Flying With a Toddler

Flying with a young child can be tough, but good planning can eliminate many of the major hurdles. When flying with your little ones, you'll want to pre-plan by:

Flying With A Toddler
  • Traveling during off-peak times
  • Allowing plenty of time to get from one place to the next
  • Bringing activities to keep your child occupied
  • Bringing healthy snacks
  • Preventing ear pain on takeoff and landing

Flying with a toddler can present some logistical difficulties, perhaps even more so than flying with a baby. Toddlers, after all, tend to be fairly strong willed and lacking in impulse control. When planning a trip or vacation with your toddler, you'll want to know how you can manage all of your gear, stay sane, and stay safe with a toddler in tow.

Making the Reservation

Flying with toddlers is far more manageable in an un-crowded airport. It's much easier to deal with a wayward toddler if you don't have to wade through crowds of people. Early morning or late night flights, as well as mid-week flights, tend to be far less crowded.

It is a good idea to book a separate seat for your toddler. Though toddlers under age two are allowed to fly on a parent's lap, do you really want to hold a wiggly, fussy toddler on your lap for the entire flight? Giving your child his or her own seat will give each of you a little space, and will allow you to bring the car seat along. A familiar car seat can go a long way in helping your child to feel safe and secure.

Take Your Time

On the day of the flight, it's important to make sure that your toddler – and you – are well rested. Leave for the airport with plenty of time so that you won't be rushing from the counter to the gate. Allow time to answer your toddler's questions, take a potty break, or deal with any behavior issues that may come up. Flying with a rested and calm toddler is far easier than dealing with a cranky, harried toddler.

Pack Smart

Bring a special carry-on with fun things to keep your child busy. Crayons, stickers, activity books, and other art supplies are always a hit. Also consider bringing picture books, or a CD or tape player for books on tape that your child can listen to. While too much TV isn't good for toddlers, a portable DVD player can be a life saver on a long flight. You can bring along your toddler's favorite movies or TV shows so that he or she won't be limited to watching the in-flight movie.

Travel with a minimum of checked luggage. Instead of packing everything but the kitchen sink, consider buying essentials like diapers, wipes, and toiletries after reaching your destination. Compare the cost of checking baby gear with your luggage to the cost of renting it. Rental services are available in many areas, and it may be easier and cheaper to rent gear (like strollers and high chairs) instead of bringing it along.

Keep Comfortable

Make sure to bring plenty of snacks for your toddler. Bring snacks that are both nutritious and fun. Peanut butter crackers, raisins, fruits and veggies, and yogurt are good choices. Go easy on sugar, since you won't want to deal with a kid on a sugar high. Though you can only carry a limited amount of liquids through the security checkpoint, you can buy more at the airport before boarding the plane. Most airlines also offer complementary beverages during the flight.

Flying with a toddler is far easier if you don't have to change wet or dirty clothes as a result of potty-training accidents. Even if your child is potty-trained, or close to it, a diaper or pull-on training pants are a good idea.

You'll also want to plan ahead to prevent your toddler from experiencing ear pain due to the change in air pressure during takeoff and landing. Chewing or sucking on something will help equalize pressure in the eardrum. You can also buy special silicone earplugs designed specifically for this purpose. These are sold at most drug stores and are appropriate for children who are at least one year old.

The key to flying with a toddler is planning ahead and leaving ample time to deal with unexpected issues – this way you'll avoid escalating an already challenging situation. Remember that a well-rested, well-fed, entertained toddler is far more likely to be a content passenger.

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