fold and had zero problems, but I know many that just bring a light umbrella stroller. Totally personal preference.

Okay, so here’s the above in the cliff-notes version…

  1. FOOD
  2. Versatility: carrier, stroller, etc, find what works for you and don’t be scared! People are actually surprisingly helpful when you’re getting on and off the plane (especially if you’re alone).
  3. New: new little toys, teethers etc, new food (or food they don’t get often)
  4. Two Bag System
  5. Have a plan
  6. …and then have backups and Plan B’s, (then make a C, D, E, and Z too)

Some random tips:

  • Don’t board too early even though you can. Why be trapped earlier than you have to be with a kid? Run or walk them around to look at everything between flights or while you’re waiting to board.
  • If you can be picky with the times you book your flight, DO THAT. We try to book earlier flights because S really doesn’t sleep while out and about anymore. I would rather her have a meltdown in the car on the way home from the airport or at our destination than in an airplane trapped in the sky with some judgey strangers giving us the Stink Eye.
  • (Which brings me to…) people are going to be annoying. The most recent flight we took, as we were boarding, we watched the 20-something year old in the seat in front of us take a selfie and then Snapchat “Great, got stuck sitting in front of a baby.” *eyeroll* Newsflash, I don’t want to listen to my kid have a fit anymore than you do. Things happen. You do the best you can to prevent an uncomfortable circumstance (for you or others!) but really, they’re strangers and you’ll never see them again. SO if your kid is a little angsty, you just get through it and be really grateful when you’re on the ground.
  • Layovers- tire them out! And don’t eat too much so they’re more hungry on the plane. We try to schedule longer layovers and walk her as much as possible during.
  • We prefer to fly early. When we do, we keep her in PJs and take her straight from her bed to the car at the last possible minute. We throw sneakers and a coat on her then change into ‘real clothes’ during the layover once she’s a little more awake in hopes she’ll chill on the first flight.

I’m no expert, but I hope some of this was helpful to you!

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