As a parent, not much feels more stressful than the idea of traveling with a child. You can’t predict their behavior and never know if the ordeal will be peaceful and seamless or turn into a nightmare.
Traveling with your family shouldn’t cause more anxiety than excitement. While you can’t control everything, there are ways to go into the travel day organized, prepared for what might come, and with peace of mind.
In this article, I offer tips on how to prepare for flying with your toddler, what to bring with you on the flight that will make you and your child’s life easier, and how to plan the flight out so there’s a greater chance your toddler will nap through the whole thing.
Let’s get to it!
Table of contents
How to prepare for a flight with a toddler
One of the best ways to have the best possible travel experience with your toddler is by being prepared and organizing as much as possible ahead of time. When possible, it’s best to purchase a nonstop flight. If there’s going to be a layover, one that’s only a couple of hours would work in your favor. It would give your toddler time to eat a meal and burn off energy before settling in for another flight without worrying about whether you’ll miss the connecting flight.
When booking your flight, it’s also helpful to think about the timing. Especially if you want your toddler to sleep on the plane, booking a time that falls around their nap time could be the best time to get them to fall asleep on the flight and keep them on their regular schedule. You’ll also want to decide if you’ll be bringing their car seat or not. There are no regulations requiring a car seat, but it can make your toddler comfortable and more likely to nap. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, it’s also the safest way for children to fly. Most convertible car seats are allowed on any airline in the United States. If you’re flying internationally, you’ll want to double-check the regulations.
Extra preparation with your checked and carry-on bags is a game-changer. Make sure you know the weight requirements for checked backs and the FAA’s guidelines for carry-on luggage, so there’s no last-minute rearranging of a suitcase before boarding with the added stress of caring for a child at the same time.
You’ll also want to be sure to arrive at the airport early, giving you plenty of time to check in and make it through airport security.
What to bring with you on the plane
When you’re planning out what to bring with you on the airplane, you’ll want to be sure you’ve covered all your bases. Recommended essentials include:
- Diapers, with a general rule of thumb being to pack one diaper for each hour of travel
- Snacks, including formula or breastmilk if applicable
- Pacifiers, which can quiet an upset baby and also help them relieve the pressure in their ears during takeoff or landing
- Blankets or toys that can comfort an anxious toddler
- Toys, a book, or any entertainment to keep your toddler distracted and occupied throughout the flight if they can’t fall asleep. If you’re bringing devices for your toddler to play games on or watch shows and movies, be sure they’re fully charged so they’ll last the whole flight.
- And empty sippy cups
How to encourage a toddler to sleep on the flight
If you’re set on having your toddler sleep on the flight, there are things you can do to make it more likely. The first suggestion, which I’ve already mentioned before, is strategically picking the flight time when they would normally nap. You can also be intentional about having them burn off energy before boarding the flight to tire them out, so there’s less chance of them being hyper and wanting to run around on the plane.
Some people recommend giving children medicine like Benadryl or some similar sedative. This isn’t the best advice or option for getting a baby to sleep on an airplane. In some cases, the medication effect can backfire rather than be a solution, making your child more hyper or irritable on the flight rather than drowsy.
Flying with your child doesn’t need to feel hectic or like a mistake. There are ways you can plan ahead to make the experience more seamless and encourage the benefits of good in-flight behavior. If you’re worried about the flight, you can always get an expert opinion from your pediatrician. Talking to other parent friends and getting their advice can also offer some learned wisdom that can help you manage the travel day with ease.