It is mid-December and we are making our annual trip back East to spend the holidays with loved ones. At one year old, this would be Apollo’s 5th trip. Looking back to the first time we traveled with him, I was so nervous! He was only a month and a half old so I spent days researching tips on how to travel with a baby. With each subsequent trip, different concerns came to mind as he got older and more mobile. But after awhile, I learned a few things – what to pack, what to omit, where to sit, what to do… Now, no matter how prepared you are, air travel and young children are highly unpredictable. Sometimes, you have to roll with the punches. But here are some of my tips for flying with a toddler. I hope you find them helpful in streamlining your air travel!
Packing the Carry-On
I packed my carry-on bag to the brim the first couple of trips. Nowadays, I prefer to keep it as light as possible. Here are a few of my key essentials that I pack in my carry-on.
Backpack Style Bags – Trust me, it makes a difference. I’ve traveled with tote styled diaper bags in past but the uneven weight distribution between a baby on one arm and a tote on the other shoulder makes for a sore back. Now that Apollo is older and more mobile, I also prefer to keep my hands free for when he makes a dash for it. My favorite carry-on (and general diaper bag for that matter) is the Kiki Lu diaper bag. They come in three fantastic colors and can be worn as a backpack or messenger bag. With so many compartments, it’s easy to keep everything organized. You can learn more about the Kiki Lu bags here. Another bonus would be a tote savvy insert. It’s a little insert with nice compartments that turn any tote/bag into an organized diaper bag. It’s been a life saver!
Diapers – I always pack twice as many diapers as I think I would need. Factor in travel time to the airport, waiting time, flight time, and arrival at your destination when factoring in total travel time. For our seven hour trip back East, I pack around 4-5 diapers. We cloth diaper at home but use disposable when we travel. My favorite diapers are the Honest Company diapers.
Baby Wipes – Because wipes take care of everything!
Wet Ones – I pack this separate from regular baby wipes because planes are NOTORIOUSLY DIRTY! I recently read that the tray tables are 12x dirtier than your toilet seat! I use Wet Ones to wipe down as much of the area that we may touch as I can: seat belts, tray tables, seats, arm rests – everything!
Empty Sippy Cup or Bottle – You can always fill when you get to the airport or the plane.
Non-perishable food – Full bellies make for happier people – even little people! Apollo doesn’t have much teeth yet so puree pouches are a crutch for when we are out and about. You don’t have to worry about keeping it refrigerated. I also like to keep a small tupperwear of his favorite cereal snacks.
Extra Footie Pajama – I dress Apollo in a footie pajama when we travel. It helps with the cold airport settings and the comfort of of pajamas help set the stage for sleep. Pack an extra one in case of any accidents.
Wet Bag – Wet Bags come in handy for soiled clothes so they don’t stink up your bag. Wet bags are relatively inexpensive and much better for the environment. So ditch the plastic!
Light Blanket – Either a swaddle blanket or a nursing cover. It’ll double for discreet nursing if you nurse and to keep the baby warm during naps.
First Aid Kit & Medication – Keep it close by in the event of any emergency.
Documents – Most airlines allow for children under 2 to fly in lap for free. Southwest Airlines is our airline of choice but they require a copy of children’s birth certificate to verify age – even when it is blatantly obvious that they are an infant.
iPad – If screentime is ever ok, it’s when you are in an aircraft with hundreds of people. Make sure it is fully charged and loaded with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, the Backyardigans, Paw Patrol or whatever show tickles your kid’s fancy. Keep that child occupied!
Day of travel.
(Just a heads up, most airlines allow you to bring a stroller through the airport with you. You can check it in before you board the plane and it’ll be waiting for you at the gate once you arrive at your destination. Strollers definitely come in handy while zipping through the airport.)
Give yourself ample time to arrive at the airport before your flight takes off. Security checks can be long and going through it with a stroller, car seat, a child, and all of you luggage takes time. Take your time and don’t worry about anyone else in line. If you are traveling solo with a child, don’t be afraid to ask TSA employees to help. They will be glad to. Also, ask if there is a designated stroller line – many airports do! And if they don’t, sometimes they will let you go through the PSA pre-checked line that is much shorter.
Once you go through security, if you have time, give your little one a quick snack. Afterwards, let them explore a bit to tire themselves out. Try your best not to let them fall asleep before departure or during layovers. The goal is for them to sleep on the plane if possible. About 20 minutes before it’s time to board, make time for diaper changes. With any luck, you will not have to change your little one again until after you land. Wrangling a wiggly toddler around a small airplane bathroom is no fun!
One great thing about traveling with a kid is that you get to board early. This can also be a curse because it’s an additional 20 minutes on the aircraft. But I use this time to SANITIZE EVERYTHING. I am not typically a germ-a-phobe and very seldom get sick. But when I do, it’s usually after air travel. Try to get an aisle seat if possible. This will make it easier in case your little one wants to go up and down the aisle to explore. If your child is still nursing, do so during takeoff or give them a bottle or something to suck or chew on. This will help keep their ears from popping.
After takeoff, it’s really up to your child how the remainder of the trip will go. You can plan plan plan and things can still go wrong. I’ve been lucky enough that Apollo has been a great traveler for every single flight we’ve been on. I hope the same for you! But in any event, if there is one piece of advice that I can give you it’s:
Don’t stress yourself out if your child doesn’t cooperate at the airport or in the airplane. Chances are, you will never ever see any of those people again. So all you can do is your best and let go and let baby.